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Kids Pastor or Circus Master

Marty Martin

Say no. If children are why you got into children's ministry in the first place, you must say no sometimes, no matter how hard it is. For example, I occasionally turn down offers to preach during adult services so I can focus on what God has called me to do.

Awhile back, our liability-insurance company made ridiculous requests when our church wanted to increase coverage. One suggestion involved a five-person procedure for children's bathroom visits. Knowing that wasn't possible, I replied, "I'm sorry, but at this time we aren't able to comply."

Remember your priorities. Three years ago, during a packed children's church service, we experienced discipline issues, technical problems, late volunteers, frustrated parents, and more. My wife was leading the elementary-age kids in worship while I tried to put out fires. Suddenly, I spotted two longtime best friends crying together. One girl was moving out of town, and this was her last Sunday at our church. My wife tried to comfort them while leading songs for everyone else.

Initially, I wondered why our other trained adults weren't helping out. Then it hit me: Why did I want to be a children's pastor in the first place? Wasn't my goal to make a difference in kids' lives? I asked a volunteer to tell everyone to do their best to fix the other problems; I was going to pray with these girls. They hugged me, and we prayed and laughed. Then one girl's mom came over, and we all talked some more.

Lead with your heart. That day, I realized how much we all need loving spiritual leaders. Children are no different from adults in this regard. Some children's ministry leaders thrive on schedules, forms, and budgets. If that describes you, then surround yourself with people who want to personally impact kids. Other leaders' hearts turn toward reaching children and developing those gifts. If that describes you, then resist letting ministry become merely a management game.

All programs need organization, administration, and policies, but ultimately, these are secondary. So if your ministry has started resembling an elaborate circus, step back and trade your top hat for a shepherd's staff. After all, the purpose of solid children's ministry isn't entertaining children but helping them know Jesus.

Marty Martin is the director of Kidology to Go (

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