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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4 Reasons Teaching Life Application Matters

There are many things in the Bible that are a mystery. Many things that seem to have no application to my life. Still the Bible calls itself a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” This says that it is the means by which we will see the direction we are to go. If this is so, then the things that we learn from it apply to our lives. If this is so, then we, as teachers of the Word, must ensure that we are helping those we teach to see how these things apply to their lives. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but here are four reasons why this  matters.

1.) They WILL need it.

“I will never use this in real life.”

Just about every kids has had this thought. I remember as a kid having this same thought… especially in relation to algebra. I hope you appreciate the irony, as I write this, but I also felt this way about many things that I learned in english class. Certainly there are some things that we learn in school that will not apply to our careers, depending on what field we choose. However, many of the things we learn WILL apply.

As a nurse I used algebra regularly to calculate medication dosages. As a pastor, teacher, and writer I use the things I learned in english class nearly every day. As I seek to get healthier and more fit I find that there are even lessons I learned from my PE teachers that are part of my life on a regular basis these days.

The point is the things I learned back then I DO use today. The same is true of the Biblical truths we teach kids, youth, even adults. The lessons learned from the Bible apply to every part of our lives. As such we need to help the people we teach to see how they apply.

2.) They can’t see it themselves.

If you teach children you know that, in general, they can’t see how the things we teach directly apply to their lives. They tend to think too concrete, too linear. So, if you teach a story about Noah they can’t, necessarily, see how this connects to their own acts of disobedience to God or to their parents. You need to help them make the connection between the Biblical truth you are teaching and their own lives.

The same is true for youth and many adults. While some will be able to make the connections for themselves, many will not. The truth is that it is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that a person can make this connection on their own. So, for those that may not be used to listening to the Holy Spirit, let’s help them hear Him speaking.

3.) He’s not talking to me.

I believe that all of us have a tendency to assume that when the preacher says something that might actually apply to us that he is really talking to everyone else. It’s just human nature. For instance, I could easily read the story of the woman caught in adultery that was brought to Jesus to be judged. I could look at the whole thing and say to myself, “Well, I’ve never committed adultery, so this message isn’t for me.” While I have never committed adultery, this story is about more than the woman and her actions. This story is about the men that brought the woman to Jesus. The story is about the man that she was committing adultery with. The story is about Jesus. The story is about the words that Jesus said to the Pharisees and to the woman. Somewhere in the there we can all find ourselves if we take time to look. As a preacher or teacher we need to help people find themselves in the lessons we teach.

4.) Jesus taught that way.

In Matthew 6:25-32 Jesus teaches about the way to avoid worry and anxiety. In verses 34-35 He gives us the things to do, the principles that we are to follow. He gives us the formula. However, in verses 25-32 He gives us the application. He shows us how the principles He is about to give us apply to our lives. If this is how Jesus taught, then It is something we should consider as well.

What about the Holy Spirit.

As I mentioned earlier it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit to convict our listeners. However, it is our job to be as clear as possible when we teach. I think that part of this is including application in our teaching. We cannot include every possible scenario for every person in the room. But, we can include some current, real world, applications that are appropriate for some of the ages and life stages of the people in the room and I believe we should.


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It’s Time To Push Back

“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail overcome it.” Matthew 16:18
Last week my brother invited me to a special prayer meeting at his church. While many in our country were getting ready for family cookouts, we were gathering to pray. You see there were people in my brother’s church that were going through spiritual warfare and he wanted to do something about it. As we gathered he spoke briefly in way of introduction. He told of the various spiritual attacks that were happening to the people of his church. Then he said that he felt it was time to “push back”. As he said this I was reminded of the verse that is quoted above.
Many people in the church read this verse and take great comfort in it. They are comforted by the fact that the hell can not win against Jesus’ church. However, I think that many miss the point with this verse. We use this verse to make ourselves feel comfortable within our walls. We use them to feel comfortable within lives lived separate from the world. That is not what Jesus is saying in this verse.
Gates are DEFENSIVE.
 
