5 Things Children’s Ministers Wish Their Senior Pastor Knew

Recently I asked a group of children’s ministry leaders on Facebook what sorts of things they wish their Senior Pastor knew. I asked because I believe that God is moving me in that direction and I wanted to make sure never to forget the concerns of my fellow children’s ministers. Here are a few of the responses I received.

1.) Being there whenever the doors are open might not be healthy.

As children’s ministers we are at church a lot. I LOVE it and so do most of my children’s ministry friends. However, there are limits. Many senior pastors are workaholics. Not only is this not healthy for them, but they also tend to hold the people that serve with them to a similar expectation.

There are certainly times when we NEED to be at the church. However, senior pastor give your leaders the freedom to take some time off. If the youth or children’s department has an event on Friday or Saturday, consider allowing the leader to take extra time off that week. If you have midweek activities, be aware that your children’s and youth leaders will probably be at the church from the time they arrive until the end of the midweek programming. Consider allowing them to come in later on that day. Otherwise this turns into a 12 hour day.

2.) It’s difficult to make friends.

As a senior pastor you understand fully the difficultly that exists for ministers in making personal connections. This is just as true with children’s ministers. In fact there are added difficulties for us because we spend so much of our time with children and, therefore, much less with adults. Do what you can to be a friend to us. If nothing else, be someone we can go to with our struggles both from ministry and life.

I’m certain that most senior pastors would say that they maintain an open door policy. Most would say that their staff can come to them about anything. I am also sure that these things are actually true. However, what have you, as a senior pastor, done to foster that relationship? What have you done to create a connection with your staff that could lead to them feeling comfortable talking to you?

3.) My ministry matters too.

It can be the opinion of church members that children’s or youth ministry is little more than recreation or babysitting. Certainly there are things that children’s and youth ministry leaders can do to fight this believe. However, there is nothing more powerful than the support of the senior pastor to help church members see how important these ministries are. Talk positively about the children’s and youth ministries. Talk about it from the pulpit. Talk about it in other environments as well.

It can also be the opinion of other ministry leaders that their ministry is more important or of greater value than the children’s or youth ministries. The truth is that every ministry is important. Help the leaders of other ministries see that while their ministry is important so are these others.

4.) I wish you understood my struggles.

The pressures of the senior pastor position are great. In fact I don’t believe that anyone that has not sat in that chair can fully understand these pressures. I have not yet sat in that chair, so I include myself among those that don’t fully understand. That being said, the pressures of ministry at any level are great. Do you, as senior pastor, really understand the pressures that your children’s ministry leaders feel? Do you really know what they are going through? Honestly, in the same way they don’t understand your pressures, unless you are talking to them, you don’t fully understand their pressures either. Even if you think you have a good understanding, talk to them. They need to know you care and understand.

5.) Help me remember why we do this.

Certainly, every church leader should be able to, on some level, motivate themselves. Still, it can be difficult, at times, to get ourselves excited. We often do things and don’t see the results that we thought we would see. When this happens it can be easy for our motivation to slip. Help us to remember why we do what we do. In those times that the weight of ministry start to get us down, help us refocus on what matters.

Thank you Pastor.

We love our pastors. Without you, we cannot do what God has called us to do as children’s or youth ministers. Please don’t read these things as an attack on pastors. We are a team. These things are not said in anger. Chances are these things are not from the children’s ministry leaders at your church. Still, they are representative of how many that minister to children feel. I know you value these people and their ministry. Take some time to let them know.


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Is Your Children’s Ministry Outwardly Focused

In church world we often lament at the inward focus of many churches. We complain at how little churches are doing to reach out into the community. We hypothesize that the decline in many churches is due, at least in part, to the inward focus. Christians and non-Christians alike point to the selfishness that is apparent in our lack of community involvement. As I communicate with other children’s ministry leaders I hear the same complaint. This had me thinking that perhaps many of our children’s ministries are just as guilty of this as the church in whole. So this bring the question, is your children’s ministry outwardly focused?

What is outward focused? In most churches there are many different programs, ministries and services. Some of these programs are aimed at helping those that are already in the church. Others are focused on reaching and/or helping those that are not yet in the church. Having an outward focus means that a given church has some of these programs that are aimed at people outside the church. Some would even go so far as to say that having an outward focus means that you have more programs, ministries, and services aimed outside the church than you do aimed inside. I’m not sure that I would go that far.

How do I know? If we are not careful it can be easy to lie to ourselves and say that we are outwardly focused. So, how can we know for sure if we are. Take some time and consider you different programs, ministries, services and events. Look closely at these things. Who do they benefit most, people inside the church or people outside? If people inside the church benefit more than that thing is inwardly focused, even if that is not your goal.

