Does God Call People to Children’s Ministry?

Do you ever have questions when someone talks about “the call” to children’s ministry? Maybe God is dealing with you about your ministry position. If so, then keep reading. This month’s Children’s Ministry Think Tank is all about God’s to minister to children. Here is the question as I posed it to our think tank members.

“How do you understand God’s calling to children’s ministry in your own life? How would you counsel a young person who is exploring this children’s ministry as a vocation? What do you make of Kids Pastors who move on to other positions in the church such as executive or senior pastor?”

To keep things interesting, I’ve invited a few new kids ministry leaders to join this session of the Think Tank. So grab some hot chocolate, PRINT PRINT this post, and share your own perspective about God’s calling in your life.

Response from Gina McClain

How do you understand God’s calling to Children’s Ministry in your own life? For a long time I saw myself as a leader in kids ministry by default. I didn’t set out to be in children’s ministry. However, as I looked back I could see how God ordered my steps. So, when I consider my past experiences, the doors He continues to open and the holy discontent that never seems to go away… Children’s Ministry is where it’s at.

How would you counsel a young person who is exploring this children’s ministry as a vocation? Develop discipline. Spiritual discipline, Leadership discipline, Emotional discipline. In kids ministry your leadership spans adults, youth and kids. And you have to see it that way. You have adult & youth volunteers and kids that you will shepherd in some capacity. The times that I lacked discipline were the poorest seasons of ministry for me. Discipline is critical. Spiritual discipline will sustain you through the dry spells. Leadership discipline is critical to working with your peers and leaders. And emotional discipline will keep you (and your devoted volunteers) in it for the long haul.

What do you make of Kids Pastors who move on to other positions in the church such as executive or senior pastor? Sell outs. Okay… not really. I think I would love to sit across from a senior pastor that was once a kids pastor. I’d love to hear their perspective today. What do I need to consider as a kids ministry leader that I can’t see from my vantage point? At the same time, does it bother me that leaders exit kids ministry for the next ‘rung’ on the ladder? I don’t know that this bothers me as much as someone in my leadership wondering why I don’t aspire to more. That really chaps me. Why assume that advancement in ministry means working with adults? I think advancement in ministry has more to do with your leadership/spiritual influence and less to do with the age category of your ministry. But let me be clear… I don’t believe that success in ministry necessarily means the expansion of your influence but rather the depth of your influence. And depth of influence relates directly to successful spiritual, leadership & emotional discipline.

Read more from Gina on her blog or follow @gina_mcclain on Twitter.

Response from Kenny Conley

Good question. I undoubtedly believe that God calls people to Children’s Ministry; however, I also don’t believe that everyone serving in Children’s Ministry is “called” to it, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I remember hearing Bill Wilson who runs an amazing Sidewalk Sunday School ministry in the worst parts of Metro New York say that he was never called to Children’s ministry. He’s simply standing in the gap for these kids and doing what was done for him. He says it in a much more controversial way though. I love that guy… but I’m scared of him too. :)

I was called to children’s ministry at the age of 14 and it was clear for me. On of the greatest spiritual influences in my life had been my Children’s Pastor and I feel that God used that to shape me and call me. It wasn’t until 7-8 years later that I believed God expanded my calling to encourage, lead and serve those who minister to kids… which is why I blog and a significant portion of my job today. I think there are a lot of other things that I would enjoy doing and thing that I’d be good at… but I just can’t imagine not serving kids in the capacity that I do.

I have counseled many people who were exploring Children’s Ministry as a vocation. Once it was clear that there was passion and giftedness, I encouraged them to get involved and submerge themselves in ministry to kids. The best way to learn is to actually roll up your sleeves and do it. If they’re young and free, I encourage them to go and find a place to serve where they’ll learn from the best, even if it means packing up and moving to another city or state. I got all my early experience in a small church doing ministry while in college. It really was a great opportunity for me. Although that’s a great way to do it, you may not get as much opportunity to learn from the best. If doing it again, I might go to the best church I could find and become the best volunteer they’ve ever had. I’d be upfront with the Children’s Pastor that it’s my intention to be developed to do what they do and I’m willing to do anything and work may tail of. Whether they’d ever have room to hire me or not, I’d be getting the best kind of experience in the world. I’d be developing a stellar reference list and an incredible resume. After a few year of this, I’d probably be prepared to find a church to join their staff.

