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Why Is Children’s Ministry So Hard?

Leadership //

Ministry is hard.  If you’re in a pastoral-type position, you know it’s hard, and studies have proven it.  It’s a hard job – there’s just no way around it.

For a great article on this subject, read Death By Ministry over at ChurchLeaders.com.

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Aside from the senior level (Senior/Lead/Executive Pastor type positions), I believe leading in Children’s Ministry is the most difficult pastoral position to serve in.  This is based on my own experience as a Children’s Pastor in relatively small to mega size churches; in mobile, multi-site & state-of-the-art environments; and in working with hundreds, if not thousands of churches over the past 20 years. The list below is not true of every church, but more often than not most of it is true in most churches.  So why is Children’s Ministry so hard?  Here are a few reasons (in no particular order and as compared to other departments, not the “main service”).  Children’s Ministry . . .

  • typically is the largest single group in the church being served;
  • represents the group with, by far, the greatest physical, social, emotional & mental developmental span of any in the church (babies through preteen);
  • typically has the largest group of volunteers to lead & manage (“volunteers” have been identified by both John Maxwell & Bill Hybels as perhaps the hardest group to lead effectively);
  • requires the most specific & varied volunteer training (because of the developmental range & varied ministry requirements within that range);
  • demands the most unique & diverse ministry environments with the greatest amount of weekly “maintenance” (everything from cleaning Nursery toys to picking up teaching supplies managing multiple environments);
  • requires the largest & most diverse teaching team – multiple teachers are necessary for various classes vs. the ability to get by with just one (any other department);
  • requires the greatest amount of teaching material (varied curriculums to meet developmental needs, object lessons, crafts, supplies, etc.);
  • is the group with the greatest risk & is most vulnerable – both in terms of potential for physical harm and opportunity for criminal activity, and also in terms of emotional injury;
  • represents the most spiritually impressionable group in the church, by far, with the opportunity to make the greatest overall impact in spiritual formation, but within the group that is least able to manage themselves;
  • deals with the single most precious part of a families life (children);
  • is typically the most underfunded departments in the church, in true comparison to other departments;
  • is probably the least understood or appreciated ministry in the church – the typical perception remains largely that of childcare, and most church-goers (and other staff) have no idea of the demands within children’s ministry;
  • remains perhaps the least understood or appreciated pastoral level position in the church, as reflected in the fact that it is typically the lowest paid “leadership” position on the staff;
  • is staffed (because of the lack of understanding, appreciation & compensation) often by under-trained leaders, resulting in high turnover, not to mention discouragement & frustration.

All of this speaks to another, and perhaps the greatest, reason why Children’s Ministry is so difficult – because children & youth, in my opinion, remain one of the single greatest targets for the enemy.

Consider that the Marxist Lenin once said:

“Give me just one generation of youth and I will transform the whole world.”

Consider that Jesus said:

“…the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” 
(meaning they model the very type of faith that all of us should embody.).

Why wouldn’t our spiritual enemies make ministry to children as challenging as possible?

So should all of this discourage us?  Not at all.  Quite the opposite, I want to encourage you as a Children’s Ministry leader to continue on in your very worthwhile efforts – you are my heroes!  But let me also encourage you to:

  • Maintain healthy attitudes. The list above is the reality of the ministry we’ve chosen.  Strive for better – ask, vision cast & model – but do not let these realities open the door to bitterness, envy or anger.
  • Maintain healthy boundaries. Here’s what I’ve learned – my work in Children’s Ministry (and I know in other ministries, too) is never complete.  I must maintain for the health of my body, my mind and my relationships.  Define what these are for you and keep these boundaries.
  • Maintain healthy habits. The complexities of Children’s Ministry requires strong leadership.  One of our “mantras” here at KidMin360 is that “leadership matters in Children’s Ministry.” Because of this, maintain the habits necessary to lead well and continue growing as a leader.  If you do not grow yourself and develop your team as leaders, you will either not lead your KidMin for very long, or it will, in fact, become childcare.

What would you add? 

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About the Author

Greg is a children’s ministry veteran of over 25 years who blogs at ChildrensMinistryLeader.com. He now serves Senior Director of Leadership Development at David C Cook, developing and delivering ministry training around the world. He’s a sports nut who married way over his head to Michele, and is kept on his toes by two teenage boys, Taylor and Garret. Website: http://ChildrensMinistryLeader.com; http://Twitter.com/ChildMinLeader; http://Facebook/com/ChildrensMinistryLeader