How do a church and a potential children’s pastor begin the process of making the right match?
The position of minister to children, director of children’s ministry, or family-life pastor is the fastest growing position on the local church scene. This is primarily a response to the dynamic changes that are occurring in the lives of children and their families. Children come to church with specialized needs, different learning styles, and family stresses. Churches must provide significant ministry to meet these needs.
Parents are also more informed today. They come to church with a “shopping list” of expectations. With high standards, they check out teacher-student ratios, screening procedures, safety issues, curriculum choices, and the church’s overall readiness to respond to their needs.
In addition to all these pressures, programming for children must be cutting edge, culturally sensitive, biblically strong, and theologically on target. Churches face the task of hiring quality leadership for these significant positions. And it can take a team to handle the massive load of programming and managing volunteers, so many churches have the additional responsibility of hiring more than one person. How does a church and a potential children’s pastor begin the process of making the right match?
Defining the Position
The first step for the church is to define the type of individual who’s needed to not only fulfill the present needs but who also has the capacity to take the ministry to the next level. Churches need individuals with specific education, experience, and expertise in many areas of childhood development. Each church has different expectations.
I’ve served as a children’s pastor for 25 years and as a personal coach to children’s ministry leaders. In that time I’ve noticed significant changes in the profiles of children’s ministry directors as churches have asked me to help them find a children’s pastor. Many churches want candidates who are slanted toward kids’ needs while others want people who are slanted toward staff development and parenting issues. From my files, here are the most common ministry profiles.
We’re looking for a candidate with five to 10 years experience, preferably in a larger church setting. A master’s degree in Christian education is a must for this role. The candidate must have great people skills. This person must have experience leading volunteers and working with paid staff. Administrative skills are a high priority because we have many systems and details to manage. The candidate should be creative, innovative, a visionary, and also have experience in a team-based model. Ordination or a similar level of credential is preferred.
We’re looking for a candidate with a great heart for kids. This person should become immersed in the lives of our kids. We need a person who every child has interest in being around. Ministry skills include leading worship and effective storytelling. This person has to be comfortable in front of a large group of children. This candidate needs to be creative and capable of planning a weekly showcase event for kids. This person should be willing to work with a team. The most important thing is that the children admire this person as a hero and a pastor.
We’re looking for a young, energetic children’s ministry leader. A recent college or seminary grad is preferred. New music, new programs, and change should be a part of this person’s mind-set. This person should be computer-savvy, creative, and teachable. This candidate should be open to a mentoring relationship with our more mature senior associates. This candidate should be a risk-taker and willing to provide high energy to make our program contemporary. We also prefer that our candidate is married. (Note: Although, legally, churches can’t say this last thing, they may still prefer it.)
We’re looking for a person with James Dobson’s, Fred Rogers’, and T. Berry Brazelton’s qualities. A person who understands the way kids develop and how to work effectively with parents. It would be helpful if this candidate has some background in counseling. This candidate should be aware of the best approaches to parenting and be willing to teach parents.
This candidate will not spend time teaching children, but will teach the teachers and will serve as a “principal” for the kids. It would also be helpful if this person has experience in planning family events and cross-generational experiences.
Whew! What’s a potential candidate to do?
Role definition of children’s ministry leaders changes about every five years. Fluctuations occur in areas such as people skills, system management, knowledge of trends, and specialty skills. These profiles tend to change as churches become more sophisticated in defining their leadership choice.