How far are you willing to go?

June 23, 2008

As Last week I read Luke15.

The Lost Sheep is about a sheep that wandered off and got lost. When the shepherd counted the sheep and noticed one missing, he left all the others to look for it. The shepherd would have done anything to find that animal. When he finds it, he throws a party!

Then there’s the coin. A woman had 10 silver coins, but lost one. She searches her entire house by tidying every thing. She lights a lamp so she can see, even in dark corners. She finds the coin and throws a party!

Next, a father is sad because his son has left. He’s taken his inheritance with him, not planning on coming home. Every day the father looks over the horizon, searching for a hit of hope that his son might return. One day, to his delight, he sees him in the distance. The father doesn’t care what the son has done wrong, he is so excited to see him. The father runs to meet him, and throws him a party!

In all three of these stories there are some themes that show us what the Shepherd is like.

  1. He is sad when we are “lost”
  2. He is willing to do whatever it takes
  3. He throws a big party whenever someone is “found”!

As I read these stories I thought of some of the kids I’ve encountered as a relief teacher. I recently met a 7 year old girl, tough as they come, who has somehow learnt to make herself throw up. A 7 year old! I also met a 5 year old boy who shows no sense of physical boundries. He has no probalm touching other kids in inappropriate places. The only way a 5 year old kids could think that that’s OK is if someone is doing that to him. These are kids that will never make it to our amazing Sunday morning programs, but they so desperately need to know the love of Jesus. He loves them so much more then we could ever imagine. His desire is that they know Him, no matter what crap they go through in their life. What a party it will be when those kids are found by Jesus.

The question that the Holy Spirit asked me as I read this was, “How far are you willing to go?” Good question! Am I willing to do whatever it takes search for these kids? It may take spending less money on the technology we want for our Sunday programs and putting it into outreach. It may take giving up a lunchtime every week to hang out in a school playground (with permission for the school of course!). It may mean spending money in an area that we can guarantee we won’t see a financial return in. It may even be more then that.

I would love to hear your thoughts about reaching kids that we will never see on a Sunday morning!

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Response to “So you want to be a children’s pastor?”

June 10, 2008

A friend of mine pointed to a post on samluce.wordpress.com that asks some questions about kids ministry… why is it so how hard to get fantastic children’s pastors? Why is kids ministry playing catch up on youth? Why do kids pastors seem to want to be youth pastors? This is an area that I am very passionate about so I would love to share some of my thoughts about it, but before you read this I encourage you to have a look at samluce.wordpress.com.

My Story

I grew up in a Christian family, going to church. It had a fantastic youth group, probably the best in my town for a number of years. When I made a decision to follow Jesus for myself at about 7 or 8, I remember being filled with joy and excitement as the Holy Spirit began to work in my life. As I continued to grow up I had a growing passion for the things of God, particularly the Holy Spirits work in our lives. Did I see that excitement and passion in Sunday School? Nope! Did I see it at Youth Group? Absolutely! Youth Group is where the action happened. It’s where I saw God turn up. It’s where lives were changed as many discovered the saving grace of God, and I wanted to be in the middle of the action!

I’ve always had a passion for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so they can have the supernatural power that the Bible promises us to share the good news in a lost world and show them what Jesus is like. I guess I figured that desire would be fulfilled in youth ministry. Besides, kids ministry is for Nanas and the pastors wife isn’t it?

God has bought me on a journey (maybe I’ll leave that one for another post!). Here are some thing’s I’ve learnt along the way.

Understanding the times

Here is an obscure verse from 1 Chronicles 12:32 for ya…

“the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do…”

I believe that God also helps the church to understand the times and know what they should do. Over the last 20 or so years youth ministry has been the big thing in many churches. They support it by employing youth pastors, giving a huge chunk of finances to it and giving it “air time” in Sunday services. When you think about vision and direction, it’s hard not to think about youth ministry. Meanwhile, kids ministry has been quietly plodding away in the background…

I believe the reason that youth group has been such a big thing is because God has been drawing our attention to what’s going on in youth culture. In fact “youth culture” wasn’t even a thing until relatively recently. The church has understood the times and known what they should do… it’s not ok to just sit around the campfire and sing kom-by-ya anymore! (Hat tip to Luke Harris)

And now… have a look at the times… kids are bombarded with media, worldly thinking, materialism, and sexuality like never before. There are many who understand the times and know what the church should do… it’s not ok to just do Sunday School anymore!

Vision is “cool”

Shallow isn’t it, that we want to be “cool”. Maybe you don’t but I know that I often do… and I know that a lot of my leaders do also. Those who don’t want to be kids leaders also want to be cool! There has been a perception that kids ministry is only for Nana’s and the pastors wife and it’s totally missing the cool factor. Here is what I think is happening behind this shallow idea…

Purpose happens when vision is shared and outworked. Community happens when a group of people work together for a purpose. Belonging happens in community. People want to be in community, it’s a God given thing.

This exact process has happened in youth ministry. It’s happening now in our church with kids ministry. We have an unreal number of people wanting to do kids ministry at the moment. 5 years ago we were struggling to get the help we need to even safely supervise children, now we have too many! That’s because we have vision for our kids ministry. Community and friendships are being formed in our team as we work towards that vision. Outsiders look in and say…”Hey, that looks awesome! Count me in!”

What it takes

I don’t know what all churches look for in kids pastors. Perhaps many haven’t yet seen and understood what’s going on in our time and know what we need to do in response. If that is the case I imagine that being a kids pastor would be an uphill struggle. Here is what I want to be as a kids pastor…

  • Kingdom builder, not a department builder. We’re building the House of God, not the house next door. Everything we do as a kids ministry is to build the house, not to promote ourselves as a kids ministry.
  • Not competing with the Youth Ministry. It is time for kids ministry to step up and take it’s rightful place in the church, not to become the next big thing.
  • Come under the leadership of our local church. The biblical pattern of authority gives us protection and covering. If kids pastors aren’t fully 100% behind their senior leader then it’s a dangerous place to be. It doesn’t mean we don’t make our case heard and roll over when ever we’re told, but a matter of where our heart is. A lot of youth leaders have come into trouble here in the past, let’s learn from that.
  • Have vision that reflects that of our local church. As I said before, we are Building the House of God, not the house next door. What is most important to your church? Those things should be most important to the kids ministry also.
  • Be passionate about making disciples, not just good little church goers. I’m personally passionate about teaching kids really well. I want them to have a solid foundation of biblical stuff, so that they don’t have to un-learn misunderstood ideas when they get older. That means being incredibly intentional and relevant with the language we use.
  • Seek God week to week for revelation… What does He want to do this week? What are the needs of the kids, what are the words we can say that will open hearts to Him? It has to be fresh. Regardless of whether we use a curriculum out of a box or make up our own material, we need to continually seek God on behalf of our kids. Thats what our pastor does for adults church isn’t it?