I have the need to be brief. It’s been a crazy week with some refugee high school boys having serious conflict with a Hispanic gang at two of the public high schools here in Phoenix. I’ve been interacting with the Phoenix Police, an apartment manager, some leaders from a Burmese Karen Christian church and others. The police are convinced a major retaliation will take place against one or more of the Burmese kids. AND, I have to fly out tomorrow morning to California for the birth of my grand daughter, the third child of my oldest daughter and our 5th grand child. Please keep the gang situation in prayer. It’s a bit dicey from a number of angles.
A conversation with a young pastor the other day made me realize that my solution for recruiting children’s ministry teachers/leaders is much more unorthodox than I realize. Here’s my personal history and why I APPROACH this subject so differently:
1. When I went on staff as the assistant pastor of my church in late 1985, I stepped into the responsibility of managing the children’s ministry. This meant that I had the job of setting up the schedule, selecting the curriculum, recruiting the teachers/leaders, evaluating those that volunteered, and then training them for service with the children.
2. Having been raised Catholic, the whole idea of a separate ministry for children during the church service was completely foreign to me until I attended a “born-again” church the first time. From that first service I attended until the day I became responsible for the children’s ministry of my church four and a half years later, there was one blurb that took up space in every bulletin every Sunday morning that whole time. It was the blurb that communicated the great need….no, the great OPPORTUNITY that existed in the children’s ministry for servants! Based on that week-in, week-out, year-in, year-out, perpetual blurb, it was obviously an aspect of the local church that not many people were actually interested in helping with. It was obvious to me in the various churches that I attended that there were way more than enough people sitting in the services to cover the amount of children that needed to be taught.
3. When Jesus grabbed my life, I surrendered to Him and joyfully sought to serve Him in any capacity He’d have for me and I was willing to meet whatever need He brought into my path. The more I understood His Word, looked at the examples of the lives of the people recorded in His Word, and heard other believers talk in awe about some great Christian from history, the common thread was their willingness to serve and the fact that they actually did serve.
4. Because of these things, I never understood why every church could never seem to find enough people to serve children. Even with the obvious need laid out so clearly each week, I found it strange that there was a constant famine of teachers/leaders in the area of children’s ministry. What really bugged me was the fact that I knew most of the people attending those services and if you asked any of them, they would all describe themselves as “servants” of the Lord Jesus Christ. So apparently, the Lord Jesus Christ didn’t really care about ministry to children or else He surely would order His servants to serve there and they would joyfully do so. Especially they all proclaimed themselves His servants, right?
5. Now that I was face to face with needing to find servants of Jesus that actually were willing to serve Jesus in a ministry that was was obviously close to His heart, I knew I had an uphill battle. How do you get people that claim to be servants of Jesus to actually serve Him by serving children? Obviously, sharing the need and waiting for them to respond–to volunteer, wasn’t working. In fact, my first few weeks in that role, I had a couple of people volunteer that it was obvious really weren’t cut out for children’s ministry for one reason or another. And I had to tell them that. And one of them asked me why we were always asking for volunteers and then when somebody does volunteer, they get rejected.
I knew something was radically wrong with this picture, and from a number of different angles.
6. After talking with 5 or 6 children’s ministry directors from other churches during my first few weeks in my new role, my thinking was provoked by one of the people I talked to. As I thought and prayed about this ongoing, apparently insatiable need, the Lord led me to view things from a different perspective and thus to make a change in how we were doing things in this area.
7. So, I changed my children’s ministry teacher/leader recruitment APPROACH. I figured since all of these people claimed to be servants of Jesus, I would observe which ones came early to the service and then stood around talking after the service. I especially zeroed in on those who had their own kids, but I also began observing those who would be talking and when other people’s kids came near by, began interacting with them and so forth….and did so joyfully.
8. Then I stopped putting a blurb in the bulletin, and started APPROACHING those that I’d been observing. I would tell them that I’ve seen their faithfulness in attending the church, their willingness to be early and not just head for the parking lot when the service was over. I told them that I’ve seen them interact with their own kids or other people’s kids, and that I thought they might have a gift with children that God could use. I told them of the needs in our children’s ministry and since they were obviously a servant of the Lord Jesus, that I would appreciate it if they would begin praying about serving Jesus by serving in the children’s ministry of our church–which always has a great need. I gave them a brief overview of it would require of them to take this step and then I told them I’d get back with them in two weeks to see what God had shown them.
9. The response to this APPROACH was amazing. Literally 80 percent of those I APPROACHED responded positively and went through the process necessary to become a part of the children’s ministy, (application, interview, training, etc.) I asked them for a 6 month commitment and told them we would see how they felt about things at the end of that time. I also changed the schedule so that it was a 3 weeks on and one week off, or a one week on and 3 weeks off commitment for a 6 month period. Many of them chose to start by being the once a month person, but quite a few chose the 3 weeks on commitment.
10. In the churches I’ve senior pastored since then, our bulletin has been children’s ministry blurb-less.
So, my APPROACH to finding children’s ministry teachers/leaders is to basically APPROACH self-proclaimed servants of Jesus personally and see if they actually mean what they say.