I know that some my disagree with me on this, but I’ve geared many away from seminary. I’m not anit-seminary, but I don’t think it’s necessary. The problems I face on a weekly or daily basis deal more with leadership, systems and administration… not Greek exegesis of the New Testament. I also think it’s really helpful to have a good understanding of child/age development. I’ve encouraged young aspiring children’s pastors to go the early/elementary education route or even the business/administration route… however, temper it with a minor in Bible/Theology. Although I’m not going to suggest seminary, there’s no substitute for strong biblical knowledge.

I have no problem with Kids Pastors who move up in their roles. First of all, I’ve seen very few of that happen. Second of all, if I was a children’s pastor, I think I’d like it if my boss knew where I was coming from. Also, I’ve considered it and thought, I’d move up in that role only because I realize that I could have greater influence for families and kids in a role like that. So I say, “go for it” if that’s where God’s leading.

Read more from Kenny on his blog or follow @KennyConley on Twitter.

Response from Sam Luce

Does God call some people called to Children’s Ministry? I believe he does. Actually I believe on of the things that preserves a kid’s pastor is that unshakable sense of calling. I know that many time I have felt like quitting the one thing that keeps me from doing so is remember the moment I was called into the ministry. Every person I know that has made it for the long hall have one thing in common they can tell you the exact moment they were called into ministry.

“How do you understand God’s calling to children’s ministry in your own life? – I remember the moment I was called into the ministry. I grew up in a pastors home we moved a lot. I didn’t want to do that to my kids so I decided at an early age I wasn’t going to be a pastor. That all changed one night when I was 13 years old. God spoke to me in a very real and very profound way and no one can convince me it was anything other than the call of God. It took me a while to yield to the call but to this day the call is what sustains me in good times and in bad.

How would you counsel a young person who is exploring this children’s ministry as a vocation? I am very different from most. I try to think what I would want someone to tell my kids if they asked this question. My answer would be don’t go to bible college go to school get a degree in something you love and that you can practically use in the real world. I would tell them to get a teaching degree and then if they need bible go to seminary after.

What do you make of Kids Pastors who move on to other positions in the church such as executive or senior pastor? I don’t have a problem with it. I do have a problem however with people who use the kingdom of God for their own ambitions. So for me it’s not about the job or even leaving kids ministry it’s more about motivation and desires. Are you building God’s Kingdom or yours?

Read more from Sam on his blog or follow @samluce on Twitter.

Response from Brenna Phillips

My calling to children’s ministry was simple and difficult at the same time. That statement sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?

I graduated from college with a BS degree in elementary education, but during my college assignments, I came to understand that I wasn’t positive classroom teaching was the exact career path in which God was leading me. I loved working with young children and I wanted to combine my work in the classroom with my work in the church.

After college I enrolled in seminary to explore the possibilities of children’s ministry. Through my course work, conversations with mentors, and continued church experience, I discovered that God was calling me to children’s ministry work.

But there are many ways of doing children’s ministry work. A person doesn’t have to be a full-time children’s minister doing that type of work as her primary position in order to be a children’s minister. In fact, many churches do not even have a full-time children’s minister on staff. Churches use part-time staff and volunteers to lead this ministry.

Throughout my years in children’s ministry, I have come to agree with churches that employ part-time or volunteer people. I have served as paid and as volunteer and have learned more about how to minister and invest in others while serving as a volunteer. For my paid position, I work in the same world along side people with whom I strive to lead the church to minister. Working in the church building everyday didn’t allow me the freedom and ability to see what “regular” people are doing and what they need.

I answered God’s call to be a children’s minister on the volunteer level because of our church size and because I wanted to combine my call to teaching with my call to children’s ministry. I have learned more about children’s ministry through this combination calling and have been better able to minister to the “real” world of children and families.

