Over the years I have noticed something. It seems to me that children’s ministers can be some of the most heavily burdened people in ministry. Why is that I wonder? I have some theories.
It’s one of the most important ministries in the church.
Statistics show that if a child hasn’t made a decision for Christ by age 8 they aren’t likely to at all. But do we really need statistics to know that children are precious to the Kingdom? They are living potential. Our enemy works tirelessly to attract, warp and destroy their lives. We are one of the folks on the front lines defending their souls. It’s not easy.
We wear many hats.
Children’s Ministers do more than preach on Sunday morning. Often times we’re Game Leader, Worship Leader, Puppet Team, Check-in Coordinator, Sound Person, Maintenance, Security and Janitor. Even if you’re blessed enough to have folks who do most of those things for you it is still your responsibility to see that they’re done… and your consequences to suffer if they’re not.
We are responsible for their safety and wellbeing.
No other minister in the church is in precisely the same situation we are when it comes to the safety of our congregation. Where else are the ministers completely responsible for the very lives of the people they minister to? Nowhere. From the moment the kids are dropped off till the minute they’re picked up, they might as well be our own kids. It’s a unique and challenging situation. We must keep them safe from the outside world and one another… all that while trying to keep them spiritually safe as well.
We must discipline and teach.
A minister can never just get up and preach. We’ve got to be entertaining, engaging and great at holding the attention of a crowd. If you’re a children’s minister, you’ve also got to keep them from hitting, throwing, talking, moving, sleeping and whatever else comes into their mind during your well prepared, heart-felt message. They say that preaching a typical sermon is the equivalent of an 8 hour work day…. but add to that the distractions, redirections and normal interruptions… make that a 16 hour day.
We minister to multiple people groups.
I remember when I thought being a Children’s Pastor meant that I would only work with children. Boy, was I wrong. Sure we work with kids… but we’ve also got their parents. We’ve got leadership we answer to as well as trying to be a part of the congregation as a whole. Let’s not forget our own volunteer staff. We’ve got a ton of folks to please… and often with conflicting expectations. It’s like having to juggle 5 balls, but only being able to juggle 3. To juggle them all, we’ve got to take turns… and someone is always being left out.
We’re often separated from the Big Show.
We do service during the big service so automatically we’re removed from the greatest spiritual and physical resource at our church. The spiritual food we so desperately need and the human resources we need almost as badly. This often leads us to believe that we are alone. The only ones who care. That parents are our enemy and that the Pastor is unappreciative. If that won’t wear you down, I don’t know what will.
I find it interesting that it is the circumstances of my own ministry that stand the most chance to ruin my ministry. Circumstances… not Satan… so once again my worst enemy is me. How can I combat these when they are mandatory side-effects of ministry well-done? We do not fight them at all… but rather become aware of each and compensate for them.
It’s an important ministry… but it’s not YOUR ministry.
God put the burden for training up a child on the children’s parents. The trend today is for children’s pastors to consider themselves the end-all-be-all for their kids’ spiritual well-being. The only problem is that we are literally incapable of bearing that responsibility, though many of us try. Not only is this arrogant, it’s dangerous. Our job is to be another voice from God in their lives. We are just another seed planter. We cannot make it grow. The Word does that on it’s own. That’s why we say it’s living and active. Free yourself from the total responsibility. Cast that burden where it belongs, on the shoulders of God Himself. Keep doing what you’re doing, but leave the results in His hands. It’s not your word…. it’s God’s Word.
Delegate anything someone else can do.
They won’t do it like you would. They may not do it as well. But you need to give pieces of your ministry away. We may think we’re being considerate… not wanting to burden others with our work… but we’re actually being prideful. Who are we to decide that they can’t handle a hard job? Are we the only ones who are tough enough? See how prideful that sounds? Your ministry will never grow any larger than you if you don’t give bits of it away. And if you keep doing it alone, your ministry will shrink right along with you as your burn yourself out. For more listen to Episode 9 – Delegating our Responsibilities.
Secure your ministry
If we’re responsible for those little lives… then we’ve got to be responsible with them. That means we’ve got to run background checks on every volunteer. Set-up some sort of secure check-in and out procedure to ensure that kids are going home with the right people. Write up and enforce policy to protect those kids against predators, and your workers against the appearance of evil. This sounds like an overwhelming task, but it will provide a lot of peace when you know you’re providing a safe place for your kids to interact with Jesus. For tips on where to start with policy listen to Episode 13 – Policy & Procedure.
Establish and train a consistent discipline policy.
Kids do a lot better when they know what is expected of them… and understand the consequences of not living up to to those expectations. Our job is not to make a child be good… it’s to help them become more like Jesus Christ. You’ll never change a kids life by putting them in time-out… it’s only God’s Word that can do that. Establishing a discipline policy will help you get over your discipline issues so that you can do real ministry. Need more? Check this out: Proper Discipline in Children’s Ministry.
Be a consistent minister.
You may have a lot of people to serve… but who we’re really serving is God. We can’t please everyone…. but we can live to please Him. The way we do that is through consistent obedience to his Will and his Word. If we focus on that… the rest will take care of itself. We don’t have to wear one face around the kids and another around the parents. Being a God-honoring minister/human being will bring respect from each people group. It will keep you focused on a consistent source of appreciation, love and acceptance.
Does your church have two morning services? Lucky! If not you’re going to have to work hard to stay connected. Cancel one service a month if you must. Do Sunday mornings and cancel the evening services. Delegate the service prep and performance to someone else and go to big church once in a while. Suggest pre-service Pastor’s Prayer so that you can know what’s going to happen in big church. Ask your Pastor to let you know what you missed during staff meetings. Just knowing can be a great connection. But remember, it’s not anyone’s job to keep you connected… and you have no ministry outside of the service you provide to that body. You’ve got to be a part of it to be effective in the least.
What issues do you struggle with in your ministry to children? What do you do to compensate for the natural consequences of a well-done ministry? Share in the comments.