Top 20 Leading the Way


Meet Children’s Ministry Magazine’s
picks for the 20 most influential and impacting voices in
children’s ministry today!

For more great articles like this, subscribe to our magazine, Children's Ministry Magazine.

Here at Children’s Ministry Magazine, we believe
that you-children’s ministers in the daily trenches of ministry-are
true heroes. And that’s the big reason we’re aiming to make our
20th anniversary a year-long celebration of children’s ministers
everywhere! To kick off the celebration, we’re looking back at
heroes who’ve made a significant, positive impact in children’s
ministry. We’re delighted to present-drumroll, please-Children’s
Ministry Magazine’s Top-20 Children’s Ministry Influencers in the
last 20 years!

karlbastianBW KARL BASTIAN
author, executive director of Kidology,

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Karl, a self-proclaimed children’s minister since childhood, is
driven to support and resource children’s ministers. He created, a
pioneering website developed in the mid-1990s as a resource for
leaders and volunteers. Today the site contains online training,
discussion forums, hundreds of lesson plans and ideas, links to
other children’s ministry resources, and a near encyclopedia of
other helpful material.

Karl developed Kidology not only as a source for valuable
information and resources, but also for children’s ministers to
connect with one other to share concerns and prayer requests, to
ask questions and hopefully find answers from others. Through his
writing, blogging, and social media efforts, Karl has left an
indelible imprint on children’s ministry.

Kids love our Sunday School resources!

Through Kidology, Karl’s passion is to “reach and teach as many
children as possible with the Good News of God’s Love and in the
process to enlist, equip, and encourage others to do the same.”


author, curriculum developer

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Jerome’s extensive catalog of writing-whether through Godly Play
curriculum or through his numerous other writings-has helped to
transform thousands of churches’ approach to children’s ministry by
helping them see that meaningful, lasting learning comes from
childlike curiosity and play.

Jerome’s and the the late Sonja Stewart’s book Young Children
in Worship
is considered a landmark work on how to introduce
3- to 7-year-olds to the wonder of worship. Jerome’s work inspired
the Godly Play “I Wonder” series that leads children in reflective
worship as they interact with Scripture.

Jerome continues to lead the way in workshops and training avenues
to transform the way children’s ministers look at how children
encounter God.


children’s pastor, national director

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Rob is a well-known leader in children’s ministry in Australia.
He’s the state and national director for KIDS R US, a
national children’s ministry in Australia. He also serves as the
international director for the Kidshaper Conference, where he provides
resources, leads workshops, and encourages other children’s

He’s released six children’s music albums. He speaks around the
world at training seminars and workshops for children’s ministry
leaders and volunteers. And he’s authored four books: Fly,
Sound, Quadrants,
and Taste.

Rob and his wife have been in children’s ministry for 21 years, and
they lead the successful and far-reaching PlanetKids children’s
ministry at Planetshakers, a 4500- member church in Melbourne.

author, founder of Kidzana Ministrie

In 1998, Sylvia founded Kidzana Ministries, an international ministry
that’s gone on to train and equip more than 10,000 volunteers and
leaders all over the world to minister to children and transform
their lives for Jesus.

In addition, Sylvia took on key roles in several other far-reaching
initiatives to spread the gospel to all children across the globe.
Among these: 1 for 50 Training Initiative, 4/14 Global Initiative,
Global Children’s Ministry Conference, and the Global Children’s

Sylvia recently wrote the book, Daddy, Are We There Yet?
about where the Christian community stands in reaching the whole
world for Christ. Her diligent efforts in education, equipping,
training, and in-the-trenches ministry have had a profoundly
positive impact on global children’s ministry.

12dick gruber DICK GRUBER
author, professor

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Dick has long been a voice of wisdom, practicality, and
encouragement in the realm of children’s ministry. He’s dedicated
much of his professional life to equipping effective children’s
ministers through education. He created the children’s ministry
program at Valley Forge College in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, nine
years ago and co-founded Children’s Ministries University Online, an
accredited educational program.

Dick served as the national leader of children’s ministries for the
Assemblies of God Church for eight years. He’s known for the book
Children’s Church: Turning your Circus into a Service, and
he created the popular character Sam Saint Super Sleuth.

About his legacy, Dick says, “Hopefully I’ll be known as a voice of
true worship in the children’s church and that deeper study of
God’s Word will be encouraged in all aspects of children’s

1jeff_harmon JEFF HARMON
ministry pioneer, children’s pastor

Jeff was intregal in the inception of the pioneering children
and family ministry program at Vanguard Bible College in Alberta,
Canada, and he directed the program for its first two years. He
continues to teach the introduction to children and family ministry

Jeff has worked for 21 years in the same church where he became a
Christian, and he serves as the children’s pastor interacting with
all departments, a creative team, volunteers, teachers, and, most
of all, children.

