There has been a great deal of movement in the local church’s children’s ministry world. Relocations due to reset priorities, drastic budget changes, and the need for pioneers has opened and closed doors like nothing I’ve ever seen. Lots of open positions and a willingness to courageously grow into how we’re naturally bent has made for many conversations with clergy, laity, and staff from all over the country.

Last week I shared three areas of considerations for churches as they determine their goals for the next 1-3 years. You can read about that here.

I closed with “Realistic and reasonable expectations make for a much more enjoyable workplace. Hiring new and retaining effective staff is a disciple-making opportunity, and we must always be looking for ways to make the experience better. Next week I’ll share more about hiring a pioneer and the most important question every candidate should ask.”

Are you looking for a pioneer who enjoys starting things? Are you willing to give them the parameters and be okay with letting them creatively hit the ground running? Or are you looking for typical children’s programming? Not everyone can live and work with a pioneer, an innovator, but would prefer a project manager. No judgement here, but don’t be disappointed when a new hire isn’t both a pioneer and a project manager unless they are very experienced and have stories and evidence of such. 

When hiring a pioneer, clearly communicate shared goals, shared resources, walk alongside in the areas of your giftedness and skillset, and help unruffle feathers. Inform your pioneer that it’s okay to network, get the lay of the land, and build relationships in the first three months, six months, and touch base often both informally and formally. Offer a weekly standing meeting to be informed, offer encouragement, and coach him/her without micromanaging.

Coaching is involved in everything. What is the senior pastor or supervisor willing to coach and what are they not? Remember that people don’t quit their jobs as much as they quit their supervisors. Do your best to set up everyone to win in a candidate’s giftedness and natural bent. A teachable spirit on all fronts and clearly communicated parameters can stop the cut of stained glass beforehand. Hiring and leading staff is discipleship work. How patient are you?  It’s unrealistic to think you are hiring for a lifetime. Churches, decide what you want for the next three years and start there.

One of the best questions a candidate can ask of their future/current supervisor and the senior pastor is, “Who is the best children’s ministry person you’ve ever worked with?”  Wait, then follow up with, “What made them so great?” The first couple of statements shared right here are the lens through which the candidate/staff member will be quickly measured and these are hardly ever part of the job description. Clarity is an expression of love. Your first response bears the greatest weight.

Consider a lead in children’s ministry to be a ministry with families instead. From the research coming out of the parents we serve today (this changes every 5 years), families want to share experiences especially as kids get older whether it’s on the ball field, Disney World, camping, or faith formation in the local church and along their way. Equipping parents and grandparents to love their kids to Jesus as they go, wherever they go is what they’re asking for. And it’s what God had in mind all along. Deuteronomy 6. We’ve either gotten really good at this over the last year or we’d better start. Parents want their kids to belong, be known by name, and no longer entertained in a herd. Large group is amazing, but it’s in the small group setting where kids are known and can chat about the life questions they are wrestling with, dwell on, and take up space in their heads and hearts. They want and need to build deep relationships with people who will model what loving Jesus looks like, sounds like, and acts like. Kids drive where their families will go, but they don’t drive. Let nothing happen that doesn’t not engage minds and hearts to love Jesus and God’s Word more with the whole family in mind. 

If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God. -D.L. Moody

On August 1st, I’ll celebrate 4 years serving in full-time ministry with children on staff at my local church. I’ll also be celebrating 31 years in professional Christian education in the local church from south Louisiana, New England, and the southeast. Of all the seasons of ministry I’ve experienced, THIS season is definitely the one for which I was truly created. God’s faithfulness, His word, and the saints of seven local churches have modeled pioneering discipleship and Godly relationship for this follower’s life.

Ministry with children is done best in community as equippers of the saints. Parents and grandparents are the saints and God-ordained disciple-makers. They are the true heroes, the cape-wearers, the torch-bearers in ministry with children and families. Yeah, we can make a VBS happen, but how will we do THAT? Our Heavenly Father has only invited us to play in His sandbox. 

I’ve got my shovel.  Insert the confetti cannons!

“The idea of changing the world is utter nonsense…unless you’re a children’s pastor, then it may be possible.” – Roger Fields