I love going to conferences for children, youth, and family ministry. Mostly because I love the energy around this particular group of people. Let me explain.
These people work with the future.
They are constantly immersed in working with “the next generation” so they are constantly thinking about tomorrow. They are constantly in prayer. Constantly thinking of the how they can better reach children, youth, parents/caregivers “so that”…
And by “so that” I mean, ministers who work with children and youth are acutely aware of the challenges that face these young people in the future.
They know the statistics about young adults walking away from the church and their faith.
They are always cognizant that their time with this generation is fleeting and that they are seed-planting for a future.
They are not only fully in the present, reaching the hearts of the church today, but they are also fully in the future, recognizing the impact they will have for generations to come.
They hold sticky hands and wipe snotty noses because one day those hands will be wiping the noses of the next generation and they KNOW that they KNOW that they KNOW that their influence will extend to that place.
They eat lunch in noisy cafeterias. They visit tired mothers holding crying infants at home. They go to soccer games and baseball games and volleyball games and countless plays and musicals and they genuinely love doing it because they genuinely care for these they serve and the many generations to come they represent.
But they are tired.
And they aren’t tired because of everything I just described.
They are tired because….they feel alone.
They see all these things. They feel so deeply the absolute depth of importance of reaching the next generation for Christ, of wrapping them in His love, and of surrounding them in meaningful relationships in the church and home… but they sense that their burden is not shared by the larger faith community. In fact, at times, it seems the larger faith community sees them merely as the quieters of the young and entertainers of the youth.
In the meantime, some of the most innovative and creative and downright genius ways to build the church and grow the Kingdom of God are coming from these very people yet their voice gets unheard because, frankly, they just work with the kids. But children’s pastors and youth ministers KNOW that 85% of new converts are between the ages of 4-14 (source). They understand that to invest today in children and youth is to grow the kingdom of God for generations to come.
It’s time we give them voice.
Senior pastors, they need to you speak the truth of their ministry from the pulpit. They must have your voice legitimizing what they do, not just asking for more volunteers, but explaining the absolute need for the church to join the MINISTRY to youth and children. To form meaningful relationships. To pray for them by name. To go to their games. To visit their schools and homes. To invite them into service at church. To give them a place of belonging to a bigger community (not just the small community of people their age they find in Sunday School or youth group).
Ron Hunter of D6 Family Ministry shared this week at D6 Family ministry conference from his book The DNA of D6 that “The most important leader for leading change in a church is the senior or lead pastor.” Without that voice, it is unlikely that change will happen. Without that voice, the children’s minister and youth pastor will continue to work and share and guide and pour themselves out for the next generation but will continue to feel very much alone.
If you don’t believe me, go ask them. Ask them if they feel alone, tired, like their voice isn’t heard. And when they say “Yes,” ask them what you can do to help change that. Do your own research and allow the reality of the gravity of their calling within the church impact you deeply.
Then speak. Speak from the pulpit. Speak in the board rooms. Speak in the finance and budget meetings. Speak in small groups. Speak in the newsletter. Speak to the oldest. AND speak to the youngest. Tell them that you understand how important this ministry to the next generations is and embrace it as the best way for your church to grow the kingdom of God.
Church, do all of that too.
Listen to what your children and youth pastors are telling you. They have the pulse of tomorrow, the inside track on the future. Just ask them to go out to lunch or coffee with you and ask them about what stirs their heart. What is their vision? What is their burden? And what can you do?
I almost wish I could write this NOT as a children’s pastor or family minister.
I wish I could write this with a louder voice. Because this is the raw and simple truth. This group of ministers care infinitely more than I could put into words about the kingdom of God and the future of the church. Please hear them. And love the children.
Children’s pastors, youth ministers, and family minsters who read this – if it resonates with you – please forward to those who can join your voice at your church. And know that you are not alone! You are joined by incredible leaders and incredible lovers of God and youth all over the world. Keep loving the next generation. Keep doing all the things because your work is not in vain and one day, those children and youth you are investing in will be the leaders, the movers, the shakers…they will be pouring into their own disciples.
Teach them well. Love them. Love God.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About the author
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com