My advice to a young person considering children’s ministry as a vocation is to seek God’s will and find out what she does best. There is a definite need for children’s ministers — full-time, part-time, and volunteers. This young person must decide where she can make the best investment and where her skills can best help her in making that investment. The answers to those questions are sometimes best discovered after working in the field a few years.

Sometimes children’s ministers or youth ministers make the move “up” to senior pastor or other pastoral staff positions. Often those moves, too, are determined after experience in the field and determining the better fit. I don’t agree that people should use the children’s minister position as a stepping-stone up to the senior pastor position, but I do agree that sometimes people refine their calling after experience in the ministry. It is similar to a person working with children who later discovers that she is better suited for youth. Sometimes the size of the church determines a person’s ministry choice. He may work as children’s minister in a small church and later receive a call from a larger church to be senior pastor. That idea should not be his reason for accepting the children’s minister position though.

Each person called to ministry must discover his/her interests and skills and the best fit to make the best investment for furthering God’s Kingdom.

Brenna Phillips is Children-Family Minister at Mission Fellowship Church in Middletown, Delaware, and teaches preschool students at an early childhood learning center.

Response from Wayne Stocks

There is no doubt that working in children’s ministry requires a special type of individual. It requires someone who:

  • Loves God and knows the Bible
  • Loves kids and enjoys finding effective ways of teaching them the Bible
  • Longs for the salvation and sanctification of children
  • Understands God’s special affection for children
  • Is willing to invest endless amounts of time and effort in ministering to kids
  • Appreciates the fear of God and the awesome responsibility of working with his kids
  • Frankly, if someone lacks these characteristics, they would be better off finding another ministry to work in.

I started working in Children’s Ministry shortly after I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. It was a natural fit for me (more likely a supernatural fit). I have always loved kids, and I found the prospect of working with them exciting. I started in the nursery with 2 year-olds and had a blast. The following year I moved on to working with second graders. It was there that I discovered the real joy of teaching kids about God. There was just something special about it. I enjoyed pouring into their lives and teaching them about Jesus.

I found myself consumed by it. I began to think constantly about the kids and the ministry. I looked for ways to improve the ministry and make it more God-honoring. I prayed for the spiritual salvation and sanctification of the kids I was working with. I worked at making the lesson each week as understandable and kid friendly as possible. Working with kids, and teaching them about God, was one of the most enjoyable things I had ever done. As I walked alongside those kids their spiritual journeys, I realized that I was learning more about God than I could ever hope to teach them. In hindsight, it is clear to me that God was calling me to work with kids. He gave me the love for them and challenged me to dive right in. I have never regretted that decision.

Currently, I am a volunteer in children’s ministry. It is not my full-time vocation, though if it is God’s will, I can see I time in the future where could be. That said, if a young person came to me and asked about the prospect of going into children’s ministry a full time vocation, I would offer the following four pieces of advice:

  • Never lose your love for kids. If you do not anguish over the prospect of their spiritual death, you do not have the passion needed to persevere in children’s ministry.
  • Never allow your ministry to become your idol. No matter what you do, God must always be preeminent in your life.
  • Remember that ministry to children is not all about children. Much of your time will be spent ministering to adults in the form of volunteers and parents.
  • Train as you would for any type of ministry. Don’t think that you don’t have to work as hard to prepare yourself because you’re going to work with kids. You will need to train at least as hard, if not more, than those who minister to adults.

I’m sure there is more, but these four would be a good start.

As for those who move on from children’s ministry to “bigger and better things,” there is always the possibility that God could call someone out of children’s ministry to another position, and it would be premature to generalize and judge those people without knowing all of the facts. That said, I think that those who go into ministering to children so should go into that ministry with the idea that that will be their ministry for the remainder of their lives. A ministry should never be used as a stepping stone to a “better position.” Those of us in children’s ministry are given the great privilege, responsibility and stewardship of working with God’s children towards their salvation and sanctification in Christ. God holds a special place for kids in his heart, and children’s ministry should never be viewed as a “training ground” or “stepping stone.”