Some things that we intend to be outwardly focused end up being inward. For instance consider a fall festival type event. Many churches do these types of events around Halloween and even at other times of the year. These are usually intended to be outwardly focused events, aimed at bringing people in from the community to connect with them and, hopefully, share the gospel. But, what often sometimes is that the event is more attended by people in the church than by outsiders. When this happens he event BECOMES inwardly focused regardless of what the intent was. Now, this can be a great time of fellowship for the people of your church and for that reason is not, necessarily a bad thing. However, at that point it is not really an outwardly focused event.

So, what? The question that every leader is asking when they read a post like this is, “What does this have to do with my ministry and how can I apply it?” Well, as mentioned above, take some time to consider your current programs, ministries, services and events. Look at them closely to determine if they are outward or inward in their focus. After you have evaluated everything that you are currently doing, ask if you are doing enough to reach the community. Is your ministry outwardly focused enough. If not, then the question becomes, what can you do about it? Here are some ideas that might help.

  • Think about what your doing. Consider if some of the things you are already doing could or should be steered in a direction that would make them more outwardly focused. How can you turn something that you are already doing into more of a community outreach/service type of thing?
  • Look at what the community is already doing. Find ways that you can be involved in events that your local community is already putting on. This allows them to plan it and promote it and all you have to do is show up and do your thing. If this is a regular, monthly event then attend it a couple times, with a few other people. Look for ways that God could use you while your there. If this is a yearly event, then look for people in your church that have attended it and are familiar with it and ask them to help you plan for it.
  • Drive around. Take some time and drive around your community. Look for things like parks where you could go and do things like back yard Bible clubs, or even VBS. Look for neighborhoods that have lots of kids. These may be great places for you to do sidewalk Sunday schools or something similar. Look for places that people, especially kids, are already gathering. Look for ways that you can minster to the people that are already gathered there.

Hopefully these few ideas will get your creative juices flowing. The bottom line is to get out into the community and FIND ways to connect with people, to serve them, and to share the gospel with them.


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Preparing Kids For Camp

It’s that time of year. The time that Senior pastors often refer to as the “slow season” but is anything but for those in ministry to children or youth. If your anything like me you are hip deep in preparing for camp. Whether you are taking a group way to a camp run by someone else, building your own camp, or planning a day camp at your church there are some things that you can do to help your kids get the most out of their camp experience.

I LOVE camp. I’ve been part of camps for children or youth for several years. Seldom have I seen any other thing that can have a much of an impact in such a short time. I have seen kids come out of camp COMPLETELY changed and I have seen that change last. There is something powerful about removing a kid from their normal environment, away from their normal influences, that allows them to connect with God at a level that is difficult to attain a home. This is why I love camp and want to do what I can to help kids make the most of it.

Safety.This may not seem like a logical way to prepare kids for a great spiritual experience, but if you can’t make momma feel comfortable about the safety of their little baby, then that child ain’t goin’. Beyond that, if a child is fearful for their safety, then that fear will distract them from God. So, do all you can to ensure their safety. This can mean picking the right chaperons, picking the right camp, taking the right supplies. Even something as minor as a sun burn can be a major distraction for a kid. Sure, they should bring sun screen, but they are kids and are likely to forget. So, bring some for them.

Prayer. Certainly you need to be praying for your campers. But, you don’t need to be the only one. Consider recruiting prayer warriors within your church. Put together a prayer calendar and ask people to commit to praying for the kids every day for a month prior to leaving for camp. Assign specific adults to pray for specific adults. Consider creating a prayer calendar to help parents pray for their own kids in the month prior to camp. Encourage the kids that are going to pray for their own camp experience. Create a prayer calendar for them as well. Invite kids that are not going to camp to pray for their friends who are going. Make a prayer calendar for them too. I think you get the idea that there are many ways that your church can be praying for the kids you are taking to camp.

Spiritually. I’ve noticed that when you take kids to camp it takes them a couple days before they start “plugging in”. Taking some steps prior to going to camp to prepare the hearts of your kids can help to shorten this time.

  • Pre-camp devotions: The camp I’m taking my kids to actually provides some preamp devotions. If you are taking you kids to a camp put on by someone else, check with them and see if they have something similar. If you are building your own camp, then consider writing some devise for the kids for before camp.
  • Prayer: I know I already talked about this, but IF your kids will spend some time in prayer they will not be able to help but be in a better place when you get ready to go to camp.
  • Discipleship: If you are taking kids to camp then you already have one or two that you praying don’t give you any trouble. There’s that one kids that you are really worried about. There is time to do something about that. Take time now to disciple those kids. Spend some time with them. Build that relationship and encourage them.
  • Chaperons: Hopefully you already have your chaperons lined up. I know that situations come up that have you running around at the last minute trying to arrange chaperons, but if you can get them ahead of time then work to connect the kids with the chaperon that will be responsible for them. Create opportunities for your kids to connect with their chaperon. Encourage your chaperons to build those relationships. This will increase their influence with those kids when camp comes.

