Kidmin-ing Like Fred Rogers: Transforming Your Neighborhood for Christ
Session presented by Brittany Hochstaetter at Children’s Pastors Conference 2020
Write up by Tracy Reed, Swartz Creek UMC
I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and so did my 2 children. He always fascinated me and was influential to me wanting to work with children. I was very excited to attend the Kidmin-ing like Fred Rogers break out session at the Children’s Pastors Conference.
I learned so much at this session. But the first thing I want to start out with is something so simple but profound and central to Children’s Ministry. That is that Mister Rogers wanted every child to know they were loved! So simple but so important to center our Children’s Ministry around.
There are 2 ways that Mister Rogers transformed his neighborhood and inspires us to do the same. One is that he learned to be fully present with each individual to communicate love. And the second being he learned to fully accept himself in order to effectively love others.
Mister Rogers said he prayed before each show “let some words heard today be yours”. Being fully present with others was very important to him. Learning people’s names (which is always been a challenge for me), seeing individual needs, and listening is paramount he said. Mister Rogers changed his program because of a letter from a blind child. The child wrote Mister Rogers because he was worried about the fish. On the show sometimes Mister Rogers would say that he was feeding the fish and sometimes he just did it with out verbalizing that he did it. So, this child was worried that the fish were not being fed enough. From that moment on, Mr. Rogers always talked about feeding the fish. One of Mister Rogers favorite Bible stories was the parable of the lost sheep. He told us not to focus on the numbers but on the souls we touch. He felt that it was important to let people know that they mattered as an individual. Mister Rogers did this so well that everyone who spoke at his funereal referred to themselves as his best friend. He said, “be each child’s biggest fan so they will feel that God too is their greatest fan!” We can’t be in the moment 100% of the time but we need to do out best to steal away moments to give individual attention to each child. We need to slow down our pace and communicate to the children on their level physically and developmentally.
Mister Rogers learned to fully accept himself in order to effectively love others. One of the Bible verses that helped him in his life was Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Fred Rogers knew who he was, and he was grateful for it. Fred Rogers had a difficult childhood he was extremely shy, introverted and overweight. He was forced to stay home a lot because of illness. He was bullied as a child. These experiences as a child helped him in is ministry and in his show. He used his hobbies and joys of puppetry, music, art and languages in his show. He resisted pressure to changes to the show that he felt were wrong or inauthentic. Fred Rogers once said, “for me, being quiet and slow is being myself and that is my gift”. We need to love ourselves and be ourselves. How are we being ourselves in our ministry? Have others from your congregation or community come in and share what they love to do. Also make room for your children’s love in your space. Have a space for their work in your area. The best teachers in the world love what they are doing, and it shows to those around them. We were left with this “Be authentic, be yourself. You are enough and you make a difference even when your best is not perfect”.