Someday, your name will be hailed as the one who changed a life.
If you work or volunteer in children’s ministry, please never doubt that what you’re doing matters. This true story is one of the many inspiring stories Group Publishing hears on a regular basis. Thank you for what you do.
In the busyness of everyday ministry, it’s easy to lose sight of the eternal difference you’re making on kids. We asked children’s ministers, leaders, volunteers, and experts across the country to describe a person who positively impacted their faith as a child or youth. Their stories of changed hearts and lives will inspire you.
Double the Love
When I was in high school, I worked as a counselor at a Christian camp. Each morning a small group of counselors met with a staff person for morning accountability. I attended Dave Sterrett’s accountability group. Every morning Dave modeled his love for Scripture to me and shared something new from Scripture. Dave duplicated his love for the Word in me and that’s something that’s stayed with me all these years. Thanks, Dave.
Larry Shallenberger is the author of Lead the Way God Made You.
Every high schooler anticipated the warm, inviting environment of Christian fellowship Brother Mitch created. He made Sunday school exciting, and he genuinely cared about our day-to-day lives.
Even after extensive cancer surgeries, Brother Mitch was always concerned with our lives and with his return to teaching. Nearly 30 years later, I still remember his lessons. Brother Mitch influenced my life of service within the church. I pray that I make as strong an impression on children as Brother Mitch made on me.
Cindy Coker is a children’s minister in Estero, Florida.
As a pastor’s kid, moving from one church to another was common and frightening. The first day was always so scary. I was pleased when I arrived one October and the teacher introduced me to the class. She regularly rearranged our seating assignments so I met and sat by everyone. This helped me fit in, get to know the other kids, and feel like a part of the group. I don’t remember this teacher’s name, but her influence left such a big impression on me that part of my passion as a staff pastor is to help new people become part of the church family.
Joy Headley is a family pastor in Dallas, Texas.
Heroes at Home
My parents are true superheroes in disguise because of their everyday faith. My dad, a church elder, would “supply-preach” to congregations that couldn’t afford a pastor. He’s typically a quiet man, but he knew these churches needed help. Dad was also usually the first person called when someone from church died. My mom taught Sunday school, led women’s Bible studies and groups, sang in the choir, played piano, and hosted Sunday dinners for anyone who needed encouragement. My siblings and I are all serving in ministry because of our parents’ faithful examples.
Gerri Baker is a children’s minister in Noblesville, Indiana.
My amazing second-grade Sunday school teacher, Angie Frisbee, greatly influenced my life. She made us all feel as if we were her own children and truly modeled Christ’s life to us. Every Sunday we were eager to learn about the Bible-law, history, poetry, prophets, letters, and the gospels. As I learned each, Mrs. Frisbee added it to a bookmark that’s still in my childhood Bible some 30 years later.
After we memorized a certain number of verses, Mrs. Frisbee presented us with a Bible-a big deal to a second-grader. Mrs. Frisbee gave me a strong base for my Christian faith, and I’ll be forever thankful.
Christina Campbell is a children’s minister in Thornton, Colorado.
Della Cline faithfully taught us the books of the Bible and the Old Testament stories. In 1958, I went to church summer camp and became a Christian. I was afraid Della would be unhappy because I hadn’t given my life to Jesus in her class, but instead she was excited and continued to encourage me as a Christian.
Rose Goble is a Christian worker and writer in Winamac, Indiana.
Rising to the Challenge
When Mrs. Brown taught the senior high Sunday school class, she not only tolerated interruptions-she encouraged them. She expected to be challenged, which gave us permission to raise questions we hadn’t felt safe asking elsewhere. Mrs. Brown seldom gave us “the answer.” Instead, she sent us digging through Scripture to discover the answers on our own.
The greatest gift Mrs. Brown gave our rowdy group of teenagers was a place where doubt wasn’t confused with heresy, or honest questions with rebellion. When I’m challenged in my own class now, 30 years later, I sometimes see her face, smiling as she recognized a teachable moment, saying, “Well…let’s talk about that.”
Mikal Keefer is Group Publishing’s Senior Acquisitions Editor.
What Would You Say?
Hal Irvine, a man from the small church I attended, visited me every day when I was in the hospital at age 16. One day, he pulled up a chair, and asked, “Craig, if you were to die tonight and God asked you why he should let you into heaven, what would you say?”
He didn’t give me the answer, and I didn’t know it. When I got out of the hospital, I wrote down that question and took it to church. When I found Mr. Irvine, he and Phil Wagner (who’s now my father-in-law), shared the gospel with me. I became a Christian that day, and my life was radically changed.
Craig Jutila is a children’s pastor at Saddleback Church in California.
A Changed Course
In third grade a friend invited me to an after-school Bible club. I heard and understood for the first time how Jesus loved me and died for my sins.
As I listened, I started to cry. While the children were having a snack, the woman who’d been teaching asked if I was all right. I said I didn’t know why I was crying, and she gently told me Jesus was touching my heart. I gave my heart to him that day.
That was the only time I went to the Bible club because school ended and my family moved away. I wish I knew that woman’s name so I could thank her for her faithfulness to God’s calling. My life was set on a new course because she reached out to a boy who needed to know Jesus.
Chip Richter is a Christian musician.
Real People, Real Ministry
My grandma shaped me, my faith, and my passion for ministry leaders. She modeled unconditional love and care, and I watched her give, give, give. Her giving was born out of a deep friendship with Jesus. Her daily devotional readings sat tattered on her kitchen table, well-read and devoured.
Grandma always had something to give anyone who stopped by. She especially reached out to the pastor and his family. I now realize Grandma helped me see people in ministry as real people who need love, support, and belonging — just like everyone else. (She knew that well as a pastor’s spouse.)
Grandma steered me toward ministry, and our connection pointed me to loving Jesus and his people.
A Full Cup
I remember the day Pastor Bill Ritter spoke in my sixth-grade Sunday school class. He was there to help us prepare for our transition to youth group. His gift of a plastic cup with the youth group logo wasn’t expensive, but it made me feel like he really wanted me to attend. I still have that cup.
Pastor Bill took special time out just for me. One day he picked me up after school on his motorcycle so all my friends could see how cool I was. We drove to Dairy Queen, and he just listened to me. He made everyone in his youth group of 100 feel like he was their closest friend.
I strive to show the same kind of love to children I work with now.
Scott Kinner is editor of Hands-On Bible Curriculum.
Appointment With God
When I was a freshman at Biola University, an assignment from Professor Stan Leonard changed my thoughts about encountering God daily.
Stan had us walk home with him to see his “quiet-time” spot. We were shocked to see a leather chair near walls covered with symbols, pictures, notes, memory verses, and so on. Stan obviously had spent much time in his “office with God.”
Several students thought this was over the top. But 20 years later, I appreciate the importance of my own quiet-time spot. My time with God has been the foundation of my years as a children’s pastor and songwriter-evangelist. Not one of my songs would be inspired without time in God’s Word.
Dean-O is a Christian musician.