17 ways to introduce your pastor to your kids when the shepherd of the sheep is out of touch with the lambs
“I let the Sunday school teachers take care of the kids; my ministry is with adults.”
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Senior pastors don’t really think this way, do they?
Actually, as a senior pastor, I know it’s tempting to believe that ministry to adults is more important than ministry to children. But pastors are as responsible for the spiritual welfare of children as they are for adult church members.
There are many ways to build strong relationships with children. Here are 17 ideas that have been helpful to me. Either suggest one or two of these ideas or share this article with your senior pastor.
1. Pick up the phone. Children love to receive phone calls. On several occasions, I’ve gathered everyone in the church office to sing “Happy Birthday” to a child over the phone. When you have a question a child can help you with, such as “What should I get my son for his birthday?” call and ask for help.
2. Learn something from a child. Children often ask the best questions: “Does God wear clothes?” “What face do you see when you pray?” “Why doesn’t Jesus come to our church?” A child’s imagination can awaken your imagination.
3. Know names. In some churches, the litmus test for your skill as a pastor is the ability to tell the twins apart. In all churches, the worst insult to a child is to receive a friendly hello-with the wrong name. To be personal and loving, learn children’s names.
4. Take a picture. Most children and pastors love having their pictures made. Have someone take your picture with a group of children. Make a pyramid or wear crazy hats. Pose with the children for a great bulletin board decoration.
5. Go to a children’s event. Pick something you’ll enjoy. Several years ago I wanted to see Annie, but I thought I’d look more mature if I found some children to go with me. Almost 10 years later, those kids still remember our trip to Annie. Going to ball games, parties or school events can be a delightful part of a pastor’s ministry.
6. Attend a children’s class. After beginning a new pastorate, I visited a different Sunday school class each week. I was surprised when a children’s teacher asked when I’d be in her class. My list had originally included only adult classes. I immediately made plans to visit the children’s classes.
7. Listen to a child. Be genuinely interested in children and what they have to say. Make sure each conversation is between you and the child. Kneel down to eye level with younger children. Caution: Talking with children is habit-forming.
8. Remodel the pastor’s study. Is it for adults only? You may need to add baseball cards, candy (sugarless, if you want to be a friend with parents), puzzles and crayons. Fill a file drawer with balloons.
9. Become an aficionado of children’s art. Cover the church walls with children’s drawings. Children’s artwork can be used as a cover for church bulletins. The pastor’s office can be a museum for promising young artists.
10. Write a note. Children enjoy getting mail. A pastor friend who has sent birthday cards to children for several years was surprised to find that one mother had saved them all.
One pastor passed out gum during his Sunday morning children’s sermon but didn’t have enough for all the children. That week, he mailed a stick of gum with a personal note to each child who hadn’t received gum that Sunday.
11. Have a sense of humor. A decade ago, The Prairie Home Companion radio show included a song I’ve since taught to countless giggling children. The tune is “The Master Hath Come.” The words are ridiculous: “Dr. Younger has a bunion, a face like a pickled onion. He looks like a squashed tomato. He walks like a duck.”
12. Review each children’s sermon. Is it really for the children? Children’s sermons shouldn’t include abstract platitudes or adult terms and ideas. Keep it at kids’ level.
13. Ask your children’s ministry team for help. I sent a letter to our children’s team asking for ideas on how I could improve my relationship with the children. Along with praise for asking (which wasn’t my intention but didn’t hurt), I got several helpful ideas and a newfound partnership with the children’s team.
14. Read a big book on children. Robert Coles’ The Spiritual Life of Children (Houghton Mifflin) is a profound collection of conversations with children. Coles, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard, allows children to share ideas and feelings on spirituality in their own terms. This book will open your eyes to what today’s kids think.
15. Read a magazine article on pastoring children. Mark an X by this one because you’ve almost finished this article. Give yourself a pat on the back and sneak a peek at future issues of Children’s Ministry Magazine to keep current on kids’ needs.
16. Lead a special event for children. One of my pastors used to take children on an annual tour of the church’s bell tower. Another had a pastor- and-children’s party each summer. I once organized a scavenger hunt for kids in the church. For a fun party idea, see the “Pastor’s Preschool Pajama Party” box.
17. Pray. Pray for children by name. Pray about your role as their pastor. Pray for the children’s ministry and all the people who minister to the children of your church.
Don’t forget your church’s children. Jesus said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” In ministering to children, you’ll experience Christ in a fresh way.
Brett Younger is a senior pastor in Kansas.
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