Core Values for Children's Ministry - Purpose, Form and Function

I spent some time this week looking at Children's Ministries Church Job openings on the Internet. I discovered a list of requirements for the position of Children's Pastor as follows:

First, a church wants the applicant to fulfill this wordy requirement.

"Additional responsibilities include equipping parents to fulfill their calling as the primary spiritual trainers of their children." The list in this position contained enough demands to challenge someone with a Master's degree, and what looks like a 60-hour week to handle it all. At the end of the page, I noticed that they were offering 1500 to 2000 dollars per month and expected the applicant to get all this done in 18 to 25 hours a week!

A Second opening began with the words,

"Must be able to design "scope and sequence" of curriculum so that children transition to adulthood spiritually prepared to be fully devoted followers of Christ desiring to engage their world as change agents." This was for a full time position, but there are very few Children's Pastors who could handle such a challenge. Most Children's Pastors select a curriculum based on the limited availability of what their denomination will allow or requires them to use, or perhaps because their church denomination publishes it themselves.
The more I read of what was expected of a Children's Pastor or Director, the more I was astounded at the way many churches are ill-equipped to face reality in terms of time and remuneration for the position.
It is time to get real, and so today I will touch on three core values that the Children's Ministry Pastor or Teacher really needs to know. They are Purpose, Form and Function.

1. The Purpose of the Ministry

There are currently a variety of Children's Ministry opportunities available in most Churches, which you may presently be involved in or in which you are considering. There is the traditional time known as Sunday School, sometimes called Christian Education. Then there is a segment of time, usually during the Sunday Morning Worship of the congregation, when the Children are grouped together for a meeting. This is sometimes referred to as Kids Church using various names, and occasionally is a concurrent Sunday School hour for Kids. At this particular juncture, the lines seem blurred due to the increasing number of churches that host more than one Sunday morning Worship service. Numerous churches also sponsor a midweek meeting involving Kids. Under a variety of names, this may be coeducational for Boys and Girls, or a segregated program. Themes may include sports, scouting, crafts or Bible study.

If you are involved in one of these ministry configurations, or, heaven forbid more than one, the first thing you should know, preferably before your appointment, is its over-arching purpose. It's at this particular juncture that some of these things become quite vague. In fact, many of these so called 'child care' ministries are designed merely to occupy them while the adults have "Church."

I have turned down many lucrative summer engagements after enquiring as to the purpose of the Week, which prompted the invitation. In fact, I have never been interested in just 'keeping them busy.' Is it Christian growth or education, which is the primary function? Is it evangelism, to reach out to children in the community if they are not church members? You need to ask the question, and then get the leadership to amplify their answer with more details.
As a Children's Ministry Director, I must always keep clearly in mind that purpose, always trumps form and function. The two great purposes of the Church are to Evangelize and Disciple. Billy Graham put it well when he said, 'Evangelism is not complete until the Evangelized become Evangelists'.

In most all children's ministry activities, you will eventually be called upon to lead a child to Christ. It may be your one and only chance to lead that child to Christ, and you need to be able to do so without thinking 'How do I do this?' Prepare yourself for that time and always be ready to do it. Moreover, you must decide what God has called and gifted you personally to do. Next, choose the ministry with the proper purpose, which fits your calling. Is it soul winning or is it Christian discipleship? Discover your purpose and then join in the specific ministry that is dedicated to that purpose.

2. The Form of the Ministry

I am not trying to be simplistic when I speak of purpose as being primarily Evangelism or Discipleship. Both of these attributes may be expressed through programs that have different forms.
Let us examine the Form for a moment, also referred to as format. If you are not sufficiently knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the form of a particular ministry, you may need to re-think your commitment to that ministry. For example, I was looking at a particular ministry that offered Archery classes to Kids. I learned archery as a young boy, and enjoyed it immensely. Being an evangelist at heart, I was thrilled to see that ministry employ Archery as a mode of presenting Jesus as a Bulls Eye to aim for in life. They also gave testimony about how most of the kids who were new to the church had found Jesus as their Savior through the Archery Ministry. This could alternatively be used by any church as a part of its Discipleship program. However, in the one I surveyed, the Kids were being discipled after they had attended the Church Sunday School program.
I advise you to first carefully examine the Form, and then ask yourself, which form of ministry interests you most. If you are married and you want to be in a ministry that focuses on Camping, how will this work for your spouse? If art classes are the form of your ministry, ask, what will my role be. My wife had no interest in Art but loved to instruct others on how to cook! She would have been right at home in a Domestic Science ministry.

3. The Function of the Ministry

I have many times asked teachers, what is the difference between Sunday School and Children's Church. Very few were able to come up with a clear answer. If you do not know, Sunday School is Christian Education. Children's Church is Evangelism, Discipleship and Worship.

Sunday School functions to help kids know what the Bible and Christianity are all about.

Children's Church functions to reach Kids with the opportunity to find Jesus as their Savior, to learn how to put what they know about being a Christian into practice in their daily lives, and to learn how to worship God.

A word of warning may be apropos at this point: it is often much easier to do things in children's church that fit your personal tastes and learning styles instead of discovering what children like. If such is the case, Children's church is not for you, it's for children.

Whatever the ministry, there will always be a place where you may fit and be used of God in a wonderfully rewarding way. Find out what children like and then work with them to show them Jesus in a way they will accept at their level.

I once had a teacher who worked with us in a Junior Children's Church. She seemed uncomfortable and used illustrations that were far below the level of the 4th to 6th grade kids. After counseling her, she moved to the Primary Kids Church. 20 years later, she was still happily working with that age group and had accomplished wonders with those children. Age level adjustment certainly made a difference for this teacher. She still remained committed to the same purpose and form.

Now, are you fulfilled in what you are doing in your current ministry? If not, take a step back and look at the purpose, form and function of your task. You may just discover that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, in the very center of God's divine will.

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