Because I’ve served in children’s ministry for more than 25 years, I’m a bit biased about why children’s ministry matters. However, I truly do believe it’s one of—if not the—most critically important ministries in the church. At the very least, children’s ministry is important in its own right and deeply impacts every other area of a congregation.
Unfortunately, I consistently see senior (and executive) pastors devalue children’s ministry. With their burden of leading the whole church, I believe pastors simply don’t stop to understand why children’s ministry matters.
Here’s an overview of why children’s ministry matters to church life:
1. Children’s ministry serves the most spiritually impressionable group in the church.
This is inarguable. Unfortunately, that spiritual impressionability also comes with snotty noses, dirty diapers, misbehavior and other less-than-attractive features.
Yet this simple fact ought to make the pastor’s eyes light up. After all, isn’t spiritual impact what ministry is all about? Consider: When the average church sees a very receptive adult group, how do we treat them?
2. Children’s ministry serves the most spiritually influential group in the church (that would be parents).
Again, this is clear-cut. Study after study shows that parents are the primary spiritual investors in the lives of the church’s most spiritually receptive group.
Want to develop a discipleship program in your church? Start with parents. It’s a God-designed, ready-to-develop plan just waiting to happen!
Want to have long-term impact in spiritual growth and health? Equip parents to invest in their children’s spiritual lives.
3. Children’s ministry leaders are eager (for the most part) to align and integrate their ministries with the overall vision of the church.
Ninety percent or more of the kidmin leaders I speak with tell me this. Unfortunately, well over half say they either don’t really know the church’s vision or don’t seem to have a voice. Unable to effectively connect with leadership, they don’t know how to maximize children’s ministry in the church’s overall plan.
4. Children’s ministry is tough and needs pastoral support and encouragement.
Children’s ministry is one of the most challenging, complex ministries to lead in the church, period (read more here: Why Is Children’s Ministry So Hard?). It’s flat-out hard! Leading in children’s ministry can be very isolating. No other ministry (typically) demands a presence at virtually every service and function of the church. And no other ministry serves so many people with such a diversity of needs. Plus, no other ministry leads the number of people considered the most difficult group to lead—volunteers.
Yet church leadership often places inexperienced, untrained leaders (but with great hearts!) over this area and expects them to lead with little practical support. Children’s ministry leaders need to know that you understand them, believe in them and support them.
Pastors who don’t actively engage in encouraging their kidmin leaders do a disservice to them and the entire church. A simple note, a quick call of encouragement, or a pat on the back go a very long way. And don’t forget these powerful words: “I’m praying for you. And I’m praying with you for your ministry.”
5. Children’s ministry can dramatically impact your church’s health and growth if you invest in it properly.
You can’t have a healthy church if you don’t have a healthy ministry to children. First, you need to know what a healthy children’s program looks like. Do you understand how and why children’s ministry matters to the rest of the church? Do you see the growth potential for the entire church when it invests properly in kids?
Simple things such as investing in leadership development with the kidmin team, providing an adequate budget, and giving them an equal spot at the leadership table go a long way toward tapping into the growth potential provided by children’s and family ministry.
If all five of these statements are indeed true, how ought they affect how we invest in, develop and grow children’s ministry? How can churches tangibly express why children’s ministry matters?