The best advice and lessons learned from children's
ministers -- old and new!
Serving in children's ministry is a unique calling that can be
life-altering -- in a great way! Remember that star-struck first
moment when you realized the powerful connection you felt? And the
bliss when you realized that your ministry would connect different
families, bond ideals and beliefs through faithful companionship,
offer children the commitment of a lifetime, and even lead to the
pitter-patter of little -- ahem, hundreds of -- little feet? Do you
Now, you're really not married to your ministry (literally), but
chances are you can draw some fairly strong parallels between the
commitment it takes to make both these endeavors successful. And if
you've ever been married or been to a wedding, you know that advice
for a new couple abounds. So in that spirit, we decided to track
down children's ministers-old and new -- to find out what words of
advice -- "something borrowed" -- hit home for them. And we dug
into the lessons they've learned the hard way -- "something
"If you don't want to be seen as a babysitter, then don't
baby-sit. If you want to be seen as a minister, then minister. I
forget who told me that."
"If you can answer these two questions each week, then you'll have
ministry not only to kids but also to parents and volunteers. The
questions: "Did you have fun today?" and "What did you learn?"
Sure, ministry's more than fun and just learning-but if we can get
these two down, then things like building community and loving your
neighbor are much easier to achieve."
-Matt McKee, pastor of students and children Cincinnati,
Ohio 9 years
" 'The urgency of the King's business requires haste,' Mavis
Weidman often said. She was a leader in Christian education and
children's ministry who committed her life and more to reaching
children with the story of Jesus. Mavis served in the children's
ministry field well into her late 80s as she remained focused on
the urgency of the King's business. Far too many in children's
ministry never capture the quality of urgency in doing the King's
business with children."
"Often the seemingly less gifted and talented can be your greatest
ministry assets. There are more unused leaders because no one took
the time to mentor and develop them. One of my most loyal and
faithful workers for many years told me when I first asked if she
would serve in children's ministry that she really didn't like
working with children, but if I needed support help she'd assist in
any other way. That one worker became one of my greatest assets,
lifting off my shoulders major burdens of correspondence, mailings,
telephone calls, bookkeeping and many other tasks that took my
attention away from my primary and direct ministry to kids. God can
use anyone in his harvest field if he or she is just willing to
serve and find a niche. It's up to leaders to identify these
people, develop them, and help them find a place in ministry where
they can be fulfilled."
-M. Kurt Jarvis, Director CBS4Kids.com Saratoga Springs,
Utah 35-plus years
"The best advice I ever got was from my colleague Brad Klassen the
first week on my job as a full-time children's pastor. He told me,
'Don't worry about the popsicle sticks!' Apparently my predecessor
had obsessed over the minutiae such as what the craft would be for
Sunday. Brad looked me in the eye and said, 'Focus on the people!
Focus on the children and families coming through the doors of your
ministry every week. Pour your life into your volunteers; always
keep giving ministry away.' "
"Many times you won't see the results of your labors in this
lifetime. I bumped into one of my 'kids' who'd been in my
children's ministry for five years. I hadn't seen her in several
years, and she immediately wanted to give me a big hug. It was
heartwarming and humbling to know that the short conversations I
had with her weekly had obviously impacted her life and
that Jesus' love was radiating from her. We forget in the busyness
of the day-to-day planting and watering the seed that God is
causing it to grow!"
-Ruth Pape, children's and family ministry Colorado Springs,
Colorado 20-plus years
"The best advice about serving in general came from my dad. While
it's not specifically for children's ministry, I find that this
nugget of truth applies to pretty much any situation you're facing.
He's a plumber by trade, and I worked summers with him during high
school. One particular job was for an elderly lady who complained
of a clogged toilet. After some investigation, we discovered that
her toilet (for years, from the looks) had been draining into her
crawlspace under her house. In order to fix the problem, we had to
crawl through the 3-inch wading pool of death to get to where the
pipes had burst. I told my dad there was no way I was going in
there. He looked at me square in the face and said, 'Son, poop
washes off.' To this day, I've had no better advice. If things get
difficult, if my hands get dirty, if what I'm going through in the
ministry gets a little bit sticky and smelly, I remind myself that
hanging out with Jesus washes it all away. If I'm serving someone
else, which is basically what a plumber does (and the church, for
that matter) you don't mind the stuff that comes with it. You stick
your hands in there, get the job done, and then wash up."
"Kids remember. Not only do they remember, they recall and request
that you don't renege on what you promised last week. I learned
incredibly quickly not to promise things that aren't set in stone.
If I tell the kids that next week we'll have a drawing, video,
skit, or cool game with fantastic prizes, I better deliver the
goods. 'But you said last week that you'd pick me for the game this
week!' Kids need two things: consistency and truth, especially
contained within promises from a leader. These two things matter,
more than anything, because kids can spot a fake from the other end
of the hallway. And if kids remember what you say in passing,
imagine what they're picking up on during your lesson."
-Pastor Adam Walsh, children's pastor Rockford, Illinois 10
years in ministry, 3 in children's
"Ministry is spelled W-O-R-K… If you want people to help you do
something, first make sure you're willing to do that thing. And
always lead by example. Rev. John Tasch told me this in 1993."
"Everything we do or say will impact the life of a child either
positively or negatively, so we need to make everything count while
we're ministering to these children. And even when we don't think
they're listening, they're watching our lives. We only have a small
window of opportunity to touch a life, so be ready at all
-Rev. Eric N. Hamp, children's ministries pastor Lone Tree,
Colorado 20 years
"I had a pastor tell me one time that kids know when you really
love them. He said to always let the love outshine the stress!
"The most important thing I've learned is to never be afraid to
try something new. It may work, it may not; but at least you're
always striving for excellence."
-Joanna Tabler, children's pastor Jackson, Tennessee 7