This passage is not talking about Jesus taking care of us as we huddle together in our safe little church buildings. When it talks about gates it is not talking about US being safe from THEIR attacks. Gates are defensive. They are designed to either keep something out, or to keep something in. In many cases it’s both. Think about a pen housing thoroughbred horses. The fence and the gate around that pen. It is certainly designed to keep the horses from wondering off. However, it is also designed to keep people that would seek to steal or harm the horses. THAT is what this verse is talking about. The GATES of hell will not prevail against the Church. This doesn’t mean that their attacks against the church will not be successful. Rather it means that Jesus is promising US an advantage.
Defending against what?
 
If a gate is a for defense, then it implies that there is a pending attack. At the very least it means that there is the possible of an attack. If hell has defensive gates, then what are they defending against? The words of Jesus tell us that the thing that hell is defending agains it US, the Church. When was the last time you knew of a church that posed a significant threat to the gates of hell. We claim to hold the words of the Bible as both sacred and true. We hold the words of Jesus to be even more so. Yet we act as if these gates are impenetrable.
It’s time to push back.
 
If we believe the words of Jesus to be true, then we, as the church, represent a power that the very gates of hell CANNOT prevail against. These are not my words. These are the words of Jesus. In preparation for this post I took some time to look up the original meanings of the words used intros verse. When I looked up when it says that the “gates of hell” it means… “the gates of hell.” When it says “will not prevail against it” it means “will not prevail against it.” Jesus is telling us that we have the power, through Him, to take on hell.
For far too long the church has been satisfied simply sitting in our comfortable, or even not so comfortable, seats in our comfortable buildings and refusing to take the battle to the enemy. We have been satisfied defending our home base. This is NOT what Jesus prescribed in this verse. What Jesus is telling us is that we should be attacking the gates of hell, not hiding from them. I’m not saying that the things we are doing at the church building are wrong. There may be some practices that need to change, but many of these things are good. However, we DO need to get out of the building and into the community. The enemy is attack people all around us and it is happening within the community.
So, what can you do as a Christian, as a church leader or even as a church member to attack the gates of hell? I once heard Perry Noble talk about when he was asked, “What would you do tomorrow if you knew you couldn’t fail?” His answer is that he would start a church. Jesus has promised us that when we attack the gates of hell, we can not fail. My question you is KNOWING that you can not fail, what will you do?

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Do You REALLY Believe In Prayer?

We often talk about and teach the importance of prayer. If you went back and read my old posts you would see prayer and it’s importance in many of my writings. Still I have to ask the question, do I REALLY believe in the power and importance of prayer?

Is prayer important? Throughout the New Testament we read about Jesus taking time to pray. In fact, the night before He was arrested He spent hours in prayer. Clearly the example of Jesus shows that prayer is important.

Is prayer powerful? In Joshua chapter 10 we read where Joshua prays and the sun stops moving in the sky, giving them  the time they needed to defeat their enemy. Clearly prayer is powerful?

Why do we forsake it? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, if I’m not careful, my tendency is to depend on my own abilities as I plan programs, events, and work to lead the ministry God has called me to. So, why do I forsake prayer? The truth is, I never plan to. God has gifted me in certain ways, as He has all whom He calls to lead. Because of this gifting there is a certain amount of leading, planning, etc that I can do without ever having to pray. BUT, what am I missing when I do this?

Can God do more than me? This seems like a dumb question, but when we try to do ministry without prayer the message we are sending is that we can do it without God. Sure, we are gifted and there is a certain amount that we can do without Him. But, how much more could God do in our ministry if we prayed?

Pain is coming. Ministry is hard and, often frustrating. As I write this I find myself somewhat buried under the weight of ministry. As I have thought about the many facets of my ministry and where they are, where they need to go and how we get them there the burden seems to get heavier by the day. It is while I thought through some of this stuff that I realized that prayer is not a regular part of my ministry. HOW ARROGANT have I become that I think I can do this without God? To say that sounds like pure lunacy, but when we work without prayer this is what we are doing. The weight that I have carried lately is a direct result of my lack of prayer. By not spending the time in prayer that I need to I have chosen to carry a burden that was never mine to carry.