His passion for kids and the importance of children’s ministry is
unwavering. He currently speaks at conferences, workshops, and
preteen and youth camps in Canada and beyond. Jeff continues to
network with local children’s ministry leaders by providing
resources, training, and encouragement to them.

He says his key focus in ministry is a revised motto of Billy
Graham’s: “Children anchored by 12 won’t be lost at sea at 21.”

author, director of children’s ministry

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Dale has served as a children’s pastor for over 21 years in some
of the most dynamic ministries. He co-wrote Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century, Turbocharged Children’s Ministry, and
Turbocharged Preschool Ministry. He’s
also the columnist for volunteer leadership for Children’s Ministry
Magazine. He’s written articles such as “Lessons From Walt” focusing on the importance
of family- and child-centered environments, atmospheres, and

Dale currently oversees the direction of children’s ministry across
five campuses of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens,
Florida. Along with Bruce Barry (Wacky World Studios), Dale created
a ground-breaking interactive, Disney-style worship environment for
children that’s now used as a format in churches across the U.S.
His expertise on creating magnetic ministries makes him a
sought-after speaker and author.


author, founder of the reThink Group

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Reggie is best known for his trailblazing efforts to
revolutionize the way churches view children’s and family ministry.
He’s the author of the bestselling book Think
and founder of the national Orange Conference. He plays a key role in
family-ministry curriculum development through the reThink Group
(most notably 252 Basics). Reggie is a sought-after speaker,
bestselling author, and a true visionary in the realm of children’s
and family ministry.

His children’s ministry career began at North Point Community
Church in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1995. It was during his time there
that Reggie grew convinced that children’s ministry must be
connected directly to the overall vision of the entire church. From
this beginning, he quickly emerged on scene as a change agent in
the world of children’s and family ministry.


author, founder of Empowering Kids

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Craig spent 13 years with Saddleback Church heading up one of
the most recognized and dynamic U.S. children’s ministries. He’s
authored or coauthored numerous books on children’s ministry,
including Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century and
Leadership Essentials for Children’s
. Craig shares his ministry wisdom and insights at
conferences and workshops across the country.

His focus today is on his family and his non-profit ministry, Empowering Kids. This ministry provides
ministry resources and leadership training and encouragement to
children’s ministers.

His desired life legacy? “I hope the legacy I’m most known for is
attributed to me by my family, that my wife and kids would say, ‘It
hasn’t always been this way, but my dad made radical changes in his
life and put his family first. He put us above work, ministry,
writing, and speaking. He made changes in his life that put his
family back where they should be… He made less but loves us more.’

12patrick_mcdonald PATRICK MCDONALD
founder, chief executive officer for Viva

Patrick leads VIVA, a mission organization that reaches 8,000
churches worldwide serving at-risk children in the slums of 24
different countries.

He is currently developing three training products for leaders,
volunteers, and entire projects for ministering to seriously
at-risk children in the developing world. He also works alongside
the 4/14 Movement and the Lausanne Movement (where he is senior associate
for children at risk) to reach children all across the globe.

Patrick says his hope is that children become the priority in the
Great Commission, and “that the church has the biggest opportunity
ever to show its care and concern for the last, the least, and the
lost by focusing on reaching children dying on the doorsteps of our


author, student ministry pastor, and founder of Ricardo Miller
Children’s Ministries

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Ricardo’s children’s ministry influence has expanded greatly
over the past few years, as evidenced by his strong following on
social media such as Facebook and The Black
Preaching Network
. His ministry reaches far beyond the walls of
his home church, The Pathway of Life Church in Dallas.

Ricardo has planted several effective children’s ministries
throughout the Bahamas and around the Caribbean. He’s trained
hundreds of children’s ministers and directors through conferences
and workshops. He’s the author of four books: Wisdom Keys for
Children’s Ministry, 141 Good Habits for Children, Parenting with a
and Volunteers: How to Get ‘Em, How to Keep


author, member of creative team for ReThink


Based upon her work as former executive director of Promiseland
Children’s Ministry at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, Illinois,
Sue co-wrote Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of
Every Kid’s Week.
This book proved transformative to
children’s ministry thinking in that it challenged the status quo
of babysitting kids.

Sue’s focus is on engaging children in learning and worship. Today
she works alongside Reggie Joiner at the ReThink Group and Orange
developing preschool curriculum and training, equipping, and
inspiring children’s ministry leaders and volunteers.

