by William F. Leonhart III
One of the hardest tasks a Children’s Ministry director has to accomplish is the finding of volunteers. It seems that sometimes it’s hair-pulling, teeth-grinding work to try to get people to volunteer their time and talents. This is true both inside and outside of the church. And let’s face it, I’m no Stalin. I couldn’t inspire water to flow downstream.
Having given this topic much thought, though, I discovered there are basically seven myths about volunteering for a Children’s Sunday School that must be dispelled in order to make the decision easier for many church members. This is not an indictment against any church member who has had these concerns, though. I had many very similar concerns before I started volunteering for the Children’s Ministry at my church. Nevertheless, they are erroneous and must be dispelled.
1. I have to be a genius to do that.
It is quite common to feel a sense of inadequacy when witnessing what you perceive as “true greatness” at work. Everyone has been there. When the guy who normally speaks in NLT suddenly prays for 10 minutes straight in KJV, after which no one has the gall to follow. Far too often we compare ourselves to the speakers rather than the audience. In prayer, our audience is God, so we should have a sense of inadequacy regardless of who precedes us in our prayers. However, an adult should have nothing to fear in teaching those of the next generation, regardless of the education and spiritual prowess of those who teach alongside him. We all have knowledge and wisdom to pass along to the next generation; let us not be hindered by constantly comparing ourselves to those in our own.
2. I have to have kids of my own in order to teach other people’s kids.
Granted, it certainly seems to comport with common sense that parents, the people who benefit the most from the Children’s Ministry, should always be the first to consider and pray about volunteering for it. However, some of the best people who work with kids do not have kids or, at least, not yet. In my undergraduate studies, I had many fellow students who were either youth ministers or went on to be, or went on to become teachers and substitute teachers in primary schools, most of which did not have kids and / or were not married. There is no parental prerequisite for working with children.
3. I have to be uniquely gifted to work with kids.
There is no “gift of working with kids” listed in the Bible. My wife and I struggled with this one. For years I heard the plea from the pulpit for more volunteers in the Children’s Ministry, but I would tell myself, “I’m just not sure that’s my gift.” Eventually, it occurred to me just how unbiblical that was. Children’s Ministry is not a spiritual gift.
On the flip side, however, I do think it is important for men who think they are called to ministry to be exercising their gifts in some way already before they are ordained to the ministry. Let’s face it, preaching opportunities don’t just appear out of thin air for pastoral students of the Reformed, Confessional Baptist persuasion. If a young man thinks himself called to the ministry and does not otherwise have opportunities to preach and teach, one way he can exercise his gift is to volunteer for Children’s Ministry. A man who is afforded few other opportunities and persistently refuses to take advantage of this opportunity to exercise his gift likely does not truly have the gift.
4. It would take too much time out of my already busy week.
Depending on your level of theological exposure / education, this may be true at first. Some may have to spend hours preparing every week in order to come up with a decent 30 minute lesson on even the most basic truths. Over time, however, it gets much easier to prepare for the lesson. If your church uses a catechism, as our church does, many of the Scripture references you will need for your preparation should already be provided in the Scripture citations after each answer. Other more seasoned volunteers are also a great help in this area of lesson preparation.
5. The Children’s Ministry is the least important part of our church.
Granted, many parents treat children’s ministries like Sunday daycares. However, those of us who actually catechize our children in the home find children’s Sunday school to be of great value. The kids are able to get together and get deeper teaching on the things they are hopefully learning at home, and they experience the value of the catechism answers they are memorizing with their parents in a classroom environment. Most importantly, the truths they are being taught at home are being reinforced by other adults within the church. Such reinforcement is of immense value to the catechizing parent.
6. That’s the parents’ job.
Then we have the arguments often made by many within the Family Integrated Church (FIC) movement that the teaching that takes place in children’s ministries really should be done by the parents. In large part, I agree with the FIC on this point. Parents should never leave the spiritual training and nurture of their children up to children’s ministry volunteers. Such training and nurture is primarily the responsibility of the parents.
However, the Bible does not present such a rift between the authority of the church and the authority of the parents as is presented in many FIC churches today. Paul writes directly to the children on a couple different occasions in the Bible (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20). This is not seen as a usurpation of parental authority, but a reinforcement of it. As such, he demonstrates a very important truth: parents who have covenanted with a church and have come under its authority should take no issue with subjecting themselves as well as their children to its teaching.
To argue against allowing their kids to be taught by the church, the same church that is teaching them, is to demonstrate a general lack of teachability. Hence, often times families who have been heavily influenced by the FIC will join non-FIC churches and war with them relentlessly over their children’s ministries. In doing so, they show themselves not only to be unteachable, but also divisive. Yes, the parents ought to teach their own children in their homes, but the church has a responsibility as well, and that responsibility is to be respected. For more on this subject, read my church’s Philosophy of Children’s Ministry.
7. There are many people in the church more qualified than I am.
If redemptive history proves anything, it proves that God does not always use the most qualified people to get the job done. In fact, He does not even always use the most willing (see Jonah). Often times, the most qualified people are the most unwilling to be used by God. God uses both the talented, unwilling servant, and the untalented, willing servant to accomplish His ends.
This is why we should be open-minded about where God may be leading us to serve when we pray about where we should serve in His local church. God uses fallen, ill-qualified, unwise laymen to accomplish the most amazing things in His kingdom. Might you be the next weak, ill-prepared, under-qualified, imperfect vessel He uses to help raise up the next generation of saints in His local church?