Read more from Wayne Stocks on his blog “Dad in the Middle” and in our Kids Ministry Forums or follow @StocksOhio on Twitter.

As always, our Think Tank posts are not complete until you have your say. Simply leave a comment below to share your thoughts. You can answer the question or interact with our responses.


Comments

  1. Jackie says

    I would suggest lots of prayer, first of all. Second, I would sit down with your pastor and tell him how you feel. Many denominations have special tracks and classes for lay people who receive the call. This will help you to know what is needed for the transition. I would also meet with your current children’s pastor and express your feelings and express that you’d like to be mentored and you’d like to volunteer in a large capacity. This will give you a taste of what it’s like as well as experience. Children’s ministry has a lot to do with leadership. So make sure you grow those skills. The easiest thing in children’s ministry is the kids, the more difficult thing is the volunteers. Training and equipping volunteers is a vital part of the job.

    Congratulations on the call! God is going to use you to impact children in a mighty way!

  2. Brandon Maddux says

    Hey Guys, on behalf of the young people, can I just say I loved this article and wish I had found it even earlier on.

    I totally agree with Sam Luce when he said ” I know that many time I have felt like quitting the one thing that keeps me from doing so is remember the moment I was called into the ministry.”

    I was called in 6th grade to become a Children’s Pastor and over the last few years I’ve learned to go back to that experience to keep me on the path God has called me. Like you guys, I’ve had plenty of people try to pull me away from it. A Pastor at my church told me it would be irresponsible to become a Children’s Pastor, another Pastor I know told me I’m only becoming a Children’s Pastor because I am to immature to teach adults, I was questioned by professors at the community college I went to, I have been specifically told not to become a Children’s Pastor by another leader at my church (because he thought I would be successful in business).

    So when I’m questioning my calling, when my own leaders tell me this is the wrong thing to be doing, when my friends make jokes about it, when I wonder if I have have what it takes I go back to two things…

    First, the experience I had, where I knew without a doubt that God was calling me into Children’s Ministry. Next, I remember the story of Moses… from the way he described himself he was inadequate. However, that didn’t matter, because God was going to equip him, and empower him to do things and perform miracles that he could never even of imagined. Not because Moses we great, but because Moses said Yes to following God’s call.

    So anyways… thanks for writing this post guys, I really think more young people need to hear about what it means to be called.

  3. says

    I absolutely believe that people are called, in fact those who aren’t will not survive the long haul without a good support team. I began working in kids ministry before I even understood what calling was – all I knew is I wanted to help kids know Jesus, and my youth leader saw my potential and began to mentor me.

    Today, I have been working in kids ministry for 20 plus years (I’m not as old as that makes me sound) I believe that kids ministry is the most important calling there is (now.. I may be a bit biased there but here me out) We are called to raise up a generation who will seek God, who will discern the times and will walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe that generation is now… and I am called to help them achieve it!

    P.S. Thanks to all those who don’t put a seminary requirement on Kids Min… I attended the school of hard knocks and have an amazing mentor and Pastor who teaches and leads me in teaching kids sound doctrine.

  4. Sandra Standford says

    Anne, I am 55 years old, have 6 adult children and have founded and pastored children’s chuch, taught children in military chaplain, babysat, had my own in-home childcare, etc. I though I was done with children’s ministry until I had grandchildren. I was “reminded” that I have sooo much experience, love and a burden for children, that I want them o know Christ early. God needs mature people like us to start children’s ministry and train, lead its teachers. Too many churches and ministries do not have ministry for children. Ask the Lord if that’s what you are supposed to do. I am writing my DMIN project on skill sets for ECE teachers in children’s ministry. Others will read it, and carry on the work.

  5. anne says

    We have a very small church-(rural VT) The party Clubs I lead I guess fit into that category- except it is me doing the teaching. Anyway, thank you for the response

  6. says

    Anna,

    Does your church have small groups for kids? If so, you might be perfect for that. It is much more of a shepherding type role than a leadership or teaching role. You could also work behind the scenes helping those in the Children’s Ministry who are on the front lines.

