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Men At Work

Lidonna Beer

These successful men not only find time, but make time, for their important ministries to children...

A Character With Character

Dan Meers speaks to children all over the country, and his passport is dressing up like a wolf. Meers is KC Wolf -- the mascot for the Kansas City Chiefs pro football team. Kids are drawn to a costumed character, and Meers uses his opportunities with children to share his Christian faith.

"He's actively involved in the community in reaching kids by sharing his testimony. Kids flock to him when they see him, and he has a very powerful message," says Debi Nixon, Director of Catalyst Ministry at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

Meers says, "I tell kids all the time, if you want to go to a Chief's game, you've got to have a ticket to get there. Heaven's like that too. If you want to get in there you've got to have a ticket, and that ticket's Jesus Christ."

Now in his 14th season with the Chiefs, Meers was first the University of Missouri Tiger in college and then Fred Bird for the St. Louis Cardinals pro baseball team before the Chiefs contacted him.

When Meers is brought in to speak at a church, school, or other organization, he starts out in his costume to grab his audience's attention. The Chiefs have been great about allowing him to use his platform, placing a high priority on being a positive influence in the Kansas City area. During his almost 400 appearances a year, Meers moves out of his costume and into his faith story.

"I preach more sermons in a suit and a tail than in a suit and a tie," he says. He believes there's nothing like leading kids to Jesus Christ and then watching them grow in that relationship.

A lot of churches use his appearance as an outreach, because kids want to meet KC Wolf. "We tell a little bit about the Kansas City Chiefs and then we tell them a whole lot about Jesus Christ," says Meers, who is also a father of three kids under 10.

Making time for these messages is sometimes a stretch, because being a mascot is a full-time job. However, his life goals keep Meers focused. "You need to figure out what's good and what's best," he says. "If God's calling you to children's ministry, you'll know's where my passion lies and I wouldn't want to do anything else."

From Weekdays To Weekends

Larry Carter teaches fifth graders full time in a public school in Sparta, Michigan, and transfers his skills to teaching kids at church about Jesus.

"[Kids] are so incredibly malleable. You have influence on them that you possibly couldn't have in other areas or in other ages," he says. His fondness for kids and calling to ministry make him open to every opportunity to work with children. If you think you're too busy to serve in children's ministry, Carter says to clear your plate of other things rather than miss out on impacting kids' lives.

Lynda Freeman of Sparta Baptist Church in Sparta, Michigan, told Children's Ministry Magazine about Carter. "He has a high level of involvement in both the church and community. And he was recognized with a town award for his service in the schools."

In his small church of around 300 members, Carter ministers to kindergartners through fifth-graders, although he's held many other roles as well. He's taught Sunday school, served in church leadership, and led small group ministries, but children's ministry is especially close to his heart.

"Really, there's little difference between the public school setting and a church setting in terms of seeking to get through to kids," he says. His biggest challenge is the need to stay current to reach kids' hearts. His payoff is being a part of kids' measurable growth and seeing former students grow up and bring their kids to the church.

By serving consistently in a small community, Carter has seen many other people serve as faithful examples and leaders at his church. Carter, his father-in-law, and his brother-in-law work together, rotating three-week shifts on the midweek program and comparing notes on how to tweak the curriculum to be most applicable.

Carter says, "We know what the Scripture says about children and contact with the Lord, and it's something certainly that we want to be used in."

Carter's father-in-law has been an outstanding example to him of what it means to be steadfast in the Word. Retired except for church work, Carter's father-in-law continues to impress Carter with his ability to make the message age-appropriate for kids.

When Carter and his wife were first married, the pastor suggested taking a year off for themselves. "I don't think it lasted that full year," Carter laughs.

Since Carter serves in the midweek program, he and his wife have come up with a special way to help the Sunday school program. They serve as voluntary substitutes: the last-minute need of someone to take over a Sunday school class is one of the most urgent and hardest to fill, so they step in on short notice.

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Seeing Kids Bloom

Brian Mansell, a successful florist in St. Thomas, Ontario, has been working in children's ministry for decades, and it fits him wonderfully. He's had many children grow up and return with their kids, and it's a delight to see the faithfulness of God in their lives, he says.

"Brian has been an integral part of children's ministries at our church for approximately 30 years," says Elisabeth Hymus, who serves alongside Mansell in the church. His joy is the 4- and 5-year-olds he ministers to on Sunday evenings.

Mansell's biggest challenge is finding curriculum current enough for kids. He advises re-examining your programming regularly. It may be making you work harder than you have to.

"Work with a set of material that's contemporary and meets the child's needs, then you're off to the races," he advises. It's important to be as relevant and savvy as the media that bombards kids.

Mansell first joined the children's ministry as a teenager when the church staff was seeking people willing to support its growing program. The pastor encouraged the young people in the church to get involved one Sunday a month, and Mansell volunteered. That involvement planted a lifelong commitment. He was taken by the church's need to minister to kids, and working with children became a calling. He left the children's ministry briefly so he could earn his degree in Christian education and even served at another church while he was away.

Making time for children's ministry is a matter of priorities, says Mansell. "You know your gifting; you know your calling...within the body of Christ, each person finds [his or her] area of ministry." If anyone is too busy for children's ministry, it's an excuse that indicates a lack of interest, Mansell says.

"As long as you're focused and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that's where you should be, no matter what other ministries you want to take on in the church or community, you know what you're called to do and you do that first," says Mansell.

Lidonna Beer is a former assistant editor for Children's Ministry Magazine. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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