What College Didn’t Teach Me About Children’s Ministry
An Interview with Ryan Frank
Ryan Frank, creator of KidzMatter Inc. (www.kidzmatter.com), is the publisher of The Kitchen children’s church curriculum and K!Magazine. He is a children’s minister in Indiana. His latest book, 9 Things They Didn’t Teach Me in College about Children’s Ministry, has just been released by Standard Publishing.
We asked Ryan a few questions about his experience in children’s ministry and his advice for children’s ministers today.
How did you get interested in children’s ministry?
I was only 16 years old. My minister approached me and said, “We need someone to teach Junior Church. Will you try it on Sunday?”
I tried it and loved it! That’s what started me on the career path of children’s ministry. I went on to major in Christian education at Indiana Wesleyan University.
What are some things that you learned in college about children’s ministry?
I had some terrific teachers and classes in college. The “Working with Children” class taught by Keith Springer was great because he has a very practical, hands-on approach to ministry.
There is one thing in particular he taught that I still remember. He said the two most important words in children’s ministry are variety and involvement. You need variety in what you do every week, and you need to get the kids involved any way you can! Good advice, huh?
I still use many of his ideas, and he invites me to join his class each year to talk about children’s ministry.
What have you learned about children’s ministry since you left college?
I greatly appreciated my college education, but, as a new children’s minister, I still had a lot to learn. No one coached me how to handle moms and nursery workers who don’t get along. No one taught me the church bulletin is the absolute worst place to recruit volunteers. No one helped me understand that my job description might change over time, such as shifting from being the children’s minister to the minister who partners with parents in raising spiritual champions.
What’s great about being a children’s minister?
First, you get to share the gospel with kids. If you want to reach the largest hidden mission field in the world, look down!
Second, you get to impact the worldview of children. A worldview is the way a person sees the world and answers the big questions of life. A person’s worldview is primarily shaped and is firmly in place by the time he or she reaches age 13.
Third, you get to partner with parents. Parents are ultimately responsible for the spiritual development of their children, and you can champion them in this great cause.
Fourth, you get to be loved. In Toy Story 2, Buzz Lightyear said to Woody, “Somewhere in that pad of stuffing is a toy who taught me that life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid.” I’ve learned that Buzz is right.
Fifth, you get to serve in a ministry that is just plain fun! You don’t have to police teenagers or wear a choir robe! You get to play games, sing exciting songs, help the Bible come to life for kids while building lifelong relationships—and that’s just the beginning!
What are some of the biggest challenges in children’s ministry?
On kidzmatter.com, I recently asked this question: What are the three biggest issues facing your children’s ministry? Here’s what several hundred children’s ministers said:
Number 1: I don’t have enough volunteers.
Number 2: I have little or no budget.
Number 3: Other activities take priority over church involvement.
What are a few of the recent trends in children’s ministry?
Children’s ministry is alive and thriving in the church today. It’s an exciting time to be involved in ministry to kids. To be your best, you need to keep up with the current trends in ministry. Here are a few big ones:
First, children’s ministers are doing more with less. Churches are being impacted significantly by the economy. Consequently, children’s ministry leaders are working with less.
Second, children’s ministers are networking online. Not too long ago, if you wanted to network with other children’s pastors, you had few options. You could get in your Pinto and meet someone for lunch, you could pick up the telephone, or you could save your money and go to a conference. While these still exist (well, maybe not the Pinto part), the opportunities to network are rapidly increasing thanks to sites like cmconnect.org, Facebook, and Twitter.
Third, limited budgets and busy volunteers require creativity in training. Volunteers are more important than the people they serve. Stop and think about that. Do you agree? It’s not that the kids aren’t important, but it’s volunteers who interact with the children week after week and influence their lives. Consider Jesus. He spent more time with his 12 than he did any other group of people.
Volunteers are important and need to be trained. Training would be easy if it weren’t for budgets and busy schedules. You can’t afford to bring the world’s best trainers to your church. And if you could, good luck getting everyone to come hear them! This forces you to be creative in your approach to training. Leaders are using any new approach they can harness, for example: blogs, podcasts, newsletters, e-mails, and text messages.
Fourth, tweens (fifth- and sixth-graders) need an identity of their own in the church. Without making ministry to tweens intentional, they can slip through the back door of the church. It’s time to put a dead bolt on that door and keep them actively engaged! This requires rethinking the way we minister to tweens.
What is one thing you would tell someone thinking about going into children’s ministry?
Never stop learning. Whether it’s the church/parent partnership, recruiting volunteers that stick, or getting along with your minister and church leadership, we can agree that we all have a lot to learn.
When I was 10 years old, the movie Back to the Future hit the big screen. I remember watching it and being fascinated by the thought of being able to travel back in time. Even though we’ve yet to find an actual Flux Capacitor that will take us to the past, we can all look back and learn from those who have served before us.
Help for Every Children’s Minister
Encouragement for anyone serving in children’s ministry—get it in this new book from Ryan Frank. With humor and real-life stories, this veteran children’s minister shares nine essentials for leading a successful children’s ministry. Read real-life inspirational stories from dozens of churches. Learn from the mistakes as well as the successes of others. Discover practical ideas for children’s ministry you can use this week.
Nine Things They Didn’t Teach Me in College About Children’s Ministry is available from your local supplier or at www.standardpub.com.
Item 025451011; $9.99