the shape of leadership

Ten Things Kids’ Pastors Want Lead Pastors to Know

Understanding the needs and frustrations of children’s ministers

John Hailes on December 11, 2018

A lot of my friends work in children’s ministry. And I’ve talked with a number of lead pastors who were looking for a children’s pastor because the previous one either quit or was fired. I’m learning that the relationship between children’s pastor and lead pastor can quickly become strained.

Many incredibly capable children’s leaders become frustrated with their lead pastors because their expectations and assumptions are out of alignment. It’s often difficult for children’s pastors, many of whom are volunteers, to challenge their lead pastors about these misunderstandings.

I recently asked some of my children’s ministry friends what they wish their lead pastors knew. Here are 10 common sentiments:

1. We want the children’s ministry to replicate the vision of the church. I’ve never met a children’s leader who wanted to be out of step with the church’s vision. We want to work with you to grow the Kingdom. The more you can clarify the church’s values and vision to us, the more we can develop them in our ministry.

2. We care about your opinion. While we don’t appreciate micromanagement, we do want to hear from you. We welcome your input and value your insight. You see things from a different angle, and your perspective is unique. Please communicate your opinion clearly, early and often.

3. Children’s ministry is more than babysitting. Children’s ministry is about changing children’s lives. It’s not just about providing childcare so the parents can attend services — although that is a benefit. It means a lot when you recognize and acknowledge the spiritual aspect of what we do.

4. We want your respect. Children’s pastors often feel overlooked, undervalued and frustrated. Many say other church leaders don’t seem to take their opinions seriously. Yet children’s pastors shoulder a big responsibility. They often oversee more volunteers and prepare and carry out more services or programs than any other church ministry.

It means a lot when you recognize and acknowledge the spiritual aspect of what we do.

5. Not every event in the church requires childcare. We aren’t against providing childcare for events, but we also see the value in having families serve and worship together at times. It’s important for children to see their parents worship and practice their faith in church. At my previous church, I used to love seeing a number of children participate in our weekly adult prayer meetings.

6. Children need Jesus, too. Children face real problems, and they desperately need Jesus. The breakdown of the family affects kids deeply. And each generation faces new and unique challenges as they grow up in a changing world. Only the ministry of the Holy Spirit can heal their brokenness and draw children to life-giving relationships with Christ. Please pray with us for a genuine move of God among our kids.

7. What we teach our kids is important. I once worked for a lead pastor who came into my office, took the phone out of my hand, and told the person on the line that although I didn’t yet know it, I was about to change my children’s curriculum. He was serious, and he seemed a little offended when I pushed back against the idea. The resources we use as children’s leaders matter, and we have a pretty good idea of what works in our context. While we are open to suggestions, we hope you will value our opinions, too.

8. Changes in the church affect the children as well. It can be frustrating working in a church where the needs of children are not really understood or considered. While children shouldn’t dictate the church calendar or activities, it is worth considering how significant changes might affect them.

9. We want more adult ministry opportunities. A lot of children’s ministry leaders want opportunities to minister to adults also. When someone begins working with children, they can become pigeonholed in that area. However, some children’s pastors and kids’ ministry workers may also have gifts in other areas. Besides, ministering to adults can help us in our roles as we work with parents. As a young children’s pastor, I find that any time I speak in the adult services, it helps buy me credibility with the parents of the church and the volunteers in my ministry.

10. We are not necessarily looking to leave. There is such a shortage of children’s ministry leaders that lead pastors may hold onto the good ones with an ironclad grip. I’ve seen lead pastors turn down opportunities for their children’s pastors because they were worried that another church might poach them. Chances are, your children’s pastor is serving your church because he or she wants to be there. Children’s pastors who have the freedom to flourish in their calling, both inside and outside the church, are more likely to stay where they are.


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