do parents = great #kidmin leaders?

here’s the thing. i’m not a parent. but i know a lot about kids. my education (bachelor’s in elementary education, on my way towards a master’s in child development) and my experience (16 years in children’s ministry, 2 years teaching school), and my passion (i’ve felt called to the spiritual formation of children since high school) all contribute towards serving children and equipping parents in the church.

but sometimes, to some people, none of that matters. all that seems to matter is that i’m not a parent. and i understand that. i do. i have no doubt that when i have children, my perspective will be different. not better or worse, just different.

so let’s talk. what do you think?

if you are a church leader and not a parent:

how are you a great children’s ministry leader without having your own kids?

if a parent asks for advice, do you feel confident in your education and experience to respond?

if you are a church leader and a parent:

how are you a great children’s ministry leader because you have kids?

if a parent asks for advice, do you feel confident in your education, experience and your own parenting to respond?

looking forward to the conversation…

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10 responses to this post.

  1. I feel the same way! I always knew I wanted to lead children’s ministry someday, but figured I’d have to wait until I was old, had my kids, and knew what I was talking about. Then, 5 years ago, God showed me that He had a plan for me in ministry–and I didn’t need to be a parent to do it. I never realized how much I feared that the parents in my church wouldn’t take me seriously until I was given a verse at our women’s retreat six months into being the director of our church’s children’s ministry, “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict,” Luke 21:15.

    Surprisingly, for as much as I worried (and my executive pastor initially worried too, he said before giving me the directorship, “How will I tell my peers that I have a 23 year old leading our program? to which my mom (and mentor) responded, “She’ll be 24.”) that the parents of my church wouldn’t accept me in this position, I have only heard, “you’re not a parent” twice, and both were as jokes, once because I was trying to give away left over bottles of soda after an event, and another time because I was willing to have a girl’s sleepover. I can’t count the number of times parents have asked me for advice about their children though.

    I think being a non-parent leading a ministry to children and parents wasn’t a problem in my church because of the confidence our church’s leadership has in me. The people of our church know to trust the leadership, so if the leaders trust me, they should too. I also made sure to always have a parent with me on my staff team to make sure that as we did plan and dream and move forward, someone with that experience could weigh in.

    Now that I am a parent, I don’t see the way I lead this program changing. Maybe I’m a little more motivated to find a few more nursery volunteers, but other than that, I don’t feel like my perspective has changed. My passion for reaching the children in our community has not increased. My love of children has not changed. My desire to help parents is the same. I do, however, feel like I am a better parent because of what I do in ministry–my years of working with so many different types of children, my interactions with parents and observations of so many different families have certainly enhanced what I’m doing with my child (not that we’re that far into to the parenting thing at 3 months though…).

    I have seen my relationship with the parents in our church change in that now they’re more like my peers and friends, where as before I was the girl who took care of their kids. And since our church is in a MAJOR baby boom, I have a special camaraderie with these other new moms. But has being a parent given me more or new confidence in what I do? No, God has already given me that confidence and continues to do so.

    Reply

  2. The two may or may not be connected. I don’t like the philosophy of requiring parental involvement in children’s ministry. Having children doesn’t mean the person is safe, gifted, or passionate about kid min.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Mary on May 5, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Parents are (usually) experts on their own children – but that does not make them experts on all children. It can sometimes mean they have an expectation that their child is ‘the norm’ and that all others should be seen in comparison. Their limited experience narrows their views to the multitude of potential and possibilities amongst the group we designat ‘children’.

    Someone whose ‘profession’ is children (whether or not they have their own is irrelevant) has a much wider understanding of the diversity and generalities. A good professional can say, ‘Generally speaking,…’ whilst knowing and acknowledging that every child is an individual. The experience they draw on from the different contexts in which they have lived and worked means that they may be able to offer a range of possibilties/answers in response to parents’ questions.

    Reply

  4. I’m with Larry. Just because someone is a parent (even a great parent) doesn’t equate to a good kidmin worker. I know people who are frazzled by the own kids and would cave under the pressure of dealing with 30 or 40 kids. I also know people who have 4 or 5 or 6 kids themselves and deal superbly with that but seem like fish out of water when they are around other people’s kids.