    Just a couple of thoughts.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Wayne

  7. Anne Fleming says

    Hi, all your posts were aimed at young people… I am 53, and have had a burden for children in the church for many years now. My problem is that I am not sure what the Lord wants me to do with the burden. I have been a Sunday School teacher, Children’s church leader, I work with Child Evangelism Fellowship and lead two small Party Clubs monthly, but I don’t feel my giftings really match up. I know I am not a great teacher of young kids, but I love kids, and want to see them taught, and to grow. Perhaps it is because I can remember at the age of 3 or 4 of being so in a rage (I think it must have been my brother) but I remember I wished he were dead… and the Lord so convicted me that I had murder in my heart, that I repented and asked the Lord that I would never kill anyone because I knew at that point that i was capable… And I wish I could say that I walked with the Lord from then on, but I know that from then on the Lord had His hand on me. My conversion has been over many years. But in 1995 I attended a confrence in Toronto and it was a woman’s “Releasers of Life” conference and I attended a children’s workshop. Right before the work shop I was in a worship service and I remember feeling like “I was a child in a cage”. I don’t remember how it felt any more, but I remember that was the words I used at the time to describe it. Well during the work shop they were demonstrating how to get kids to come into the Lord’s presence- they were playing a song that was an elvis song, with the words changed: Singing to the Lord, but I began to weep and really wailled… it came up from my toes, really deep deep sobbing. I had no words for what I was crying about, I knew it was a spiritual thing, but I had no idea what God was doing, except from that time on I have had this burden. If someone could please help me figure out what I am supposed to be doing with it. I was Sunday School Superintendent at my church for a couple years, but I am really not a leader, so I stepped down. I have asked the Lord, but I have not been able to discern what He wants me to do with it. I do pray for kids, but not nearly enough I am sure.

  8. Troy T Gartin says

    I am in my mid-forties and I new in my early twenties that the Lord had called me into a ministry postion…I always didn’t follow that call and i pursued other interests,but i love ministry it is my true calling and i have a love for kids I always have I have taught in sunday schools in my teens even administered a vbs twice and now just recently i felt the lord tugging at my heart that i need to step into a role as a Children’s Pastor…..Ive been told by several of my closest friends that I have a good talent of caring for people. any advice prayer or direction on how how i should pursue this would be helpful

  9. says

    I definitely think God calls people to Children’s Ministry. I have a different perpsective than most other CM’s. I served as a Senior or Lead Pastor for over 30 years when the phone rang and my oldest son (Lead Pastor @ The Journey Church in Murray, KY) asked to have dinner with his mother and me. At that dinner, he asked if I would consider coming on staff as the Director of Fmaily Ministry and Strategic Systems. Forget the Strategic Systems part for now (that’s a whole ‘nother story). I have no doubt that God led me to become a Family Minister. Because I have so many years experience from the other side (some would call it the dark side) I would hope I bring a totally different perspective to my present position and responsibilities.

    If a young person asked me about pursuing Children’s Ministry I would recommend that they volunteer in CM; find a great CM and ask him/her to mentor them; pursue a study of education; and, if needed go to seminary for some Biblical knowledge. I did go to seminary (pursuing a MDiv) and found that when I hit the real world people were asking other questions.

    What do I think about CM’s moving up to Executive Pastor or Lead Pastor or whatever. I don’t! That is between them and God. If they are moving “up” for the right reason have at it. If it is for the wrong reason it won’t be long before it shows up nd we are probably better off without them leading our parents and children. Just a thought! John Maxwell about now would say, “Hi! I’m John and I am your friend!”

    I don’t consider the move I made to be a step “down” or “up”. It is simply the direction God has for my life today. Ithink this is the way it will be for a long time but I am not God. He may lead me in another direction later. However, He might want to hurry because I am getting OLD!

