Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I have not arrived to the level of “expert” in children’s ministry. I’ve been doing children’s ministry in my current church for nearly fifteen years, but I still consider myself a student. There are those who are more knowledgeable in the field who could probably spot a dozen or more flaws in how we do things. That’s okay, because I’m learning. I devour the blogs and books of my brothers and sisters God is using in children’s ministry. I’ve had the honor of trading tweets with many of them on Twitter (please tell me you understood what I just typed!). I’ve attended local and national conferences to equip, inspire, and motivate myself in this ministry. Just as I kind of shake my head at some of the things I did when I started off in children’s ministry, I will likely shake my head again at some of the things I’m doing now.

When I started doing children’s ministry at my current church, there was a young couple who was surprised. You see, even though I had been involved in various forms of children’s ministry starting in high school, my professional ministry background was with adults. I was a senior pastor at two small churches and I was used to teaching grown-ups. So this couple, who had previously served in the children’s department at a mega-church in California, took me aside in the spirit of Christian love and said, “Kids today are not going to sit for a sermon. You can’t reach them with dull theology. They need excitement and fun and activity.” Which was their way of telling me that they were afraid I would handle kids like I handled adults.

So I strove to be innovative and fun. I introduced things that pushed the envelope of what a “children’s ministry” was all about. It was certainly not the flash-bang approach of modern kid’s ministry; in fact, I was only beginning to learn what modern kid’s ministry was supposed to be. But it was a start. And we were starting to get people’s attention. That’s when another wise person approached me in the spirit of Christian love and said, “You don’t need to do all this fancy stuff. All you need to do is give them Jesus. Pay attention to them and open up the Word and they’ll respond. “

Feeling so much of this Christian love, I pondered what the gentleman had told me. Was I selling out the birthright of meaningful children’s work for a bowlful of pizzazz? I went through a time of deep introspection, wondering if we really needed to scale down the delivery vehicle and concentrate more on instilling a more serious understanding of the Christian life to these kids.

It was then that someone approached me and said, “Tim, you need to find some people who can add ‘Wow’ to your program.” Sigh. And thus it continues.

Since then, I’ve come to a basic understanding and acceptance of what we do. It comes down to two fundamental principles:
1) The Word of God is core and does not change. It is the heartbeat of what we do.
2) Everything else is up for grabs.

In other words, the message doesn’t change, but the method does. The medium does. The delivery system does. And when I wrapped my brain around this concept, it became easier to ride the wave of children’s ministry programming.

Are we there yet? Nope. I love the testimonies of children’s workers that talk about the dynamic worship, the spiritual depth, and the life-altering decisions during children’s church. I truly rejoice in that. But then I look at my 4th & 5th grade boys who sit with their arms crossed, refusing to participate, daring me to engage them. I think of the little girl in back who loudly complains, “This is boring” (a phrase which always feels like a body blow whenever I hear it). And I start to wonder, “maybe more bling, maybe more ‘wow’, maybe more pizzazz would turn this around.”

But then one of those boys approaches me afterwards and asks if I would pray for his grandmother who is dying. And three others profess their desire to let Jesus be Lord of all of their life. And when a mom asks the bored little girl what she liked best about the service, she says, “The songs and the video and Teacher Tim was silly.”

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t even own a video camera. Now we’re shooting and editing some of our own stuff. We still don't have a kids' praise band, but we do have kid-centered music dvd's which are miles ahead of trying to croon out an acapella chorus from the 70's. We won't be mistaken for being "cutting edge", but we're still pushing to be fun & innovative with enough bling and pizzazz to drive home the real reason we're there: the Gospel. The next fifteen years will be bright.

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