But there are times when church leadership does indeed regard children's ministry as an "outside" work. It's not necessarily deliberate, but there is a sheer lack of knowledge and understanding about what goes on in "the other part of the church." Sometimes, a disgruntled parent comes in with a complaint and the pastor or board, assuming the gripe is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, deal harshly with the kidmin leader. Or maybe there is just a general lack of response, a benign nod of the head and smile as the children's pastor tells the head elder about how the kids really liked the puppet presentation and slime craft last week.
The following are five suggestions for senior pastors and/or ruling boards on how to support your children's pastor. Maybe we could even call it, "How to Turn Your Children's Pastor Into a Raving Fan."
- Learn what is going on in your children's department. What are the programs, curriculum, songs, and so on. Who are the volunteers? How is the program structured. If you are a senior pastor, maybe you can get a speaker for a Sunday in order for you to "hang out" with the kids to watch, observe, and take notes (you may even be pressed into service!)
- Find out why these things are done. It's not enough to merely observe the elements of children's church or Sunday School, the wise leader will find out why these elements are the way they are. One of the biggest gaps adults have in understanding children's ministry is the fact that children's ministry is framed in the culture of kids. It does no good to criticize bright colors, silly song motions, and goofy puppets by adult standards. So it is important to ask why the music is the way it is, why do we arrange classes in that fashion, why do we put the teaching in that spot in the service, and so on.
- Help the children's leadership in meeting the vision of the church. Submitting to the church's mission and vision is practically part of Children's Ministry Leadership 101, yet in some churches, pastors and church boards are not always forthcoming in helping the kidmin in lining up. Take your children's pastor out to lunch, listen to how he feels about the church and its ministry, and offer to help him blend his vision into yours. You might be surprised at how close the two ministries really are.
- Be honest, but kind in evaluations. Legitimate problems need to be addressed in a clear, but gentle way. But while praise is always a good thing, heaping on generalities like "Good job," or "Way to go," while ignoring matters that need to be addressed, end up causing more harm than good. When the problems do come out, the children's ministry leader will feel blindsided. If you are building a relationship with the kidmin leader (as suggested above), sharing a challenge or difficulty will be much easier.
- Be generously flexible in dealing with difficulties. There are some situations in which the pastor and/or church leadership should swiftly and decisively remove someone from children's ministry leadership: clear immorality, blatant disloyalty to the church, doctrinal deviation, and, of course, harming a child. Most anything less can be worked out amicably. "We don't like the logo on that particular curriculum, so you're fired!" is unnecessarily harsh. On the other hand, saying, "There are some people who are uncomfortable with that logo. What made you decide to do it this way? Is there a way it can be modified to soften the objectionable parts?" preserves the relationship and strengthens the ministry...and the minister.
What advice have you offered to your senior pastor or board?