    On the flip side of that, I know people without kids that some of the greatest kidmin leaders I have ever met. Their interactions with kids and parents inspire me as a Children’s Ministry worker and as a parent. It’s easy as a parent to write off people without kids by proclaiming “they don’t understand, they don’t have kids.” But, when we don’t leave ourselves open to the idea that we can learn from them, we risk missing out on opportunities to grow.

    It all boils down to God. If God has called someone to work with kids, whether they have their own kids or not, he will equip them to do the job.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Jill Crew on May 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    For me, I don’t think becoming a parent made me BETTER at my job, but gave me a DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE… I think being able to look at things through the eyes of a parent just gives you a different set of lens to look through. I remind myself after hearing at Promiseland that you need to look at your rooms and activities and toys, etc… all through the lens of a child. I think being able to look at decisions through the eyes of a parent just allows you to see things that you wouldn’t necessarily look at if you weren’t a parent. For example, I had no issues with ending a program at 8:30-9pm but once I became a parent and understood what it did to my kid going to bed late it made me question whether that was the best thing for kids… It’s not a right or wrong thing… but it made me ask myself, “Would I want to do this with my kid?” I just transitioned to a new church in October that doesn’t have a Wednesday night program. My four year old always came with me and was out til 8:30-9pm with me since he was a baby… but now that I don’t have a Wednesday night service at my new church, it gave me fresh eyes to it. I don’t ever see myself taking my kids to a program that STARTS at 7pm on a school night. Now that I don’t HAVE to go to the Wednesday night program, the parent in me would never take my preschool kids to a program that starts that late. But I never would have considered that side of a Wednesday night program unless I had kids..

    So I guess for me, I think having kids just gave me a different perspective.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Charla Jamison on May 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Living in a smaller town, I know there are parents who wouldn’t pass our background screening … So, I don’t think every parent should serve in the Children’s Ministry. However, there are other areas in the church where they could serve (parking, greeting, communion prep, gardening, etc.).

    However, my level of empathy for kids and their parents grew a lot after becoming a parent. I was great with the kids & parents before I had kids. Then, after I had kids, I was better. I could see that child’s behavior (or misbehavior) through eyes parents’ eyes. I could see that child’s potential through a parents’ eyes.

    Reply

  7. This is a great question. I didn’t have my first (and only so far) child until I’d been a CP for over 10 years. I’d had a very effective and powerful ministry for the previous 10 years. However, I do feel that being a parents has given me a platform to connect with parents as a parent, not just the pastor of kids. Before kids, I did offer help, resources and encouragement, so not having kids isn’t a bad thing at all. However, there is that thing of leadership that states, you can’t lead someone to a place you’ve never been before. There’s truth to that and being a parent yourself can help you in so many ways. Just my opinion though of doing ministry both ways.

    Reply

  8. Posted by jestrun on May 6, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I pretty much became a CP and a parent at the same time; my boys were babies. I agree that having your own kids gives a different perspective than not having them.

    I think we need to look at the goal of what the CP/CMD is trying to do…what’s the goal? If the goal is programming of curriculum for a great impact with discipleship, a gifted leader can do that regardless of parent/non-parent or even gender. If the goal is connecting with parents in an Orange mindset, I think Kenny’s comment shows how parents gravitate toward other parents for perspective…it just happens, I don’t think it’s a slight on non-parent CP’s/CMD’s.

    In the end it really should be a God thing. All our best efforts are dog doo without His empowerment and gifting. We need to approach parents (single-parents & couples) with a truth that only God can provide. No wisdom or perspective of man can ever do better to transform a family spiritually than can God’s Holy Spirit.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Donna Terrell on May 8, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Being a parent has helped me to understand parents. That has been key for me. I was good with the kids with or without my own, but now I understand and relate to the parents like I never could before.

    In terms of creating a family ministry, connecting with parents is crucial. I was not as successful in ministry or as a public school teacher with my parent relationships as I am now.

    Saying all of that, I agree with the sentiments that the Lord will will equip each one, and that His wisdom is all that counts!

    I also loved what Jill said. It helps you to better advocate for some of the needs of the children and families (like not having late-starting kid activities on school nights) when you know what is does first hand to your own children!)

    Reply

  10. […] in the middle of the week!? the last couple of weeks, i’ve been postingblogs on wednesdays and thursdays that center around topics we don’t all typically agree on. it’s like i’ve got an […]

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