Have you read through the newspaper looking at the want ads, placed a call, went in for an interview and were hired, but when you finally show up to the job site, it’s nothing like what you thought it would be. I have.
I remember for a season of time in Bible College I had three jobs. I don’t recommend it. I remember distinctly walking by this family-run bakery on my way to my job at Starbucks. Christmas break was coming up and I thought it might be a great opportunity to make some extra cash. I walked into the bakery and will never forget the interview that ensued. The owner of the bakery sat me down and explained that working at a bakery was a lot of hard work and it wasn’t all fun and games like it appeared. She said that many young kids dream of working in a bakery one day and that I would be lucky to be hired by them and work in such a wonderful environment. I sat there trying to figure out what she was talking about. Of all the glamorous jobs out there, I have never considered working in a bakery one of them.
Two weeks later I started working there. I would get up at six in the morning, open the bakery and then walk down the block and close for Starbucks. I had no life. It was not glamorous; it was not my dream. I can’t think of anything more emasculating than handing raspberry turnovers across a counter to a customer smirking at the site of a college age guy wearing a hairnet and apron. Was it what I thought it would be? Nope, not even close.
Children’s ministry is suffering from a similar job description failure. We have this idea of what kids’ ministry is, but the reality is very different. One of the reasons kids’ ministry is not where it needs to be is because we are putting the wrong job description out there. As a result, we either attract the wrong person or we set the right person up to fail.
Here’s what we have said we were looking for in a kids’ pastor.
- Needs to love God
- Needs to know how to communicate to kids.
- Needs to be fun.
- Needs to be a kids’ culture specialist.
All those things are good but all those things will limit the effectiveness of a kids’ pastor and will not allow for growth. It will ultimately lead to frustration on the part of the kids’ pastor and his superiors.
When children’s ministry first came on the scene, this may have been enough. But looking to the future, we need to evolve as leaders and continue to push children’s ministry forward for the next generation of kids’ ministry leaders.
When I got into kids’ ministry, I was our church’s first full-time kids’ pastor. As a result, I didn’t have a job description set in stone. I had the opportunity to create and carve out what that would look like. I learned over the course of the next few years that I had a lot of things backwards.
Me being everything to a kid in my ministry is not what’s best for them. What’s best for for every kid is for me as kids’ pastor to be empowering an army of parents, small group leaders, and teachers to love those kids. Here are a few things that should be on every kids’ pastor’s job description.
As a children’s pastor you need to be better at communicating to adults than you are at communicating to kids.
This sounds counterintuitive, I know. Is speaking to kids important? Absolutely! But as a leader of leaders, you need to know how to clearly communicate the vision and values of the ministry you lead. It’s easy to do something you are gifted to do, but empowering people to do things the way you would do them takes leadership. No matter what size church God has placed you in, if you cannot clearly and plainly communicate with adults, you will limit your church’s ability to grow.
As a children’s pastor you need to multiply yourself in others, not just find people to help you.
Build a great team. The children’s ministry movement adopted much from the youth ministry model of the 70s and 80s—one person up front, worship, games, and a message. Adding more volunteers helped the energy in the room, but volunteers were not empowered to use the gifts God had given them. As a result, we end up looking for volunteers rather than build a team. I know that may sound like semantics but it’s not; it’s a mindset. When you look for volunteers, you try to find people to help you do what you need to do. When you build a team, you have a strategy to expand your capacity. You do this by pouring your energy into other leaders and empowering them to find and use their God-given gifts and talents. When I started doing kids ministry I knew I needed a specific number of people to get the job done. I now know that even though I may be the best storyteller in the church, our church is better off if I use those abilities to help others be greater than myself.
As a children’s pastor you need to be intentional about growing your leadership ability.
Personal growth happens on purpose. If you want to be able to ask any person in your church to be a part of kids’ ministry, you better be a high capacity leader. People with a higher leadership capacity than you will not last long in your ministry. If you want to grow your ministry, grow your leadership. This is so HUGE and so often overlooked. If you want higher capacity leaders to work with you, the only way that is going to happen is if you grow your leadership. How can you grow your personal leadership abilities? Read books, lots of them all kinds. Contact peers that are successful and are better leaders than you; ask them lots of questions. Get a coach. There are coaching networks popping up all over the kidmin landscape. Find a program offered by someone you can learn from and open up your life to allow them to speak into it.
As a children’s pastor the best thing you can do for each child in your ministry is to minister to the families they are a part of.
One of the things that we can never forget in kids’ ministry is that we have these kids for one to three hours a week. They are in school 30+ hours a week. They are at home 110+ hours a week. If we don’t do everything we can to empower parents and families to change the environments in their homes, the three hours we have with their kids will be much less effective. If we think that we have the most influence in a kids’ life, we are delusional at best. Our job should never be to be the sole moral voice in the life of a child, no matter their background or their situation. Our job is to leverage any influence we have to change the climate kids live in.
There has been a debate going on in children’s ministry circles about what is the primary job description of a kids’ pastor. If you distill the position down to its simplest form, what would it be? Many people would say a pastor of kids. I would say it’s a pastor of adults who pastor kids.
For children’s ministry to continue to be effective, we have to continually challenge everything. We have to be willing to change whatever it takes to reach a new breed of kid. The gospel never changes, but how we package and deliver it HAS to change. We can’t cling to our romantic ideals of what a kids’ pastor is. Leadership is recognizing what needs to be done and doing whatever it takes to communicate the gospel to kids.
To keep your ministry growing and relevant you must:
- Build a team
- Invest in others
- Strengthen the family
- Elevate Christ.