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Heart Matters

Dick Gruber

God knew exactly what the kids at your church needed, and he gave them you.

My daughter Sarah just became a children's pastor. She calls or e-mails me almost every day with questions and concerns. For my beloved Sarah and all people new to this adventure called children's ministry, here's my advice for the novice children's pastor.

Relax! My pastor is always telling our staff, "You are ministering/performing for an audience of One." Relax. Jesus is your target group. Do what you can to please him, and things will work out. He understands your mistakes and victories, and he's rooting for you. Relax in the Lord. He knew exactly what the kids at your church needed, and he gave them you.

Pray without ceasing. The success of your children's ministry is not dependent on your ability to manipulate a puppet or draw chalk pictures. Your success or failure can always be traced to your prayer life. Typically, a person disciplined in prayer will also be disciplined in lesson preparation. Pray for God's favor to rest upon the kids, the workers, and your service.

Keep everything simple. Three-point homiletical sermons with reference to the Greek origins of words may cut it in the seniors' Sunday school class, but not in the kids' class. Use a simple one- or two-word theme and hit on that theme throughout an entire service or lesson. Every puppet, song, and object lesson must present again your simple theme.

Learn to serve. The church is not there to serve you. Oh sure, they now provide a bit of finances for that black hole called your budget, but you haven't been hired to suck them dry. Serve the body. Take on the mind of Christ. He became a servant setting an example for every children's pastor young or old. You must learn early in your pastorate to serve the church. Does a toilet need cleaning or a teacher need assistance carrying boxes into the building? Serve as Christ would serve. Has the pastor requested your presence at a monthly seniors' banquet? Serve the seniors. There is no job beneath the children's pastor who has learned to serve.

Sunday is coming. It's amazing how many "professional" children's pastors wait until Saturday night to develop their Sunday morning materials. Sunday comes at the same time each week, and you can be ready before it comes. Saturday night specials will work for a time for the extremely creative personality. Be certain of this, though: The children will find you out. Kids know when a leader is unprepared; they tend to take advantage of the situation. What I am talking about is simple time management. Working a little each day will drive the panic away. The basic truth that Sunday is coming will set you free.

Be kind to everyone. The unforgiving trustee or the angry parent may end up serving by your side in children's ministry some day. Some of my best helpers have been people whom no other ministry wanted. Some of my closest friends and faithful workers in the church have been those I've had to confront.

You are not the Lord of the harvest. Jesus said, "I will build my church." He never promised to build Dick Gruber's church. He never commanded me to build his church. A long time ago, my friend Bob Hahn told me, "Jesus cares more about the kids than you do. Pray and let him provide the workers you need." Pray to the Lord of the harvest. He will send the laborers who'll minister to you and your children.

Finally, enjoy your calling. God has given you the greatest calling that can be had by humankind. You are a minister to children. You are shaping the church of today and Christian leaders of the future. God will help you. I am praying that you will enjoy God's blessings as you're faithful to minister to his children.

Dick Gruber is a children's pastor in Bloomington, Minnesota.

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