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20/20 Vision

If hindsight is 20/20, then why not get a rearview picture to
begin with? That’s
exactly why we asked six children’s ministers to share what they
wish they would’ve known in their first year of ministry.

by Gerri Baker

At the age of 22, I became the Christian education director for a
mid-sized church. I was a woman in an all-male environment, I was
young, and I had no idea what I was doing. It quickly became
necessary for me to grow in a few areas.

First, I needed to overcome my need for constant reassurance. In
many ways it became sink or swim that first year, and I definitely
felt I was the only one in the pool. Through some tough bumps, I
grew in my confidence in God and his call to me in ministry. I
learned not to expect praise from my male counterparts, which
wasn’t bestowed often, but to highly value it as a worthwhile, true
compliment when given.

Second, I had to learn how to control my sensitive and emotional
qualities. I had to toughen up a bit and be able to take criticism
and confrontation from people within the church without
emotionalism. People aren’t always so nice and kind; they can say
and do hurtful things. This can blindside us, because we don’t
expect church to be like this. I learned that first year that often
these hurtful things aren’t about me but about how the people are
themselves hurting.

Third, I had to realize I’m not Superwoman. No matter how endless
my energy might seem, at some time there’s always a stopping point.
Out of all the things I wish someone had taught me, at the top of
my list is boundaries. This lesson alone would’ve saved me years of
struggling and workaholism.

Gerri Baker is the elementary minister at a church in
Indianapolis, Indiana. She has been a children’s minister for five

by Jennifer Dimbath

I wish someone would’ve told me early on that there’s more to
children’s ministry than children — that the adults who influence
them require a great deal of love and care from the children’s

Before I knew it, my days that had once been spent building
relationships with kids around their school lunch table and going
to ballgames and dance recitals were now consumed by administrative
tasks. Instead of teaching children’s church, I was recruiting and
equipping someone else to teach. Instead of going on outings, I was
putting the dates on the calendar and empowering someone else to
plan them and participate in them with the children. Suddenly, I
was ministering more to adults than to children. This was not what
I’d signed up for!

I struggled for months as the children’s ministry continued to
grow and I became more removed from the children. Is this really
what God wanted me to do? I thought I was going to minister to

But as my time with the children decreased, I began to see amazing
things happen within the ministry…more children were learning
about Christ, and the team members were growing closer to Christ
themselves as a result of their ownership and participation in

And as the children’s ministry team became more equipped, felt
more encouraged, and was empowered to do ministry, our children’s
spiritual lives benefited even more!

My #1 priority is still to influence the eternal lives of
children. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that I’m least
effective when the majority of my time is spent with the children
(although it’s necessary) and most effective when my time is spent
empowering, equipping, and encouraging adults to reach, love, and
train children for Christ!

Jennifer Dimbath is the children’s ministry director at a church
in Peachtree, Georgia. She has been a children’s minister for three

by Ed Barnes

I assumed that I needed to do it all and be the “go to” person.
That’s what I thought leadership was — being the guy in charge and
taking care of all needs at all times. My wife slowly drilled
into me the fact that other people can do things, too.

My two children began to ask the question, “Daddy, why are
you going to the office again?” That was the kicker.

God had things worked out brilliantly, though. It was about that
same time that our church staff dug into leadership growth with the
help of a John Maxwell study course. My eyes were opened like
they had never been before. In short, I began to find joy in
mentoring more leaders and giving big decisions and projects and
programs to other “very capable” volunteers. They loved it, and it
was awesome to see them loving the chance to really make a
difference in our church. It was no longer them “helping Ed” do
ministry; it was their ministry. My feeling of success then
came from helping the church really be the church.

Advice? Study the process of how to “grow” other people for the
purposes of the church. Go to your local bookstore and stock up on
leadership books. Study leaders in the Bible — both good and

The second thing is to find a mentor. I’ve been blessed with a
number of people in my life whom I’ve learned from simply by
watching them and listening to them. I’ve watched their lifestyle
principles lived out. I’ve listened to how they talk. I’ve observed
how they treat others. After doing this, get ready to mentor your
volunteers. Find joy in being mentored and in mentoring others in
leadership and ministry.

Growing your ability to lead is part of your job. Take time each
day to pray for God to strengthen your leadership ability. The best
part of leadership is leaving a legacy that has the footprints of
God all over it.

Ed Barnes is a children’s and youth minister at a church in
Canton, Ohio. He has been a children’s minister for nine

by Diana Pendley

I love trying new things! I love doing things the way they
haven’t always been done; but in the beginning that got me in a
little trouble.

When I started in children’s ministry 15 years ago, I was very
fortunate to begin at a place that allowed us to color outside the
lines. My boss was always open to that. As long as something was in
good taste, scriptural, and helpful for us to reach boys and girls
for Jesus, we were allowed to try new avenues of ministry.

When I’d attend a conference, I’d come home with a legal pad of
new ideas and ministry plans that other churches were doing (that
always seemed better to me).

I remember not being able to sleep at night while attending a
conference because I was working on plans for different ministries
for our children’s ministry. It was so difficult for me to hear
about these great ideas and not want to do everything.

Now I realize — through a few hiccups along the way — that not
every good ministry program or plan or even awesome outreach tool
is meant to be at our church. If an idea doesn’t fit with our
vision statement and purposes for our church, then it probably
shouldn’t be done.

Finally, with a group of faithful core leaders, lots of prayer,
searching the Scriptures, knowing the heart of our pastor and
ministry staff, and knowing the mission and heartbeat of our
church, we came up with our children’s ministry mission and six
purposes that are the measuring stick of everything we do. Now when
there’s a potentially new program idea, I only have to go back to
what I know of our purposes and mission. Does it fit? If yes,
then great! Let’s pray about it and try it. If no, then we don’t
have to waste time checking our budget and calendar or praying
about it. We already know the answer!

Diana Pendley is the minister of children at a church in Plano,
Texas. She has been a children’s minister for 15 years.

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