Excitement: Camp is fun. For this reason you shouldn’t have to work too hard to get your kids excited about going. But, you should also work to get them excited about God working in their lives during that time. Talk about the kinds of things God might do. Tell stories of how you’ve seen God work in kids through camp. Even better, have a kid or youth give testimony to how God worked in them at camp.

Bottom line: At the end of the day we all want to see God work in our kids through camp. If we didn’t then we wouldn’t bother taking them. This being true it is worth the time and effort to make some plans to help your kids prepare for camp.

What are some ways that you help your kids get ready for camp?

 


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The Kids in Your Church Need You to Become a Student of Pop Culture

Ok, I’ll be straight up. There are things that my kids enjoy, are into or watch that I simply am not into. In fact some of it I don’t get and am completely not interested in. But, my kids and the kids in my church need me to do what I can become a student of pop culture.

What is pop culture? Merriam-Webster, surprisingly, doesn’t show a definition for pop culture, but this is what Wikipedia.org says: “pop culture is the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture.” (I know. It’s not a reliable source, but it’s the best I have. LOL) Basically the “pop” in pop culture is short for popular. So, it is everything that is popular in a given culture. As a parent and children’s minister that means everything that is popular in the culture of children.

Ok, but why should I care? There are a number of reasons why we should make ourselves a student of pop culture. Let’s take a look at some of them.

To connect with kids. When a missionary moves to a new area he or she seeks to learn the culture of that area. This allows them to better connect with the people they are trying to reach. The same is true when we learn the culture of children. It will allow us to better connect with them so that we can have the opportunity to speak into their lives.

To better be able to speak into the lives of children. Connecting with them gives us the opportunity to speak into their lives. Becoming a student of pop culture can help us do that even better. When you use an example from a game or show that your kids are into when teaching, you will be amazed at how quickly they plug in.

Equip parents. Parents are busy. Perhaps busier than ever before. There are also many more threats in pop culture than ever before in our society. These two facts combine to mean that many parents are painfully unaware of what these threats are and what they can or should do about them. As parents I believe we all have a responsibility to learn what we can about these potential threats. As a children’s ministry leader we can help parents by doing some of the research for them. Learn what you can and then help the parents in your church learn it to.

Pop culture changes quickly. My kids are 7 years apart. The things that my 13-year-old son was into when he was little barely even exist any more and the things that my 6-year-old daughter is into didn’t exist when my son was little. Pop culture changes quickly. For this reason we must constantly be seeking to learn about what is popular now. It’s a never-ending process, but the results of doing it are worth it. Likewise, the possible consequences of NOT doing it are more than I’m willing to risk.

 

 

 


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Home Discipleship 101: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

For many in ministry, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a well-known passage. Some even go so far as to say that this passage speaks AGAINST children’s ministry. Obviously, I am not one of those or I would not be doing children’s ministry. However, what is clear is that this passage provides an outline for discipling kids at home.

 

When you sit in your house. I’ve talked about using TV to teach your children, but that is not the only opportunity to disciple the children that live with you, while you’re at home. Look for opportunities to teach them. Talk with them about what God is revealing to you during your quiet time. Aren’t taking a quiet time on a regular basis? You really should be. Remember you can’t lead someone where you have not been or are not going. “When you sit in your home” can be meal times. It can be while watching TV. It can be pretty much anytime that you are in the house together.

 

When you walk along the road. Obviously at the time this was written cars did not exist and chariots were mainly machines of war. So, the modern day equivalent would be while your driving along the road. Do, you take your kids to school? Do you pick them up from school? This is a great time to talk about their day and look for the cues in that conversation that can lead to talk of spiritual matters.

 

But, I don’t know what to say. In the beginning having such conversations can be uncomfortable. Where do you start? What do you say? My recommendation would be to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your words. Trust me, He will. And, the more you listen to Him the easier it will become. But, if you’re looking for a place to start the conversation, think about what the preacher preached the past Sunday. OR ask them what their Sunday School or children’s church lesson was about. Use these points as a starting point for the discussion. When you sit in church or in your Sunday School class think about what is being taught and how you might discuss it with you children. Take some notes, if you need to.

 

The bottom line is to make Spiritual discussions a regular part of your daily lives, not just a special event or even a certain time during the day. Jesus used ordinary things and everyday moments to teach and so should we.


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