I spent 3 years as a Student and Children’s Pastor. It was such a fulfilling time of growth and discovery, and that was just the beginning. I was called into ministry as a teenager, a product of the average lifespan of youth pastors. I had 5 youth pastors in my middle and high school years and I think that really inspired me to be the kind of youth pastor that stuck around.
The problem was, I wasn’t fulfilled in either ministry, because they were both full time endeavors and I couldn’t fully devote the time that they needed individually. So, I did what everyone does and I tried really hard anyway.
Then, God showed me my failure in both areas. I felt like I had missed out on something extraordinary and I was ready for a change. I became the statistic I was trying to avoid, and left student ministry for kidmin (totally a story for another time). Through that transition, I was able to learn some really great truths about both.
Great youth ministries are the product of forward thinking children’s ministries. I started to see the results of really teaching kids the truth we wanted them to know BEFORE they arrived through the doors of the youth ministry. In the same way we want algebra students to have a basic grasp of math, we want our kids to know the basic concepts of Christianity before we can make practical application in student ministries. So I discovered that great youth programs are the product of forward thinking children’s programs. If our babies are prayed, our preschoolers loved on, and our elementary kids taught the gospel, our students would look radically different. It’s not a new concept, I know. But some student and kids ministries are an afterthought. The space, the curriculum, the environment, the volunteers, and even events can be trivialized and undervalued as “real” ministry. I think this happen more often with kids ministry.
We have to make family ministry a priority in order to prepare our students. Our families are vital. We must capitalize on the time they spend together and teach parents how to be intentional with the truth of the gospel. If we begin implementing strategies to teach parents how to talk with their kids about spiritual things as well as relational topics, we will open up lines of communication that will make teenager years a little easier to navigate (not to be misled, it will still be hard). We can constantly keep our parents in the loop on what we are teaching in order to make those conversations happen, and give the parents resources to learn more about their kids. The truth is, we will not be at our kids (or students) wedding, at their college graduation, or at their kid’s birth. We want to teach our families with the end in mind, so that the principles we teach from the bible will long outlast our physical influence.
Family ministries have to work together for a greater impact. For truly amazing results, we must have similar goals in both student and kid’s ministry. I think everyone knows that your series and teaching are going to differ greatly, but the direction should not differ. We must capitalize on the time we have with our audience, and focus on the big things we want our kids to know. We can’t teach them the entire bible, so we have to work together to lay a foundation for the future.
If we are intentional in building relationships and focused teaching we can build trust and foster spiritual maturity at a young age. This maturity will carry over and build a strong leadership core in students. So, a strong children’s ministry can exponentially improve a church. It takes time. So we have to be vigilant in guarding our time and using it effectively as well as cooperating and tearing down ministry siloes that divide purpose. I believe the future leaders of the church are already leading, we need to give them focus and direction and they will lead long after we are gone.
Jordan Ledwell is currently serving as a Kid’s Pastor at Freedom Church in Acworth, GA. He likes to watch Doctor Who and read comics on his iPad, and slay the occasional dragon. Follow Jordan on twitter @Jordan_Ledwell.