  10. Pastor Jared says

    How do you understand God’s calling to children’s ministry in your own life? God called me to children’s ministry, more specifically to be a CP, before I had ever heard of such a thing. Even still, the area where I minister, when I tell people I am a children’s pastor, they look at me like I have a booger hanging out of my nose that looks like Abraham Lincoln. “You mean a youth pastor?” No a children’s pastor!
    How would you counsel a young person who is exploring this children’s ministry as a vocation? Unlike others, whose opinion I respect greatly, I would counsel someone to consider Bible college. Bible college was the single most influential event in my ministry to children. I was exposed to various ministry styles, curriculums, church settings and philosophies, established long lasting friendships, found a mentor, interned with my mentor, and so on. I learned a whole lot more than Greek (in fact, I didn’t learn any Greek). I learned how to better preach to adults. I learned how to cast vision. I learned how to study the Bible and glean as much information as possible. Granted, most of what I learned was greatly enhanced by the fact that I was involved in the same church for all 4 years of college, but none of that would have happened if I had gotten a degree in something else and stayed in my home church (where I would have probably continued to do ministry the same way it had always been done for lack of knowledge of a better way). Simplified, I would tell someone to immerse themselves in a children’s ministry at a church and get at least a children’s ministry certificate. The opposite of some of my peers, I would say to get a CM degree and use your electives to take business/education classes (child psych, business admin). I would also like to say that my list of references were excellent, but meant nothing to the church I ended up at. My degree did.
    What do you make of Kids Pastors who move on to other positions in the church such as executive or senior pastor? I know some of these people used children’s ministry to get a better position and shame on them, but I also echo Kenny’s sentiments. Sometimes, you can better influence children and their families from the senior pastor role or from an administrative role. If God directs you into a different office, know that He is just broadening your influence and deepening it as well.
    I hope this offers a different perspective. Let me add, I do not think everyone has to go to Bible college, but for many it can be a positive experience.

  11. says

    I agree that you can be called to children’s ministry. My heart has always been to reach children and youth, but mainly children. I was once asked by a pastor (who was assigned to guide me) where I felt called to serve. When I told him with children and youth, he informed me that I would grow out of that :-O

    Well, about 30 years later, I still haven’t “grown out of it” :-D and still believe I am called to serve with children.

    I would agree that a Biblical education is good, but often I am asked about behavioral issues and having to deal with leadership, and only occasionally will that “deep” theological or doctrinal question creep in.

    The only “problem” I have with CM becoming Senior Pastor is if they intentionally use the Children or Youth Pastor position as a stepping stone and their “eye” is on the next step, and not fully focused on the children/youth they have been placed to care for.

  12. says

    Lots of great stuff here! Gina, I really liked your last observation, “I don’t believe that success in ministry necessarily means the expansion of your influence but rather the depth of your influence.” It really helps to keep things in focus!

  13. says

    Kenny Conley said, “I know that some my disagree with me on this, but I’ve geared many away from seminary. I’m not anit-seminary, but I don’t think it’s necessary. The problems I face on a weekly or daily basis deal more with leadership, systems and administration… not Greek exegesis of the New Testament.”

    If all a person is planning to get out of seminary is a specialization in Greek exegesis and they want to be a vocational CP, then I would agree. However, I gently suggest that seminary can afford a much broader range of experience than that, not least leadership, administration and systems, to name a few. At least, that was my experience. I had an awesome experience with a seasoned practitioner and academician. I think the greater concern I have with seminary and Bible college is that traditionally, students often are forced to leave their home situation to go to another part of the country or state, thereby removing them from their churches. Yet, even that is changing with the advent of distance learning models. Seminary isn’t for everyone who aspires to be a CP, but I wouldn’t say it isn’t for anyone. The key is to get strong mentoring in the ministry setting and relevant ministry exposure while also being exposed to best practices. In my situation I did not have access to strong children’s ministry mentoring until I went to seminary and later began to network with others who are more experienced, such as the kinds of people who contributed to this article.

Trackbacks

    Your voice matters -- Share your ideas with other readers.