Do you want to be successful in ministry?
What is success? Does success matter? Should success even be considered as a goal or something to be obtained? I believe that when you honestly consider these questions you’ll discover that the force driving you in ministry is the burden God has placed in your heart for what He has called you to do and not the recognition given by peers. During the past few years a class titled, ‘The XYZ’s of Children’s Ministry: Moving From Fear and Failure to Sanity and Success’ has been wonderfully received at conferences we’ve spoken. I’m not going to try to duplicate the entire class here online, but I do feel it’s important to highlight a few main points.
Setting Limits (Knowing Your Personal Limitations)
All of us need to grow and be stretched as we mature in ministry and life. We must allow ourselves to be challenged for personal and spiritual growth. Too often, though, we ‘bite off more than we can chew’ so to speak. Realize that you have limitations. There are some gifts, talents, abilities, and responsibilities that God did not give you or intend for you to have. We’ve heard the terms delegate and duplicate often, yet many of us never seem to get the hang of it. Allow me to be transparent. We have had the privilege of serving as Children’s Pastors for several churches. At one large church, we were going way beyond our limitations. Even the basic needs of good nutrition, sleep, and relationship suffered due to the enormous load we were carrying. Alisa and I were both working at the church in excess of 120 hours per week. Though I was paid staff, Alisa’s time was all voluntary. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining. We saw some wonderful things happen while we were there and are still seeing fruit from our labors. What I am saying is that the fruit would most likely have been the same, possibly greater if we would have taken better care of ourselves. Here are a few tips.
Know the level of your workload. Understand what you are capable of doing and what you need to delegate. Take time for personal care. You need rest, personal devotions, to be in a worship service (other than children’s church), to be seen by parents as a Pastor, and to know and experience the vision of whole church body.
Keep Your Senior Pastor Informed
Most people don’t like to blow their own horn. And I’m sure you’ve been around those that did and it wasn’t an experience you’d like to repeat very soon. However, you must learn to be your own public relations department. Your Pastor needs to be informed of events, significant changes in service style or format, testimonies, and challenges. He usually only hears parents’ complaints. If the only time you ever discuss your ministry responsibilities is when you’re faced with an issue that needs to be resolved, then your ministry and your personal capabilities are going to be associated with problems and inefficiency.
However, when he’s well informed, your word will carry more weight and he will:
Ø have a balanced perspective when dealing with complaints,
Ø understand your burden,
Ø better comprehend the expansiveness of your workload,
Ø be more understanding when you need to set a limit
Give God Time to Move
Too often we sit back and wonder what could make our children’s church grow or what can we do to change the lives of the kids we are ministering to. It’s very basic. God needs time to move in their lives. Often, we plan the service with a puppet skit, fun songs, a drama Bible story, a fun Gospel illusion, and a really cool trick cartooning, but we fail to leave an ample amount of time for the kids to touch God. Plan your service around a challenge. Make the altar time a commitment to that challenge. Give the kids plenty of time to commit to God in their own words. Give the kids plenty of time to hear from God in their own hearts.
Be Wise as a Serpent, Harmless as a Dove
Don’t bring yourself needless trouble. Not too long ago a new children’s pastor asked me for some direction. It seems that this very talented individual was having a difficult time with acceptance from the adults in his church. He attributed it to his age. However, as we talked, it became more apparent that he had made some poor choices with his first impressions. His motives were good. The message was right. But the way it was presented was just a little too contemporary. It was a sudden shock for this congregation with their first full-time children’s pastor to have their first Children’s Ministry Emphasis Sunday start off with a classic hymn redone in the musical form of ska. What he needed to have done was reach out to them where they were in such a way that they could see his heart and appreciate his deep commitment and desire to minister to their children and grandchildren, such as using a different contemporary puppet song that’s done in a style more widely accepted. Establishing that connection would have opened the door for them to accept something different in the future than what they were used to. Are you making some of the same mistakes? Do you encourage trouble to come knocking on your door? For example, what is children’s church like when the parents drop off and pick up their kids? Do you allow the children to socialize, move around, talk, and play during these times? If so, the only times parents see children’s church it appears to be organized chaos. Do they ever see the altar time? Do they see the kids intently focused? Think about it.
Co-Existing With Different Visions/Lack of Vision
Do you thoroughly know God’s purposes for your ministry? Can you identify the God-given goals related to your calling? Do you understand the God-given goals related to your ministry at your specific church?
Obviously, God’s purposes are your first priorities. The best example of this I can share happened to me several years ago. We had just accepted the Children’s Pastor position at a church who had never had a Children’s Pastor or Christian Education Director. It wasn’t long before I realized that the Senior Pastor didn’t like me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was convinced that he really had something against me personally. Boy, did I miss the boat! It wasn’t me at all. I spent all this time trying to please this man and move up in his appreciation, but I just couldn’t seem to do it. I was wrong the entire time. The actual situation was that he didn’t see the necessity of having a Children’s Pastor. He had only hired one on the insistence of the board of deacons and those who worked with the kids. There were many times that I felt like throwing in the towel. I couldn’t begin to express the attacks of discouragement that I faced. But there was one thing that kept driving me on. I knew in my heart that we hadn’t accomplished what God wanted us to. It took more than three years, but one day something happened that helped me realize that God’s purpose for us wasn’t only to change the lives of the kids, but also to change the vision of the leadership. A new Senior Pastor in this large city called my Senior Pastor for some advice. This new pastor was considering which staff position to hire. His church could only afford to pay one full-time salary. He asked my Senior Pastor which would he hire first, a music minister or a children’s minister. My Senior Pastor responded with, ‘If I were starting all over, the first position I would hire would be a Children’s Pastor.’ What a remarkable change! So, when you’re faced with a difference in vision, or even a complete lack of vision for the children’s ministry, stay focused on why God has you there. The daily problems will come and go. If you feel it is impossible to fulfill God’s purpose for you at your church, don’t be impulsive. God sees the future when you can’t. God can change people when you can’t. Keep fulfilling your responsibilities to the kids and your leaders, while waiting on God for direction.
The above contains excerpts from the CMT conference class, “The X,Y,Z’s of Children’s Ministry.”
© by Rev. Gary Linn, Children’s Ministry Today