When I started teaching in children’s ministry, I had many presumptions. Having volunteered in children’s ministry before, I thought I knew all that I needed to know about kids to have a “license” to work with them. Couple that with the fact I didn’t yet have kids of my own, and you can see why I was cruising for a bruising…of my pride that is. After my first week, it was apparent that there were many things I had yet to learn, and I’ll be the first to say that I am still learning daily. Here are some of those things I wish I knew before beginning:

1. Children can learn much more than we give them credit.

As parents and children’s ministry leaders, I believe that many times we underestimate the learning capacity of children. If we aren’t careful we will find ourselves leading them through shallow waters for the twelve years we have them, and never allowing them to experience the depth of God’s Word. When we take kids deeper we enable them to be drawn closer to God and root their faith in firm soil that will help it stand the test of time.

2. Parents are children’s primary spiritual influencers, not us.

If you’ve been in children’s ministry for very long at all, chances are high that you have heard this fact. Not only is it a fact, it’s biblical. When I started in children’s ministry, I thought that I was supposed to be children’s main source of spiritual guidance. I soon learned that if it were left up to me, their spiritual guidance would fall short…big time, not only because I didn’t know everything, but also because I only had very few hours in the week with children while their parents had hundreds.

3. What children learn on Sundays is important, but what they learn during the week is just as important, if not more.

My previous point leads to this one. Because we are not children’s primary spiritual influencers, it would make sense that the time they spend with us, while important, isn’t the MOST important. Parents have FAR more influence over their children than we do. Their friends have FAR more influence than us. Media also has a greater influence than us. I wish I had known that. If I had, I may have spent more time helping parents lead their children throughout the week than I did preparing for our Sunday morning programming.

4. While there are certain things children MUST know, understand, and believe in order to become a Christian, they don’t have to know EVERYTHING about God.

There is nothing more awesome in children’s ministry than seeing a child come to Christ. I, being someone who is inclined toward facts and analytics, tend to place a heavy emphasis on knowledge. In the early stages of my children’s ministry, I wanted to make sure children knew a considerable amount about God before I felt comfortable with them making a decision to follow Jesus. In hind site, I was probably being too overbearing. While children MUST know, understand, and believe certain things to become Christians (i.e. they are sinners who deserve punishment, Jesus never sinned but died on the cross to pay their punishment, Jesus came back to life, and if they repent of their sins and trust Jesus they can be forgiven and have a relationship with God), they don’t need to totally understand everything about God. If that was the requirement, would anyone be saved?

5. Children are not going to be perfect angels, no matter how good we are at teaching. However, we will still love them and find great joy in the privilege to lead them each week.

Walking in to teach my first children’s church service, I had in my mind how things would go– the kids were going to come in and sit in their seats, stay quiet while I taught, sing beautifully in worship to God, and bow their heads in humility and reverence when we prayed. The kids, on the other hand, had in their minds how things were actually going to go. Their actions weren’t terrible by any means, however they didn’t turn out to be the “perfect angels” I had envisioned. Looking back, I realize that kids are going to be kids and that’s totally okay. God loves kids the way they are, and we should too. Kids should be taught to obey, but even when days don’t go exactly as we plan, we will still love them and be totally happy serving God while serving them.

Looking for some great resources for new children’s ministers? Take a look at these books:

Have you learned some valuable lessons, since you began in children’s ministry? Share one below in the comment section!

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GJ Farmer is a husband, a dad, the founder of ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, and is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky. He has completed a Bachelor’s degree in Church Ministries and a Master’s degree in Children’s Ministry. He has also been fortunate to lead and teach groups at children’s ministry conferences and to have had some of his writing published. Apart from working with kids, he enjoys reading, performing magic tricks, playing video games, and University of Kentucky basketball.