by Karen Taylor
I love my office and ministry as Children Ministries leader, and I love the children I serve dearly, but there are a few things that can drive even a Children Ministry Leader crazy and I’ve compiled seven of the top ones I know here.
First, credits and disclaimers: All credit to the many children’s ministry workers who shared and contributed to this post! What you read here are not intended to point fingers at my own or any particular congregation/church. In fact I have not mentioned any names in this post.
I have read and spoken to and heard of many children ministry leaders who have expressed these things as a common part of their ministry experience despite where they serve, big or small church, from the Caribbean, third world or a first world region or worship on Saturdays or Sundays. But yes, a number of these are close to my own own experiences as a Children Ministries leader. The interesting thing is that you’ll find that many of these issues are decades, even centuries old.
If you are a new Children Ministry leader, and you find yourself asking, “Do other leaders have these things to deal with?” this post is written just for you.
1. No money, no supplies. I really get frustrated when I want to do activities with my class, but am given no money or supplies to facilitate this. So I turn up for class with a beautiful lesson plan and there are no colouring pages because the church doesn’t have a copy machine or ink in the printer; I can’t get a bulletin board or desks, no construction paper, no crayons and pencils. When you work in a church that does not see it fit or just can’t afford to purchase and make children ministry supplies available, you either have to beg church folks with the resources to help out, dig deep in your pocket, get resourceful, or do without. When this becomes a recurring scenario, it can start to put a drain on your personal finances, and for the newbie minister, test your willingness to take up office again. What can really drive you crazy is when you constantly hear, “we don’t have any money.” It makes you wonder whether we are practising proper stewardship as a church organisation.
2. Church building Committee won’t let you refurbish. Many children ministry leaders have to push to have their voices heard and their ministry recognised because in some churches children ministry falls at the bottom of the Church Plan. One of the frustrations of leaders is getting support to refurbish their Children’s Department rooms. The excuse often given, depending on the size of your church, may be that money is scarce and children rooms are not a priority now. Your arguments that you have volunteers or that you’ll raise your own money to paint can fall on the deaf ears of the Building Committee and the Church Board. People will be ‘uhming’ and ‘ahming’ about your beautifully written, strategic 10-point action proposal, still insisting that they will get around to it after they’ve finished the main building which they have been sitting on and doing nothing about for the last 10 years.
Did they not hear that things can be done concurrently? And why can’t the Children’s Department raise its own funds so we can throw a dab of paint on the dull walls to stimulate our children? What harm can it do to the building agenda if I take up the offer of one of our daddies who is a painter to paint my classrooms for free? If anything it would save the church a hefty sum if someone else were to do it.
Stone walls, literally and figuratively can cause a Children Ministry leader to breathe deep and count to 11.
3. Children Elders acting as figureheads. What purpose do Children Elders serve? Can someone tell me? I honestly need to be educated on that one. I, for one believe that children elders are not really necessary, but if they are going to be around, they should provide spiritual direction and team building to the team and help in the ministry. It drives me crazy when Children Elders are asked to take on a ministry responsibility and they say “‘no,’ use up the other members of the team’.
But I’m using up the other folks, Elder. I need you to help me with this project, to be there on our mission trips, to donate something to VBS, to call up support from delinquent team members, hold the fort when I or my assistant can’t be available, advocate for the ministry and champion my causes at Board level. Be active in live and living colour. Don’t just be a figurehead. Or worse, try to do what the children ministry leader/coordinator was already elected to do. Don’t be a figurehead. Refresh your knowledge by reading the task description of the office in the church manual and become an effective department elder.
4. Late curriculum or no communication about lateness of delivery. Since the year started, I have been lucky in my church to get the study guides we use in our Children Division Sabbath school classes delivered on time, that is, on the thirteenth Sabbath when they are traditionally delivered in my church.
But when the Conference is late with the supplies, or they are not picked up by the church messenger or are picked up a week late, or the order when it arrives, is copies short or you find that none were purchased for a whole class, and then you hear there was not enough money to purchase, but the secretary had forgotten to mention this to you when you could maybe have done something about it . . . these can be hair-tearing moments for a Children Ministry leader.
