Josh and Staci Nolan, Primary Church
“What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state, than that of the man who instructs the rising generation.”
In our generation, perhaps more than ever, young people are charged to pursue their ambitions for earthly success. The media generates for them ready-made goals for their personal, professional, and even spiritual lives. They are encouraged to live according to their own set of rules rather than the commandments of the Word of God. Instructing the rising generation in the ways of the Lord, then, becomes not only essential but also crucial.
In the ministry of North Valley Baptist Church, Josh and Staci Nolan have committed themselves to instruct our own rising generation. Their responsibilities in our school system during the week as well as their invaluable ministry to our primary-age children on Sundays allow them to influence those under their Sprit-led leadership and guidance.
Where are you originally from?
JN: I’m from Bethel Baptist Church in Spanaway, Washington. (Pastor Terry Minge)
SN: I’m from Northwest Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio. (Pastor Andy Edwards)
Who inspired you to live for our Lord?
JN: My parents continue to be the number one influence for my serving the Lord. Watching their lives after the Homegoing of my fifteen-year-old younger brother six years ago has summed up life for me: living for God is the only rewarding life there is.
What made you choose the ministry?
SN: When I was younger, I wanted to have the life that was the most pleasing to God. I thought that if I could pick for myself the ultimate life, it would be the ministry.
Looking back, can you see instances in your life that would lead you to believe that God was preparing you for the ministry you have now?
JN: When I was in fourth grade, Mrs. Carlene Smith said that I should preach for the Junior Convention the following year. She and scores of others pushed me and believed in me. God used them to prepare me for what I enjoy doing today.
How long have you folks been leading Primary Church?
JN, SN: We began leading Primary Church about five months ago. On average, about fifty young people attend the service.
Working with that many young people each week must be a challenge. How do you keep yourselves encouraged?
JN, SN: We look at the big picture: we’re doing this for eternity. Also, how can one not praise God and be grateful for this opportunity?
Visiting and calling the homes of each child every week would be impossible. How do you “connect” with the children and their families?
JN, SN: We have divided the class into three sections. Every week, one section is visited. Another receives a letter, and another receives a telephone call.
Has working with young people affected your lives or other ministries?
JN, SN: Yes. We have learned and try to demonstrate childlike faith in adult-like situations.
The children in Primary Church often speak glowingly of your puppet show.
JN: The goal for the puppet show is for entertainment and for a story-like way to introduce concepts dealing with the theme for that Sunday. (I try to make the memory verse, Bible story, puppet show, and message carry the same theme each week.) We hope to purchase better puppets and a stage, but we’re not there yet.
What do you do to prepare yourselves for this weekly service?
JN: Whenever I set up the chairs for Primary Church, I try to make it a habit to pray over each seat, realizing all the while that those little boys and girls will need to hear from God. Often, my wife and I will get by a piano and practice singing as if the kids were there. Doing that really helped us in the early days.
What resources do you pull from as you plan your weekly services?
2. Old college notes
3. The Sunday School Times
4. Books about the Sunday school
What parts of your service may one not find in the average children’s service?
1. Primary Church Juggling
2. Animal Balloons
3. Illusion Gospel
4. Silly String on Bro. Nolan’s face
If you were to give some tips to the children’s church worker, what would they be?
1. Sing with the kids. They mimic you!
2. Smile and be happy. Kids may forget the message, but they never forget a happy face.
3. Talk to them before class begins and after they are dismissed. They listen to someone who really cares about them.
4. Don’t allow the children to sit in the same seats every week or always by the same people.
5. Get involved in the program.
6. Be ready to talk to children about salvation. Don’t leave at the beginning of the invitation—that’s when the preacher needs you most!
7. Be in prayer for the preacher, the children, and the service. Primary church or any children’s church is a “big deal”!
Since serving in this ministry, what have you learned that would help other new Christian workers?
1. Listen to your supervisors.
2. Watch out for dead time—and work to eliminate it!
3. Keep parents informed about their children using the “sandwich method.” (positive, negative, positive)
4. Show how much you care by visiting the children, praying for them, talking to them, sitting with them, etc.
5. Be in “Mary Mode” more than “Martha Mode.”