Interview with Stephanie Wood: Kids and The Gospel
by Derek Nicol
If you’re like my family, you plan to be 5 minutes early to church. But one kid poops his pants. The other spits up all over your shirt. So you walk in 10 minutes late. Okay 15 minutes. And then you see them. They are wearing halos. Must be angels. They want to spend time with your kids. Teach them the gospel. Pray with them. You remember that there is a whole team of volunteers who, because they are transformed by the gospel, signed up to minister to and love your children. There’s about 120 of them across all four congregations. And God be praised for each and every one of these ministers.
One of these godsends is Stephanie Wood.
Stephanie Wood is a mom of two boys and works a second full-time job in education and training at Nationwide Insurance. She is one of the few parents rocking it out in the kids ministry every week. I sat down with her and we talked about kids, parenting, and volunteering in the kids ministry.
Derek: What was Veritas Kids like when you first started coming?
Stephanie: The kids ministry is one of the things that drew me to Veritas. We started attending when we were at the Fourth Avenue building. Hudson was just turning a year old when we first visited. After the gathering, Pastor Nick Nye approached us. My first question was, “What do you have for kids ministry?” The look on his face told us he didn’t want anyone to ask that question. We had one room and there were just a handful of kids in there. Nick said, “Well, I’ll show you.” You could tell he was a little hesitant. We went in and he showed us the Jesus Storybook Bible. He said, “This is what we do our lessons from. We just read this to the kids. We know it’s not perfect.” But I was like, “I love it!” Our last church was very entertainment focused. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Cody and I have talked a lot about how we wanted something that was focused on the Bible. If you’re always trying to find ways to entertain kids, then to me, that’s when they question, “Is this real?” How do we differentiate this from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? We shouldn’t try to compete with all the excitement. It’s a very different exciting. We need kids to understand the difference. This gospel is more than just a story. It’s real.
Derek: A lot of churches pressure parents to volunteer in the kids ministry, and we haven’t done that at Veritas. In fact, you are one of the few parent volunteers. What about that?
Stephanie: Some of our parents who are regular attenders are involved in a lot of other things. They’re either community group leaders, or they’re on the worship team, or they do connect. We have a lot of families that would be considered large families in today’s culture, so sometimes it’s nice to have a break. They know that they can leave their kids with somebody who cares about them, and they can go and just not think about that and focus on worshipping God. We have a lot of stay-at-home moms. We have a lot of homeschooling parents. If you think about it, for me, you know I’m working throughout the week. I’ve got this short window of time, and I really want to use it to focus on my kids. But all week long, homeschooling parents are focused on their children. There isn’t a break for them. So, even having an hour on Sunday to recharge is helpful.
Derek: I think it’s cool that you have the perspective that you do. If I were volunteering in the Veritas Kids ministry, I’d be bitter that other parents aren’t helping. It sounds like you see it as a way to serve other parents in addition to the kids. Why do you volunteer in the kids ministry?
Stephanie: I taught for five years. Fourth grade for one year, then sixth grade for four years. It was an opportunity for me to live out the gospel in a way that some of these kids will never experience. Some of them came from very broken homes. I had one student whose mom was single with four kids. She worked nights. So, this sixth grader was essentially in charge of his younger siblings. He’d get them up in the morning and get them ready for school. He was late for school all the time. Half the time he’d come to school in his socks. I’d ask, “Where are your sneakers?” “I couldn’t find them, but I had to get on the bus.” It’s heartbreaking, but I can be a constant in that child’s life. I’ve met his mom for conferences, and she was doing the best she could. And I could offer something she couldn’t because of the situation she was in. It’s something that’s always been important to me. And now, being a mom, being able to serve in that way, that I can actually know that I’m teaching kids what I think is truly important and sharing the gospel with them. And I’ve seen how people have, just in Hudson and Owen’s short lives, loved them and cared for them and how important that is for me, that other people do that.
Derek: So what is it like to teach kids the gospel?
Stephanie: They have less obstacles to the faith. They just accept things. But not always. I think of Hudson. He questions a lot, and sometimes he just needs to know why. And sometimes I think, “Do you really need to know why?” So, it will actually start a lot of good conversations. In preparing for teaching the lesson, I think about how to express this in a way they understand, and then it really helps me to understand. So, in reading the bible passage, it’s a good way for me to learn and grow. Part of that is trusting God. We’re planting the seed and allowing God to help it to grow.
Derek: If you could sit down all the parents at Veritas, what would you say to them?
Stephanie: The best thing you can do for your kids is to teach them they are not the center of the world; but I think if you would then take that a step further, their world should revolve around Jesus.
Derek: How important is it that parents are looking to others for guidance?
Stephanie: We’re very focused on community at Veritas. It’s one of the things that Cody and I love and appreciate about Veritas. If you’re not willing to be a part of the community in all aspects, then you’re really missing out on the things you could learn, the things your kids could learn. When you try to do it on your own, it’s overwhelming and short-sighted.
Derek: What value might there be in having more parents involved in the kids ministry?
Stephanie: I think parents should consider it. It’s just so rewarding. On days I volunteer, we all go to the 8:30am gathering, then Cody and the boys leave, they find something fun to do, and I stay and help with the kids. There’s certain families I’ve gotten to know because I can help with their kids. I think of the Hills. Pepper. I’ve been in her class a lot of times, and I just enjoy her, and I’ve gotten to know Austin and Chelsey a little bit because of helping. So, it’s been a good way for me to connect with other people that I wouldn’t normally see. And it’s an opportunity to love other people’s’ kids the way they have loved mine.