I get emails —
I am on the search committee for a new children’s minister and in our brainstorming sessions, we have discussed what it might look like to have a more integrated ministry of our children from birth through high school and what it might look like to involve our families more instead of having them separated for Bible class time.
I’ve read your posts on youth ministry and really agree with you. I am wondering if you have any ideas on how we could hire ministers to help us with a different approach and what that approach would look like. I would appreciate any suggestions.
That’s an extraordinarily thoughtful question. Any paradigm shift in children’s and teen ministry requires ministers who are fully committed to the shift. Since the ideas I presented in this series run against the prevailing winds of the youth ministry culture, not many ministers are likely to show for an interview prepared to even consider the ideas.
What we’re talking about
For new readers, the idea is —
1. Every single outreach ministry, service project, and mission trip needs to be a congregation wide event. That’s the ideal. This means some programs get thrown out and some get added. It’ll take time.
2. The teen ministers and the ministers who work with adults, the elders, and the ministry leaders therefore have to meet and decide what they’ll do together. Neither side gets to dictate. They work together.
3. The teens work as full partners in the adult efforts — to the extent they can. They aren’t served. Rather, they serve alongside. They are co-servants or servant apprentices. The adults mentor by modeling the life of Jesus by serving others. The teens are served by learning how to serve alongside experienced, passionate servants.
4. If you have a college or single ministry, all the same principles apply. This is not about families according to the flesh. It’s about the church being a family.
5. I think teens should also participate in children’s ministry — as trainees and to see the passion of the adults for babies and young children. So should college students.
The classic example would be short-term mission trips. Rather than having a teen mission trip that’s all about getting the teens a great life experience, have an adult trip where the adults go because they’re passionate about the mission and the people they serve. And then invite the teens along to help.
This way, the teens see the passion in the adults, and they have a great life experience — but it’s an experience where they learn that adult Christians love the lost and take off precious vacation time and give their own money so they can serve the lost and hurting of the world. The teens will be much more likely to grow into mission-minded people if they see it in the adults.
If the only adults on the trip are the teen minister and chaperones, the teens will learn that teens go on mission trips and adults go just to serve the teens. It’s not as good of a lesson.
Just so, if the teens do the 40-Hour Famine program, to raise money for starving children, it works better if the adults — not just their parents — participate on a churchwide basis. This way, the kids learn both that starving children are worth sacrificing for and that adult Christians have learned that lesson, too, and live it.
The hiring process
So here’s what I’d do regarding hiring.
1. At least a week before each interview (more if possible), I’d send copies of or links to the posts and ask the candidate to read the material, pray about it, discuss it with mentors, and be prepared to discuss the material in the interview. You see, a culture shift requires some time to process. Many people need to discuss it to process it.
Even someone who might become the world’s biggest fan of the ideas might initially react negatively. Give the candidates time to mull the ideas.
2. But don’t hire someone who is only willing to give it a try. Any idea that cuts against the grain of church culture requires a huge commitment from the leadership. After all, there will be parents and children who disagree and get mad. There are always those who oppose change — any change.
Be sure the elders and preacher have bought in. I’d make sure they’d read the posts (or the ones that focus on what you most want to do) and make sure they’ve specifically given permission to go this direction. Again, you want more than mere acquiescence. You want them to stand with you when the high-donating parent pitches a fit. (And we elders hate surprises. Really, really, really. We can’t defend what we don’t understand.)