It’s back to school time, and for most of us in kid’s and family ministries, that means it is the #1 time of the year for recruitment- the kick off of our fall programs! And a big part of that recruitment pitch, as we welcome back all of those kids, typically includes asking every parent and/or grandparent to sign up to “take a turn” in one of our classrooms. We usually repeat something like, “Parent’s are the perfect ones to be in there with the kids!” And while I do understand the reasoning behind that line of thinking, I want to take this moment, right here at the kickoff of the new season of our ministry year to highlight and give a shout out to, those unsung heroes of kid’s ministry-
Our NON parent leaders. We appreciate and love you for all you do for Jesus and His kids. You are NOT a second class kid’s ministry leader. You are NOT a second choice because we couldn’t find a parent to take the class. Your calling is not a LESSER calling to work with children. You are not different or “wrong” for wanting to minister to other people’s kids. I have not seen a kid’s ministry yet that could run at all without a core group of dedicated kid’s ministers who were called to those kids, usually without children of their own!
Full disclosure, I started my first paid staff children’s pastorate 17 years ago, long before I had children of my own. I was a baby faced Bible college student with a passion to reach kids for Jesus. But I cannot tell you how many times a parent would tell me, “How would YOU know; YOU don’t have kids!” And it took a long time for me to EARN respect and to win the trust of parents, even as a children’s pastor who was not a parent. But I can tell you that it IS possible to partner with parents and earn their trust if you show humility, respect, passion of your calling and a willingness to learn, which opens doors and hearts. And the children’s ministry grew and thrived, with a childless pastor and several parents partnering for the kids…
Years later, when I finally had my first child, I was so sure that being a children’s pastor for so long would automatically give me a leg up on parenting. WRONG- Parenting hit me like running into a brick wall at 70 miles an hour. Sleep deprivation, no pat answers, fatigue…I love being a parent, but this was a WHOLE different world! I became more thankful than EVER for our non-parent kid’s ministers who poured into my kids.
So, two children and seventeen full-time staff years later, here are some of my top reasons that non-parent Kid’s Ministry leaders can be so effective:
1. They are another voice in a child’s life, besides the parents’ voices, that can point them to Christ. Many studies have proven that a child needs several adults in their life saying the same positive things. These adults are affirming what the parents have been saying to their kids all their lives.
2. Usually non-parents work with kids because they WANT to be there, not because they were guilted to be in your program. Hopefully they are in your kid’s ministry because they are passionately called and excited to minister to kids! They are not there because they were forced to be there to fill a spot. This means that they will be less likely to drop out due to leader transitions or curriculum changes or new facilities. They are there for the kids.
3. Non-parents are more likely to be there for ALL of the kids. By this, I mean, they are not there to just watch their OWN kids. I have had parents sign up to teach a class, counsel at camp, or coach a ministry team and tell me later, “Well, I had to make sure my child did not have a major spiritual experience without me” or “I did not want my child to be exposed to something I don’t approve of, so I taught the class” or “I wanted to make sure my child was having a great first ministry experience.” I understand this feeling as a parent. But I HAVE found that my NON parent leaders and teachers are more likely to focus on ALL of the children who are present; to make sure that every child there is having an amazing experience.
4. I NEED my non-parent leaders to make the tough calls for Christmas production lead roles and summer outreach lead roles. This is because if a parent is allowed to help me in any way with the decision making, the other parents DO complain “they are favoriting their own child.” It leads to hurt feelings. I find it solves so many problems to let the non-parent leaders decide things that would compromise partiality.
5. My parents have to deal with sports activities, music events, plays etc. Sometimes, I lose whole groups of parents to a major school event. These parents are all extremely busy with kid’s events; many times the same ones. But my non-parent leaders are faithful and are there no matter what!
6. Sometimes parents need a break. I know we get sick of hearing this as an excuse but…sometimes it is just true. Sometimes parents DO need a break. We had a mom and dad with 5 kids, 4 of whom had special needs. These poor parents spent most of their week at the hospital every single week. It was a miracle of God that they just made it in the door for second service! And when our non parent volunteer ministers would take over and just minister the love of Jesus for an hour in kid’s church, many times, the mother would just stand in the foyer area and watch the adult service and cry with relief. I know parents SHOULD work in our ministries but some of them CANNOT. And some of them SHOULDN’T. They are not ready yet. And our non parent ministers are called of God to do a ministry that is second to NONE.
7. Most kids want to be and continually emulate teenagers. You should be actively and strategically using students in your kid’s ministry. These teens can be heroes and role models of what it means to really love Jesus and use your talents and gifts for Him! Don’t just “let” them lead; show them how. Then give them the opportunities to lead.
8. More and more of these kids are coming into our churches from broken homes or from homes in crisis. These children are starved for love; desperate for someone to care. A non-parent is fully capable of loving that child, noticing when they are not there, p0uring into their lives and at times filling a gaping hole of need in that child’s life that someone who already has several children at home MAY not have time to work on.
9. Non-parent leaders are obeying God’s mandate in Scripture. In the Old Testament, God charged His people (Deuteronomy) to make sure that the next generation knew Him, and knew all about His mighty actions. Judges tells us all about the disaster that occurred for God’s people when they ignored His warning and did not train the next generation all about the Lord and what He had done. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes (moral ambiguity) which led to chaos, war, desolation, punishment and war. The Scripture mandates to reach the next generation with His message are NOT just to the parents- it is to the WHOLE congregation! NO ONE is off the hook! No one gets to say, “Well I just don’t like kids” or “Well I’m not a parent” or “I did my time way back when” (like it’s prison) or “it’s someone else’s turn” etc. It is always the job of the entire congregation to make sure that the next generation knows God and all of His Words and what He has done. We are ALL responsible to make that happen. We can all pray or give, even if we aren’t teaching or acting etc. Non-parent leaders are accepting the call and obeying God’s mandate, having the heart of God Himself to reach this next generation!
To all non-parent children’s ministry leaders- may I say from this children’s pastors/parent’s heart: THANK YOU for all you do. Thank you for loving and pouring into these kids. Thank you for all that you do that only Jesus sees. Thank you for what you do that people do not appreciate or thank you for. And thank you for serving kids and families with your giftings as a calling- not out of coercion. Thank you for serving and welcoming kids just as Jesus did! I wanna welcome YOU and forbid YOU not. God bless your ministry to kids this year and may you never feel as if your calling is second best. Go get em for Jesus. Love Trisha