“God is going to use us and these kids’ parents to bring kids
across the line of faith on our watch,” says Sue.

author, lead faculty

Denise began her work in children’s ministry in 1983 as a
director of Christian education and hasn’t looked back. Over the
course of nearly 30 years, she has worked in churches, taught in
colleges and seminaries, written articles, and presented at
seminars and workshops.

She has served as director and lead faculty in children’s and
family ministry at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her
focus has been on multiplying her knowledge, gifts, and skills by
educating and equipping others. She does this through Bethel with
formal and informal education, and online networking with
children’s ministers and recent graduates.

Looking forward, her goal is to stay the course-to continue
equipping leaders for children’s and family ministry as well as to
integrate the two ministries to impact not only the child, but also
the entire family.

1thomjoni_schultz THOM AND JOANI SCHULTZ
authors, founder and president and chief creative officer of

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Joani: 1Facebook_icon 1twitter

Thom and Joani have worked together for more than two decades to
revolutionize Christian education through relational, experiential,
applicable, and learner-based (R.E.A.L.) education. Since Thom
founded Group in
1974, the company has developed nine different curricula for
children’s ministry, four magazines, annual vacation Bible school
materials, and hundreds of resources for leadership training. Under
Thom and Joani’s leadership, the children’s ministry resources
developed at Group touch millions of lives each week.

They say their greatest desire in ministry is “that children and
children’s ministry leaders truly experience the transforming love
of Jesus because of our resources. Lives are changed. Incredible
things continue to happen.”


author, manager of curriculum development


Pat may be best known for “My Family’s Prayer Calendar,” which
she wrote with Shirley Dobson. But in the past decade she’s also
become a true champion of ministry to children with special

Pat’s years of experience as a teacher, school administrator, and
children’s pastor uniquely equipped her to develop resources and
curriculum for children with special needs for the widely respected
Joni and Friends ministry. Pat has been instrumental in the
first-of-its-kind Joni and Friends Certification in Disability
Ministry program.

Pat has translated her passion for ministry to these special
children into ministry resources. She created the Special Needs
Smart Pages
resource and wrote Special Needs-Special
She’s the columnist covering special needs for
Children’s Ministry Magazine, and she wrote “Autism and the Church”
for the book Life in the Balance: Biblical Answers for Issues
of Our Day.


Gordon and Becki West
authors, founders of Kidz At Heart

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Long considered two of the most wise and unwavering voices in
ministry, Gordon and Becki have worked diligently to train leaders
and volunteers with practical advice. They’re the founders of Kidz at Heart
, an organization that trains and equips leaders
and volunteers around the world to teach children about Jesus
within their own culture.

Over the past 20 years, Gordon and Becki have also trained over
100,000 moms, dads, and teachers on how to more effectively
minister to their own children and students. They co-wrote
Dynamic Preteen Ministry, touching on an area of ministry
that hadn’t received much attention prior to the book’s arrival.
They’ve also served as the columnists on discipline for Children’s
Ministry Magazine.

With their ministry, Gordon and Becki hope to cast greater global
vision for children’s ministry; to encourage and equip those
involved in children’s ministry; and to articulate a clear
philosophy of children’s ministry based on God’s love for children
and our knowledge of how children learn and grow.

12jim_wideman JIM WIDEMAN
author, next generation associate pastor, and founder of Jim
Wideman Ministries

Jim has long been one of the most influential forces driving
children’s ministry to the forefront of the church nationwide. His
hallmark focus on leading volunteers and staff has made him a
sought-after author, consultant, and speaker.

Jim is a pioneer whose contributions to children’s ministry
discussions have been important and relevant through over more than
30 years of ministry. In addition to training and equipping
seasoned children’s ministry workers, he’s passionate about
partnering with newer children’s ministers by giving them free
admission to his monthly Children’s Ministers Leadership Club where
he offers advice and counsel. Jim also created Infuse, a 6-month
coaching and mentoring program for new children’s ministers.


author, children’s ministry champion for

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Over 20 years, Christine has created training for 200,000
children’s ministers. She leads the charge at Children’s Ministry
Magazine and serves as the voice of children’s ministry at Group.
She’s written 10 books and developed Grapple Preteen and Buzz curricula.
She oversees children’s ministry resources at Group.

Christine speaks across the U.S. on training, equipping, and
celebrating children’s ministry. Her “From the Editor” letters,
blog, and social media efforts keep leaders up on trends and her
ministry insights.

Her ultimate desire: “I hope people will see me as someone who’s
connected them with one another, best practices, and creative
ideas-and ultimately made their job of partnering with God to
transform children’s lives easier.”



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