Finding a great children’s minister
A friend recently contacted me for advice (despite knowing I don’t give advice). She had accepted the call to be the chair of her church’s search committee for a children’s minister. She asked about some book resources on children’s ministry. I gave her some titles, but cautioned that I was not sure a book will be of much help. I mentioned that if she interviewed a good, experienced children’s director, that person can recommend some books that could reflect their own approach to children’s ministry.
By the end of our conversation I offered some concrete things to consider for the search committee to prepare for their interviews with prospective children’s ministers:
- If you don’t have a child protection policy in place, that should be one of the top two items on the to-do list for the new director. If you do have one, update it.
- Children’s ministry is family ministry. The biggest impact on children’s faith formation your church can provide is related to the extent you can help parents in your church rear their children in healthy redemptive ways.
- As to above, support groups for parents of children and parents of teens is a strong part of programming in children’s ministry.
- Program planning for children’s ministry needs to avoid competing with family time.
- Children’s ministries need to have a strong intergenerational component. Not just intergenerational programs (like VBS).
- Give your children’s director a realistic program budget, and include continuing education in her/his salary package (and keep those in separate parts of the church budget)
- Budget for the training of your children’s volunteers.
- Use a community of faith approach to program planning.
- No amount of cool programming will be as important as attending to the emotional well-being of your children. They need to feel loved, have a real sense of belonging in their church, and never embarrassed.
- Children can discern between cr*p and quality and will perceive how much their church values them accordingly. There’s a lot of cr*p out there in children’s curriculum. There’s a lot of cr*appy teaching being done by untrained volunteer children’s teachers. Children spend most of their week in well-equipped, modern, clean schools with professionally trained teachers, then see a difference in what and how their church offers by way of faith education. They get the message.
Finally, hire a quality person who can provide a quality program, and provide the resources they need to succeed. While a love for children and a passion for children’s ministry is important, all things being equal, there’s no substitute for a theologically-trained children’s educator.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).