As a long-time children’s pastor, the term “looking back” reminds me of Genesis 19 and the story about Lot’s wife. Without fear of turning into a pillar of salt, I simply want to take a moment to reminisce and evaluate my time of working with children for the past 30 years.
There have been some terrific memories, lots of laughs (a byproduct of working with kids), a few scattered tragedies, and some misgivings. As I’ve reflected, I’ve thought about some of the things that I felt were essential to anyone working with children. Some of those things I did very well, and some things I feel I could have done better. Maybe my self-reflection can help those of you still in children’s ministry. That is my sincere hope.
1. Be creative
For many of you, purchased curriculum dictates your lessons, music, games and more. I rarely used purchased curriculum, but I found I could get inspiration and creative ideas from a variety of sources. Creative ideas came from news events, TV shows, and items you might find in a store. It became fun for me, fun for the workers, and especially fun for the kids. Fun is essential; it keeps kids excited, engaged, and wanting more. When the TV show Survivor began, we did a series on biblical survivors. The kids could not wait to vote off some of the adult staff, and everyone got to participate in weekly challenges. Our God that created the universe can inspire creativity in you. I believe He had fun creating. At the end, God even said that it was “very good.” I have found fun and creativity to be a byproduct of the Holy Spirit in my life, and my prayer is that you experience it too.
2. Learn from others
Don’t go it alone. Attend seminars, read books, connect with others, and share information. Someone may have the answer to a problem your facing. Make it a point to continue learning from several sources, especially those in ministry similar to yours. Although these are great things to do, even more important than anything else is prayer! God will give you direction. You may be great, but you do not know everything.
3. Bring Jesus into every story!
You are not a history teacher. This was an area I wish I had done better. It is great for the kids to know the books of the Bible, the characters, and the facts that make up each story, but make sure that each lesson directs them to Jesus. He must be the center of every story. Make sure that you let the children see how the lesson is relevant to their life today. Ask yourself this question as you plan each lesson: How am I pointing them to Jesus, our Savior? Provide many opportunities for the kids to commit their life to serving Him.
4. Use godly men in children’s ministry
Godly men are essential. I had some of the greatest men volunteer on a weekly basis in our children’s ministry program. They were very different. Darrell was single and fun-loving. David was married and loved sports. Angel could salsa dance. Roger was from the islands where everything was “no problem, man.” Mr. Jerry was strict and worked with troubled kids. Even though they were very different, each one of them loved Jesus! Our church had a large population of children with no father-figures in the home. Sometimes there was no connection with a father at all. These men were powerful influences in the lives of boys and girls alike. Make it a point to incorporate men in your children’s program.
5. Make every moment count
As children’s workers, we must be aware that the kids’ lives are not without struggles and heartache. More than likely, you may only see the kids from your children’s ministry a couple of hours a month, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an impact. Unfortunately, as a children’s pastor, I had to do several funerals for children from our church. These difficult events make you reevaluate the time you spent giving hugs and sharing Jesus. Take every moment you can to show Jesus’ love in your lesson, in your hugs, and in your smiles.
Wherever you are on your children’s ministry journey, take a moment to look back. Notice your shortcomings, make corrections, and congratulate yourself for the times you hit one out of the park. It can be a long journey, so make sure to stop and enjoy the scenery!
Rachel King serves as the Discipleship Ministries director for Sonshine Network Ministries. She also serves on the IPHC Discipleship Ministries Council. Rachel’s experience in children’s ministry has served her well in both of these capacities. She is a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her husband, Mark, reside in Orlando, Florida.