5. Frequently late or absent teachers. We are all guilty of being late or absent from class if you have been a Sabbath School teacher. But teachers who make a habit of this, and do not take the necessary steps to put contingency plans in place for a class or inform you, the leader of the precipitating reason beforehand can send your blood pressure to the sky when you get to church and find parents scowling at you.
Absenteeism and punctuality issues must be dealt with. Hold your teachers accountable. In the Seventh day Adventist (SDA) church, the Division leaders are responsible for this, but the Children Ministries Leader can also be asked to take up this role. But the Board must inform you of this from the outset.
It can be irksome to have Division Leaders do nothing to address these matters and then fingers are pointed at the children ministry leader as the one responsible, just because you were consulted to select teachers for Children classes at the start of the year.
When were you told you could overstep the role of the Division leader? At the end of the year when things get to a head? So you want to keep yourself sane by ensuring that if you are asked to select class teacher that you find out if you are manage them as well
Once you know, make sure you are meeting with teachers regularly so they can voice concerns and make schedules that will give them time away if they need it. Rotating your teacher using a roster that you all sit and plan together will also prevent burn-out which is a contributing factor for absenteeism and lateness.
If teachers are still leaving your children stranded after all your best effort, you might want to consider recommending to the Sabbath School Superintendent that new volunteers be recruited, but this should be the last resort.
6. Assistant leaders with agendas. Leadership squabbles have always been with us and will always be with us. It happened even among the disciples. My personal leadership strategy/philosophy is to give all my assistant leaders a chance to shine. I also push collaboration.
But every now and then, an assistant gets it into his or her head that they can do the job better, and they take steps to undermine your influence among the team. To these, you need to advise: start counting down the months until church elections. When we get to October, I will be the first to nominate you, first you, second and third you into the leadership post if you wish. But for now, just keep your eyes on the ministry and not on your personal ambitions. However, make sure you say it as tactfully as possible. No sarcasm!
7. Parents and Children Ministry team members who do not support Children ministry. We have some wonderful parents and grandparents who support the ministry’s efforts to groom their children for the Kingdom. Then there are those parents who never find the time to study with their children or send them on time for Sabbath School, coach them for Thirteen Sabbath memory verse recital, Children’ Sabbath, play or practice any of the scripts you may send home with their children.
They will not send their children to rehearsals but want their children involved on event day. You never see these parents or team members on a collection drive or fundraising movie night, neither do they send their children. You can’t get a dollar out of them towards a mission project. Despite you asking, they sometimes won’t encourage their reluctant teen, for example, to participate in ministry events, or even attend the same.
They may attend a parents’ meeting and you ask them, what events would you like to see happen, and they keep their mouth shut, only to open them later and criticise that nothing is happening.
They are just missing in plain sight, totally unaware of the role model they are presenting to their children, and the non-Christlike character/values they should not be teaching them.
As for the delinquent members of the Children Ministries Council who are often uncooperative and unwilling to collaborate or blend their ministry with yours, these are who’ll make you go Arggh and pray for patience.
ALERT: You should know that speaking to some of these difficult persons may be akin to committing ministry suicide, for you can rest assured many have connections. Make them angry? They’ll probably overthrow you at the next church elections, But speak out and be brave any way dear Leader. They did it to Jesus too. Get your house in order and lead any way. Just do it in christian love. For God is a God of order and not of chaos. We must attend to His work with nothing less that total dedication and stewardship. And lest we all forget, He is Sovereign.
To those passing by this post and subsequent comments, (including parents and other ministry workers) please don’t doubt our commitment to your kids. We love them—and we love you! Still, it won’t hurt our feelings if you feel compelled to Share, Like or Pin these articles. You know, just to get the word out.
Are you Children Ministries Leader? Which of the seven issues raised here can you identify with? Join the discussion. Leave a comment in the box below.