Raising the Bar for Ministry with Children

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Why Your Children’s Ministry Leader Needs More Education and Training.

As both a professor and ministry coach, pastors and search committees often ask me, “How much education is really necessary for a children’s ministry pastor or director?” On the surface, that can be an easy query to answer by asking a few questions: Is the position full-time or part-time? What are the responsibilities? Does this position require the person to administer the sacraments, (such as baptism), which might require ordination? But the question can also be a complicated one, because behind it is an attitude of value toward ministry with children.

A few months ago, Ed Stetzer tweeted a question asking if church leaders should pursue a PhD. A colleague of mine at Wheaton College, Dan Trier, wrote an eloquent response regarding the importance and joy of further biblical and theological studies. But let’s be honest—it’s rare that people ask that question in reference to children’s ministry leaders.

In every discussion I have had, churches affirm that ministry with children is important and valued. Why else would the church pursue hiring someone to lead the ministry? But often, leadership in children’s ministry isn’t viewed the same way as leadership in other ministries. Children’s ministry leaders are hired for their administrative skills: ministry organization, volunteer recruitment, curriculum and supply ordering.

These needs are real, but, as I pointed out in a recent journal article that surveyed the past 40 years of trends in children’s ministry, we’ve assigned “backseat” status to children and their spiritual development in the church. While churches say they affirm ministry with children, they are more likely to be ambivalent about …

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