Wise 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 remember?
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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 true.”
Do What Matters
“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.”
Don’t Waste Time
” ‘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
Major on the Majors
“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
Get Your Hands Dirty
“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.”
-Adam Walsh, children’s pastor Rockford, Illinois 10 years in ministry, 3 in children’s
Lead the Way
“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 times.”
-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! Great advice.”
“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 years