Are you building in vain? Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, it’s builders labor in vain.” When we exclude prayer as a regular part of our routine, of how we plan and lead our ministry, then we are building this house that we call ministry in VAIN. Merriam-Webster defines vain as, “having no real value” or “marked by futility or ineffectualness.” It also uses words like idle, worthless, unsuccessful, and useless to describe what vain means. None of these are words I want used to describe the ministry I lead. Without prayer this is exactly the words that will ultimately describe our ministry.

So what? I have often thought and felt that I needed to spend more time in prayer. However, it has never really struck me that without prayer, everything I do is in VAIN. Wow! That’s a punch in the gut. Prayer will certainly not remove all the difficulties or ministry. Ministry is still hard work, but if it simply removed the frustrations that come as a result of my lack of prayer, how great would that be?

So what will I be doing differently? I have been working, for the past few weeks, on getting into a weekly routine. An intentional plan for how I spend my time each week, from day to day. This started as a way to help ensure that I got my daily exercise each morning. Now, I will build on what I have already started and add an intentional time of prayer to this daily routine.

How do you ensure that prayer is a regular part of your life and ministry?

 


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Be In The Moment

My son and I like to play chess. Neither one of us is very good, but it’s still fun. To be successful in chess you have to think two or three moves ahead. This is a great strategy for chess, but a terrible one for life, in many instances. It’s even worse in ministry. Unfortunately, this is how many of us operate. In ministry we are sometimes even worse about this than others. I would encourage you instead to BE IN THE MOMENT.

Multitasking is a myth. There is much talk about multitasking. Women are all convinced that they are born masters of it and that men are incapable of it. The truth is there is no such thing as multitasking. This is not just my opinion; there have been multiple studies that show this to be true. If you think about it, you only have one set of hands and one brain. Yes, I understand that our brains are impossibly complex and capable of incredible things. But, while your mind may be able to do more than one thing at a time, you can only REALLY focus on one thing at a time.

Focus on what you’re doing. You may think that you are getting more done, or being more efficient by working on more than one thing at a time. The truth is you’re not giving anything your full attention and, therefore, not giving any of it your best. Set aside the other stuff your working on. Determine what has to be done NOW. Then focus on that. The results will be much better and, chances are, you will actually finish that thing quicker and be able to move on to the next.

Focus on WHO you are talking to. Unfortunately, our mental chess game can often extend to people as well. If you are in ministry then Sunday morning is go time. For me that means I have about a million things on my mind. So, when someone comes up to me to talk, my mind tends to wonder. While I’m “listening” my mind is already on the next thing I have to do or the next few things. The result is that I am not actually listening. I may be able to hear the conversation and may even walk away from it with a pretty good idea of what was said, but I am not truly listening. They will probably notice. If they do, then you have probably just lost the confidence of that person. You may have a desire to minister to them, but your lack of focus could have damaged that potential.

Stop thinking about what to say next. Perhaps your not thinking of the things you have to do, but there’s a good chance that you are thinking about what you are going to say next. Often times with the first few words that a person speaks we are already thinking about what we are going to say. Stop doing that. In that moment when you begin to formulate your reply you have stopped listening. Maybe the person talking just needs someone to talk to, not an answer. Maybe they are trying to work something out and just need a sounding board. Whatever the case, if you are thinking about what you are about to say, then you have stopped listening.

It isn’t easy. Oh, it’s real easy for me to write these things, but it is not easy for us to do them. My desk and office are evidence to the difficulty I have in finishing one thing before moving on to the next. In ministry and in life we often have multiple projects going on at once. This is a must. However, we have to learn to focus on one while we are working on it. Then move on to the next. The benefits really are worth it. Give these things some thoughts. Think about it as you go through your day or week. Then, see what you can do to help yourself BE IN THE MOMENT.


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