No Ministry Orphans

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How to be a children’s minister whose own children love
your ministry as much as you do

It’s a few minutes before 2 in the afternoon, and I’m scrambling
to get everything together for the volunteer meeting I have later
tonight. The sound of my pager interrupts my train of thought, and
I find a phone to dial the number that has so rudely disrupted my
working streak.

The words uttered by the voice on the other end send a shiver of
guilt right into the pit of my stomach: “Mrs. Kamrath, this is
Apache School. We have your son, Josh, in the office. Did you
forget that today was early release?”

It was written in my day planner and on the kitchen calendar. We
had a reminder note sent home the day before, and still I was so
involved in what I was doing at church that I had forgotten my own
child.

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As children’s ministry staff, it’s our mission to reach children
for Christ and cultivate their faith. We spend many hours, days,
and sleepless nights wondering how we can be more effective in
ministering to children and families. Experiencing the adrenalin
rush of a great VBS program, the joy of praying with a child who
for the first time has believed in Christ, or the pat on the back
from a new family who wants to say “thanks” for making them feel
welcome are all affirmations of ministry success. But does success
at church come at the expense of ministering to our own
children?

Any working parent understands the difficulties of balancing
home, family, and career. While all working parents face similar
challenges in this area, the church worker has the unique challenge
of setting limits to home, family, career, and church. Church is
the place where mom or dad go every day, but it’s also the place
where your family worships and is nurtured.

Although church work is a calling and a ministry, it has worldly
imperfections that create frustration and stress in the lives of
those who deal with it day in and day out. And like other working
parents, you need to be careful about what you bring home from the
office.

In The Family-Friendly Church, Ben Freudenburg asks
church workers to look at who is controlling your (more than
likely) crazy schedule: you or the church? We’re all very good
about preaching to the masses the importance of family time, but do
we live it out in our daily lives? Does the schedule we keep and
the attitude we have toward ministry breed anger and resentment
toward the church in our children’s lives? If we’re doing our job,
and doing it well, then our first priority will be to our own
children, because ministry to them is not a position; it’s our
lifetime commitment. How then can you help your own children
benefit from your ministry to all children?

Build Relationships With Your Kids

One of the unique benefits of working at church is that, in most
cases, your schedule can be flexible. Take advantage of it! Check
your kids out of school over the lunch hour and take them on a
picnic or to their favorite restaurant. Help in the classroom when
a note comes home requesting volunteers (and we all know how much
we value volunteers!). You will brighten a teacher’s day, too! When
your kids have a day off from school, take a day off yourself and
go to the zoo or on a hike to explore God’s creation. Many churches
will let you bring your children to work with you if they have a
day off. What a great way for them to experience what you do every
day.

There are lots of ways to have fun just being with your kids and
reminding them of how much you love them. It can be difficult for
children when they observe you showering other kids with love and
attention if they don’t experience the same from you at home. Give
them regular reminders of how special they are: Leave notes in
lunch boxes, bring balloon bouquets to school on their birthdays,
or let them help you plan a special event at church. Letting them
have input in what you’re doing in ministry not only helps them
feel special and part of your ministry, it also gives a child’s
perspective on something that’s typically planned by adults.

Watch What You Voice At Home

It happens sometimes: You had to argue for space at a staff
meeting, you were told you needed to provide a kids’ option for an
event that is two days away, and then, on your way out the door,
you got chewed out by the maintenance director for all the modeling
clay that got ground into the carpet over the weekend. Your head is
throbbing and, as you walk through the front door, all three of
your kids are speaking to you at warp speed.

Do you…

  1. lash out at them for the rotten day you’ve had,
  2. retreat to your “cave” and immerse yourself in a computer game,
    or
  3. give them all a big hug and try to capture some of their joy
    and energy for yourself?

Chances are that you’ve chosen each of these options at one time
or another. While you don’t want to be dishonest with your
children, you do want to watch how you speak about the church when
you’re feeling frustrated. Letting your children know that you had
a tough day may be okay; verbally attacking the pastor for giving
you a last-minute assignment isn’t in the best interest of your
children-or you.

When I’ve had a rough day, I pull into my driveway and, before I
get out of my car, I stop and thank God for giving me an incredible
family and the best kids in the world. You see, nothing can be so
bad when I remind myself of how blessed I am. Amazingly, the
frustrations of the day are melted away by the hugs I get when I
walk through the door.

Don’t Let Church Become Your Baby-Sitting
Service

Just as you need time away to become refreshed and rejuvenated,
so do your children. Church staff can easily take advantage of the
child-care opportunities provided through programs, and soon your
kids are as enmeshed in church work as you are. Sometimes your kids
need a break. Hire a baby sitter or let them stay home with your
spouse if you have to be at church for an event or program. Your
children will stay appreciative of church opportunities if they
don’t feel like they’re always forced to be there.

Worship, Learn, And Serve Together

It’s incredibly easy to become so involved in programming on
Sunday mornings that worship comes and goes, and you were lucky to
get there for the closing prayer. It’s important to set an example,
for your children as well as the people you serve, that worship is
an important family time and needs to be a priority. Pick a service
for your family that’s less hectic for you, such as an evening
worship opportunity. Worshiping with your own children not only
helps them keep sight of your call to ministry, it also provides
you insight as you observe how your children experience
worship.

Setting aside time to learn about God’s Word together is
important for families. Many times a church worker takes it for
granted that his or her children are learning about God because,
after all, you are the children’s ministry director! But the seeds
that are planted in Sunday school need to be watered and nourished
by parents. Find unique opportunities to talk about your faith and
about God. Take walks, draw pictures of Bible stories together and
then talk about them, or listen to music and discuss what it means.
Adding excitement and fresh ideas to your family devotional time
also provides you with new ideas to give to the families you
serve.

One of the best things we do as a family is serve together. If
your kids are old enough and can help in children’s ministries,
great! Also look for opportunities outside your area of expertise
where you can learn and experience new things together. Every
Christmas we adopt a needy family and deliver gifts and a meal
together. Experiencing service together leaves imprints on a
child’s heart of what Christ has called us to do and opens up
discussions about your call to ministry.

If you’re a parent, your greatest gift is waiting for you every
day at home when you walk through your front door.

Finally, Admit When You Fail

The church isn’t perfect, and neither are you. It’s okay to say
to your children that you were wrong when you snapped at them when
you were really frustrated about something at church. Be an example
of forgiveness by knowing when to ask for forgiveness and showing
how to forgive.

Children’s ministry professionals are in the business of loving
kids. You have a unique gift of reaching out to children in your
church, the community, and the world. And though you’ve been
blessed with the gift to touch the lives of kids and families, if
you’re a parent, your greatest gift is waiting for you every day at
home when you walk through your front door.

I haven’t forgotten my son at school since that guilt-ridden
day. Although I’ll admit that there are many days when it takes a
lot of reminders just so I don’t forget. This past summer my son
went on a weekend trip with a friend and, when they returned, his
friend’s grandma pulled me aside. She told me about the prayer Josh
prayed at mealtime the evening before, how his words touched her
heart, and how amazed she was that a boy his age could show such
strong faith. Her words were an affirmation of why ministry to
children is so rewarding and why ministry to my own children is the
greatest reward.


Carmen Kamrath is the associate editor for Children’s
Ministry Magazine. Please keep in mind that phone numbers,
addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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