Every leader I’ve ever met, including myself, has been haunted by something—different things, but they usually boil down to the same thing. We’re haunted by a question or multiple questions. The reason you’re in the ministry position you’re in today is because you’re answering a question. How many times did Jesus look at His disciples and ask them questions? The biggest one of all time was, “Who do you say I am?” That question rocked their world and has changed history. It’s changed your life and my life. And it’s helping us change the lives of the kids and families we serve.
We all ask similar questions. We all work with kids and the questions they ask can challenge us—questions like, “Why couldn’t Jesus shapeshift?” “When He was a baby, why didn’t Jesus just zap Herod to protect himself?” Those are real questions from kids.
A question I get a lot is, “How do you leverage technology to further the gospel?” I’ve been trying to figure out the latest and greatest and you know what I’ve discovered? The church doesn’t need to be on the leading edge of technology. The church needs to be where the most people are.
So I’ve come to some conclusions based on what I hear from other people and what I’ve experienced myself. If I want to get the right answers, I should be able to get them if I go to the right person! Asking the right question to the right person will result in the right answer, right? Many times I’ve thought, “Wow! If I could just get to the right person and ask the right question, then all of a sudden profound info will be given to me and I will have my answer. Then ministry will be easy!”
If I wanted to learn to play guitar, I’d go to Jim Wideman, because he knows a lot about playing guitar. If I want to learn about marketing, I would talk to a CEO or a marketing director. I just need to get to the right people.
You know what though? I don’t know if I’d be guaranteed to get the right answers even if I ask the right person. What if I asked the wrong question to the right person? What if I asked what I thought was the right question, but it’s not what I really needed to know? Would I get the wrong answer? I don’t think I’ll get a wrong answer, but I may get a different answer. And that might delay the right answer. Confused yet? The right question to the right person will give me an effective answer, but it won’t always be right. You have to take into account that the person is answering the question from his perspective. He has a different context than you.
So if this is true, we have to keep asking questions. We might need to change the questions we ask or the people we ask, but we need to keep asking questions. When we ask ourselves ministry-related questions, do we even stop to wonder if we’re asking the right questions? The answer we discover could have lasting impact on us and in the places we serve.
Have all my questions left you scratching your head? Let’s get down to some specifics. There are six questions that every children’s pastor asks. But when we think about them for a bit, are they really the right questions?
The first question is: What am I going to do this Sunday? I used to write the curriculum and plan everything we did each week. I wanted things to flow smoothly. I wanted things to be in order. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in doing that preparation, there’s a more important question I’ve discovered: How do I empower what we’re going to do Sunday so that it geos beyond Sunday?
We need to think beyond the hour or two we have the kids on Sunday morning. We need to think about the home. What happens at home is more important than what happens at church. We need to take advantage of the various ways we can communicate with parents, especially dads. How can what we do on Sundays encourage dads to be better spiritual leaders? Dads need to talk to their kids about spiritual and non-spiritual things. They need to converse. So what can we do beyond Sunday morning that will encourage parents to take their rightful place as the spiritual nurturers of their kids?
A second question—and a very pressing one—is: How do I get more volunteers? I’ve worked at 2 different churches for a total of 10 years. One church had thousands of kids that came every week. The other church moved in and out of a school with less than 200 kids when I started there. In both instances I asked myself and the other workers how to get more help. Then, I realized that I wasn’t asking the right question.
The right question is: How do I make volunteering more effective for the volunteer? We don’t need trained monkeys in our ministry. We don’t need warm bodies to babysit the kids. We need to give people something that matters. We need to give people something important to do. It’s not a matter of how many but a matter of getting highly effective people who are so excited and ready to go that they can’t help but bring a friend with them and encourage others to come serve.
The third question every children’s pastor asks is: Who is coming to our church? Who comes through the doors? We want to know how to effectively minister to those who are already in our ministry. That’s not necessarily wrong because who is in our ministry affects what we do. But we can’t forget another important and possibly better question: Who is not coming to our church? Sometimes we focus so much on who we have that we forget who we need to reach—the community around us. What if we focused more on people who would never come through the church door than those who already do?
Fourth question, and it can be a scary one, is: What’s my pastor going to think? We worry about how what goes on in our ministry is going to be received by our pastor. It’s a legitimate concern. But it all goes back to the question Jesus asked and what we should be asking: Who do you say that I am? Who do we say Jesus is? Yes, we need to be concerned about our livelihood. Many of us have spouses and children who rely on us. But it has to be about more than that. This is where there’s consistent tension between business and ministry. Who am I trying to satisfy? Jesus? People? How do I determine whom I’m trying to satisfy?
A fifth question asked is: What did we do last year? If we did it last year and it worked, we plan the same thing, because why mess with it if it works? But the better question we need to address is: What do I need to stop doing that I did last year? That’s a very hard question to contemplate, answer, and then carry out. It might mean upsetting people or disappointing kids. But your ministry will be known for who you aren’t because of the choices you made to stop certain things. Just because it’s worked doesn’t mean it needs to continue. It’s really hard to kill something that’s going well, but sometimes we have to start saying no.
A sixth question that I guarantee all children’s pastors ask themselves is: What complaints am I hearing? We check our email and read them. We hear them in the hall on Sunday mornings. We get stopped when we’re trying to get home for lunch after church on Sunday. We get a phone call when we’re eating breakfast. We can’t escape them. But if all we do is go after complaints, we only solve the issues right in front of us. We only address those who walk through the doors and not those who are still outside our doors.
The better question to ask is: What problems am I solving? Things like forgiveness, eternity, hope, and love. We need to solve these. There will always be complaints. Yes, it’s important to have our ears to the ground and to know what’s being said and what legitimately needs to be addressed. But we need to be driven by the problems we can solve, not just the complaints we address. We will be known for the problems we solve.
What about the questions the kids ask? By far the biggest one I’ve heard from kids is: What’s next? They want help to get through the day and week. They want guidance. We can help them. We should be reaching out to the unsaved and discipling the saved. Wouldn’t it be awesome for a child you’ve discipled to do the same for a child later on? That’s what we need to focus on. When we ask different questions, we change our perspective and allow ourselves to focus more on the Lord and His plans, which results in being more effective ministers to children.
Take time to think about what you’re REALLY asking and the feedback you’re REALLY wanting from your question. Instead of asking the questions you’ve always asked, that get you the answers you’ve always gotten, ask the questions that will more effectively help you introduce kids to their Savior and lead them on a deeper walk of faith.