WHY WE NEED TO ‘GIVE UP’ MORE IN CHILDREN’S MINISTRY

Distributing free resources has been going on since the early church shared Paul’s letters and the early gospel accounts from city to city. Christians are generous people and they want others to know more about God. The internet has made this more prolific as it is so easy to make your resources available for free on a website.

It sounds all wrong, but the Aim Lower video issues the challenge: “Whatever it is that we need to GIVE UP, let’s do it for the sake of the kingdom and its children”. Do we need to consider a more radical sharing of the resources and skills which God has given us? How might we change our current ministry paradigms so that every church has access to all it needs for ministry with the children in its community?

The Global Children’s Forum and the Max7.org website seeks to take this concept even further, however, by offering all resources open source – anonymous and free of copyright restrictions, available for anyone to take, adapt, translate and pass on to others free of charge. It has been my privilege to have been a part of the Max7 community from the beginning, using resources, sharing them with others and contributing things I have developed. I am excited about the possibilities!

THE VALUES OF OPEN SOURCE AS SEEN IN MAX7

  • Open ownership and use: Max7 and its resources are owned by no-one – and therefore by everyone. The only restriction on their use is that they not be used for commercial gain. The videos in particular are used widely in other ministries, resources and websites. This is a good thing and what we want to see happen.
  • Encouragement to modify and adapt: This is how things are improved and made applicable to more situations. There is a recognition that no one person has all the answers – or even all the questions! This also keeps the resources alive and vibrant as nothing is set in concrete. Although resources are moderated to make sure they adhere to a basic evangelical theology as expressed in the Lausanne Covenant, they aren’t centrally controlled.
  • Global participation: Everyone has something to offer – obscure individual or global organisation, well-resourced western city-dweller or passionate majority world villager. This is not only recognised, but actively encouraged and equipped. Significant time and finances are committed to writer’s workshops and translation to ensure that not all the resources come from one perspective or culture.

THE BENEFITS OF OPEN SOURCE RESOURCES

The biggest advantage of open source is that it is empowering to God’s people. It intentionally seeks to put the control and ownership into the hands of the people on the ground. They are trained and encourage to write, adapt and translate materials. As someone who has benefitted from this attitude and been empowered to develop the resources that God put on my heart, I have experienced the huge difference this makes but unfortunately it is not the norm within the Christian community. This desire is at the core of Max7 and is as central to its ethos as the fact that the resources are provided free of charge.

People also learn to evaluate the resources on their own merits, not on the basis of where they come from. It really doesn’t matter whether a resource was developed by a global organisation or a local Sunday school teacher. What matters is whether or not it is suitable for you in your situation – or can be adapted to be so. This frees up people to develop their own ministry in response to God’s leading and in partnership with the wider Body of Christ.

The down-side of this approach, of course, is that no one can control it all. Sometimes the resources posted on Max7 are not perfect – but they can still be extremely helpful to someone in another part of the world. People don’t always use things the way they were intended – but sometimes they are used in better ways! This lack of control on our part often allows greater scope for God’s control and direction.

THE QUESTION OF ANNONIMITY

  • Anonymity is not essential with open source, but it is extremely helpful in partnering as it levels the playing field. In no other way can the work of an unknown individual be considered the same way as that of a large, global organisation. It takes the ‘who’ out of the equation and puts the focus on the ‘what’ and ‘how’.
  • Anonymity is a discipline which pushes us all to ‘give up’ even more. Because we’re sinners, even the best of us are overly focused on ourselves and how we are being noticed and rewarded. For the good of ourselves and the work we do, we need anonymity to help purify our motives.
  • Anonymity greatly simplifies things. Without it we can get all tangled up with who gets the credit and how to make sure that everyone is treated equally. As more and more people get involved, this becomes harder and harder. However, if only God gets the credit, there are no problems.

CHALLENGING PARADIGMS

Recently my husband and I spent some time staying at a friend’s chalet in Switzerland. One of our regular adventures was shopping for food. On the outside, the shops didn’t look all that different to where I get my food at home in Australia. However, once we started purchasing food, we quickly realised that things were quite different. We discovered that we weren’t even aware of the assumptions we held about how things worked. All of a sudden we were forced to evaluate everything in the light of a different reality. Occasionally we even discovered that the Swiss have come up with better ways to do things!

Max7 seeks to do things in a radically different way in order to challenge people’s assumptions about how ministry should work. There are many, many websites that give some great resources away. This is good and we all benefit from their generosity. But if we say we want to change paradigms in order to impact more children, why should we put our efforts into doing the same thing as everyone else? Why not challenge the assumption that no one will trust something when they don’t know where it comes from? Why not challenge the assumption that big famous organisations know more and can produce better resources than unknown individuals? Why not challenge the assumption that you have to pay people in order to get them to do good work? Why not show that with a little bit of training and support, the majority world has as much to offer as the West? If someone doesn’t try something different then people will never think outside their current paradigms because they won’t even realise the assumptions they are built on.

I have found that the joy and freedom of working in a different paradigm is significant. I get very excited as I see people downloading the things I have posted on Max7 but I get equally excited as I see other things on Max7 being used and changing lives. It is amazing to be a part of such a wonderful, invisible, world-wide community and I wish others could experience that joy as well. It reminds me of a certain story of what Jesus was able to do when a little boy gave up his five loaves and two fish. I believe so much more could be accomplished if we could just ‘give up’ a little more and trust God (while we learn to trust each other) to use our small contribution to meet a huge need.

Becky Dougglas is the writer of this feature – but don’t tell anyone as she is trying to stay anonymous

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