Dear Children’s Ministry Worker,
Let me say the most important thing first: You’re my hero. You’re investing your life into one of the most important age groups on the planet. Jesus loved children. We’re all called to be like children. And you spend your days investing in these precious souls who are our future—and our present. Thank you.
I’m the one who leads and loves them when they graduate form your area of focus. Of course, the church isn’t really like a relay race—we don’t just pass on the baton and then forget about it—but I’m the one who sees them for the 6–8 years after they’ve left your care. It gives me a bit of a unique perspective as to the nature of your—and our—work.
I’m not an expert in children’s ministry, so I won’t try to offer lots of deep insight into how to do the job you love. Instead, I’ll offer some observations—some things I see—and what the implications might be.
Children have a lot of change ahead of them right after they leave your care.
They’re changing. Fast. I’m not a childhood specialist, but I’ve studied my share of developmental theory. Kids do a lot of changing between age 0–12. (I have a 3-yr-old—I know!) But nothing compares to the cataclysmic changes that happen during adolescence.
The foundation you build during the children’s ministry years will be tested in every conceivable way.
Prepare them for this by teaching them to engage God’s word, not just good ideas.
Teach them to read the Bible for themselves. Help them to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Wet their appetite for the Bible. They need this solid foundation when they encounter the shifting sands of adolescence.
Prepare them for this by helping them live their faith in practical ways.
Don’t let their beliefs stay at a head-knowledge level—help them integrate their faith into real life—service, evangelism, at home, at school … It’s these real-life experiences that will give them confidence that their faith is real, that Christianity works, and that Jesus is the only answer.
Prepare them for this by talking about it.
They’re more grown up than you think they are. When I was 7 years old, I remember promising myself that I would always remember how grown up I was at 7. Of course, in hindsight I wasn’t all that grown up at age 7! But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that adults in my life consistently treated me as less capable that I was. They consistently under-challenged me. They consistently talked down to me. If we—as the church—don’t engage them on their level, someone else will. Just like me, your job is to prepare them for the future, not just the present. (For more about what this future looks like, visit my blog series called YOUR Students—An Inside Look.)
Prepare them for this by teaching them how to think, not just what to think.
Too often, church kids are bored. Too be clear, I don’t think they’re bored with you. I don’t think they’re bored with the activities. It’s worse, actually. They’re bored with church. They’re bored with God. And it’s not the type of boredom that will be solved with better media or more exciting games or more interesting crafts. No, it’s a deeper boredom. The type of boredom that will only be solved by wrestling with the deeper questions of life. Ask the hard questions. Make them wrestle with spiritual truths. Don’t be satisfied with good, Sunday School answers. Every answer they know will be tested—those who know how to think will survive.
Everyday, I walk with students who are in the battle called middle school or high school. As I do, I’m incredibly thankful for the many men and women who invested in these students. The men and women who shared Scripture, taught songs, led games, and gave of themselves to help these students walk with Christ. Thank you! And as you lead them, remember—there are troubled times ahead.
The foundation you lay now will be tested in every way. Build it in a way that it will last!
May God bless you as you lead and love children!
Rob Trenckmann partners with local churches to reach and disciple the youth in Veszprem, Hungary through Josiah Venture. Rob writes about youth ministry, cross-cultural ministry, leadership, and the Christian life @ robtrenckmann.com. You can also connect with him via Twitter and Facebook.