Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Capacitación Christmas

For my kids, "Take Your Child to Work Day" was not a unique and rare occurrence.  Back in the days when I served on a church staff, I depended on my kids to help out - a lot.  No doubt they have fond memories of getting dizzy going round and round big tables collating and stapling documents and setting up classrooms for Vacation Bible School. I recently found a video of the boys as young teens marching in a local July 4th parade.  They were dressed as Moses and Joseph.  "I can't believe you got them to do that," my husband said.

So...one year...when we suggested to the kids that we spend Christmas vacation in El Salvador where they would help to run a Vacation Bible School Training seminar for Salvadoran pastors and lay-leaders, they stepped up to help.  And they were not alone -- a group of youth ages 10 to 20 joined adults from our church to put on a big Salvadoran escuela bíblica.

We arrived in our sister church community on Christmas Day and shared a big feast together in the church.  The Sunday School kids presented a little Christmas pageant.  Our week together included fun at a swimming pool park, visiting with kids and families who were living in a camp after they had lost their homes in a recent volcanic eruption, an impromptu afternoon at a small beach and crazy fireworks at the Lutheran guest house on New Year's Eve.  Between events and fun times with our Salvadoran friends, the team spent some late night hours preparing for the Bible School training event.

The event was entitled Capacitación II (Training II).  The Capacitación series of workshops had been developed as a joint plan of the Ministry of Children of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church and our congregation in the US.  Our sister church pastor, Santiago, had served as a member of our US church staff one summer and participated and led events at our week-long Vacation Bible School.  He noticed that we used a daily rotation schedule, moving kids from music to art to Bible class to recreation with different kids doing different things at the same time.  He also noticed that we used teams of high school and college youth to lead classes and activities, and with about 200 people on site, things ran very smoothly.  In his church (our sister church) in El Salvador, Pastor Santiago taught about 80 kids every Sunday in one big group. The idea of breaking kids into groups, of training youth leaders as teachers and of rotating kids among different activities which happened simultaneously was not used in Salvadoran Lutheran Church congregations.  Could we help him to share these methods with his colleagues in El Salvador?  Yes -- with the help of our youth!

Capacitación I was led by my friend and I one year prior to the Christmas event.  It was held during a Mission of Healing trip and consisted of a one-day event at the Lutheran Church office complex (where the guest house is.)  Pastors and young leaders from all over El Salvador (and a couple from Honduras) came to discuss child development and teaching methodology and strategies.  The discussion was very lively and the abstract concepts were well illustrated with practical examples and ideas.  The "homework" was for each pastor and leader to share their insights and training with youth leaders in their home communities and to implement at least one new strategy.  A few months later, everyone gathered together again to report back to the group on how that implementation was working.  This was part of an overall 5-year church-wide plan of training and development in the area of children's and youth ministries.

Capacitación II was the next step in the plan.  The idea was to put on a one-day Vacation Bible School experience during which pastors and teachers would "be kids" for the day.  They would participate in all of the activities as children would, and then discuss their experiences at the end of each rotation, offering their ideas and additions, based on their experiences in their own communities.

As we enter a new Christmas season, a time of vacation in the US and in El Salvador, a time during which many Salvadoran churches are running escuelas bíblicas, I give renewed thanks to my kids and the families of our congregation who spent Christmas vacation in El Salvador and helped to cement the tradition of annual Capacitación events which are experienced by youth leaders from our US synod and the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.  The next few blog posts will highlight the different elements of Capacitación II in the hopes that the stories will inspire or encourage others.

Part I:  Registration & Opening Worship

Opening Worship
We set up the worship area with balloons and samples of different art projects from Salvadoran Lutheran churches.  The suggested plan for  a 15-20 minute worship (provided in a handout) included a theme-based song, words of welcome, a skit or socio-drama, a quiet or prayerful song and a closing prayer.  We created the worship around our Capacitación II theme:  "The Parable of the Sower."
One late-night prep session:  assembling gift bags for all of the participants,
each bag included a rainbow of tissue paper for making papel picado


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