Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Accidental Children's Minister

Children’s Ministry is a vital part of EVERY church’s life, and I am so grateful for the members of Christian Challenge who serve God by working with our kids on a regular basis. As they will gladly tell you, it can be a very rewarding experience! It can be fun and exciting and uplifting… but it can also be frustrating.

Children’s Ministry is not easy. 

The work itself can be challenging. Children today are used to spending their time with screens. Take away that digital babysitter and they can get bored very easily. They don’t always want to listen to an adult. Or sit still. Or be quiet. Or participate in group activities. They are growing up in a culture that is increasingly less friendly towards people of faith. And then once or twice a week (if even that often), for a very short period of time, our Children’s Ministry workers have an opportunity to let these children know that God is real, that He loves them, and He wants to have a relationship with them.

Common misconceptions of what Children’s Ministry is can add to this difficulty. Some adults who might not have served in Children’s Ministry may see it as little more than free babysitting. Maybe they don’t even think it’s necessary because they grew up in a church where the children stayed with the adults in the main service. On the flip side, others may see it as a necessary but burdensome sacrifice that a few brave souls make so that the rest of the adults don’t have to deal with the distraction of children during the sermon. Some people don’t volunteer to work with kids because they don’t feel like they’re qualified or can relate to children. Others don’t volunteer because they feel like they’ll miss out on the “real” teaching in the adult services.

Children’s Ministry may not be your primary calling, and that’s OK! But even if you never set foot inside a kids’ church classroom (though I hope you do!), you need to understand that Children’s Ministry IS MINISTRY. It’s as much a ministry as what I do when I bring the sermon on Sunday morning. The Gospel is still the Gospel whether it’s taught using words that a 5-year-old can comprehend or preached in the most eloquent of terms. Children’s Ministry does provide a safe place for children, but it’s not a babysitting service. It does provide an alternative teaching experience geared towards younger minds, but its purpose is not to remove a potential distraction from the older minds in the sanctuary. The purpose of Children’s Ministry at Christian Challenge is the same as the purpose of Christian Challenge: We make disciples. The main difference is that the disciples we make in Children’s Ministry are a little bit shorter and a lot more energetic!

I never thought I would be involved in children’s ministry. To be honest, I had many of the misconceptions that I mentioned earlier. And children’s ministry seemed … well, boring! And slightly intimidating. Then I got invited to lead chapel at Grace Christian School on a regular basis. Because my children were going to Grace, we would get an extra discount if I led the chapel, so I accepted with some reservations. I had no idea that I would fall in love with leading worship and communicating essential truths of Christianity on a lower-elementary level. Although my children’ haven’t attended Grace in many years, I’m still there every week singing “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” and other fun songs, and attempting to share the Gospel in a way that Pre-Kers and their grandparents in attendance can connect with. What a rush!

Another thing that happened around the same time was we started making regular visits to the Benito Juarez Children’s Home in Reynosa, Mexico. I had visited there off and on previously but that same year something clicked and we started making multiple trips a year. And I fell in love with the children. Now they are family, and although the children we first started visiting in 2003 are mostly grown and gone, visiting the children’s home is a significant part of our regular ministry at Christian Challenge and something I personally get much pleasure out of.

I guess you could call me an ACCIDENTAL CHILDREN'S MINISTER! I didn’t intend to ever do Children’s Ministry - and now I find myself looking forward to the opportunities to call the children up on the platform at church during special services to do a “children’s sermon” or connecting with them as I share the Bible lessons at Vacation Bible School/Camp, or just MC our Fall Family Festival and other children’s activities. While I never thought of myself as a “children’s minister” per se, it has certainly become of the highlights of ministry - and the connection I get with the children is life-lasting.

I’m not the only one who’s had that “accidental children’s minister” experience. Jenni Baier, who organizes our Vacation Bible Camp and is the driving force behind our Fall Family Festival, never saw herself working with children either. She was afraid that she wouldn’t know how to relate to young kids and wouldn’t know what to even say to them. Then in 2009, she went with us to the Benito Juarez Children's Home and experienced Children’s Ministry in a whole new way. For the first time, she saw that you could minister to kids effectively even if you can’t speak their language very well. There was value in just being there and just loving on them. Jenni began to see Children’s Ministry as an opportunity to invest in children and their future and has been hooked ever since! Last year, she suggested that we try a new approach to VBS - a Vacation Bible CAMP with multiple activities such as dance, art, sports, etc. It wound up being a success, engaging children and volunteers on a whole new level.

And speaking of VBC, we’re about to start our second Vacation Bible Camp this weekend! It starts on Sunday and runs through Thursday evening. Would you consider being a part of it? You may not be able to be there in person as a volunteer, but everyone can support us in prayer or let a children’s worker know that you value their ministry to the kids. (If you’re a member of another church, I’m sure they’d love to have you be part of their summer children’s ministry as well!)

If you can come, VBC is an easy way to “get your feet wet” with Children’s Ministry. You don’t have to be Disciple’s Heart graduate to volunteer. You don’t have to make a long-term commitment. You don’t have to prepare a lesson. Just come alongside and serve with us - the “head coaches” (leaders of the various activities) will let you know what they need, and they’ll be so grateful for the help! Sit in with us during the teaching time. You might even learn a thing or two! And who knows, you might just be an accidental children’s minister too! ;)

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