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, 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.
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.
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.”
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.