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Deeply Rooted

Christine Yount Jones

While children's ministry has changed in the past three decades, Eunice contends that the goal of children's ministry hasn't. "The goal is still to minister to children and introduce them to Jesus as their Savior and Lord," she says.

"The greatest highlight of my ministry has been seeing children make confessions of faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and then grow in their knowledge and maturity in him," Eunice says. "Some of these 'kids' are now adult leaders in our children's ministry."

Another ministry highlight for Eunice, a gifted administrator, is being able to introduce a new ministry or experience into children's ministry and see it through from conception to evaluation.

"Probably the greatest of these experiences happened two years ago when three churches -- who 10 years ago wouldn't have worked together-came together for a summer VBS experience.

"It was exhilarating to work with children's ministers and volunteers to create an experience in New Testament living for 255 children. On the night of our grand finale, the senior pastors from the three churches stood together with messages of unity in Christ. I'm thrilled when the children of God come together in fellowship and love. To God be the glory!"

Another critical key to Eunice's long-term success in children's ministry is her burning desire to know and respond to the changes in children and families.

"I've tried to follow trends and adapt children's ministry accordingly as long as the changes didn't compromise a child's spiritual development," Eunice says.

"In some ways children haven't changed at all," she says. "They still need love, acceptance, direction, and attention. On the other hand, many more children are the victims of broken homes, absentee parents, and lack of stability in their lives. They often don't get intentional love, training, and discipline. Children are growing up faster today. What used to be behavior for older junior high kids is now common behavior for grades 5 and 6 or younger."

And Eunice is a student of the changing family. "More families rely on two incomes," she explains. "Sunday is often the only day when the whole family is home, so they may not attend church and Sunday school as regularly. In fact, many don't attend at all. That means fewer people are familiar with the Bible, Bible narratives, and biblical history."

So how does she reach this moving target? "The most effective way to reach anyone -- children or adults -- is to get to know them on a personal basis," she says. "Talking to them, eating with them, visiting them in their homes or in small groups, just being with them and discovering their specific lifestyles, likes and dislikes, and needs builds friendship and trust. Doing work projects together is another way to be with them. In other words, get into their lives. I probably learned this over the years when I realized that the kids I was reaching the best were the children of my staff members because I spent more time with them."

Thirty-one years have seasoned this children's ministry veteran. "I feel more confident in what I say and do. I frequently find new insights in Scripture that either confirm what I learned from somewhere or make me realize that I've been either off base or ignorant. I rely more on prayer and Scripture for determining decisions…I'm also not as likely to get uptight or distraught when things don't happen as I plan or desire. I've learned to 'hang loose.' "

Even though her husband retired several years ago, Eunice has no immediate plans for retirement. "Some of my friends are retiring, and that's great," she says. "But I look around at the retirees stamping hands at Wal-Mart or clearing trays at McDonald's, and I think there are much more important things to do than that."

If 31 years seems like a long time, think again. Eunice Miller is just getting started.

If you want to plant your life in children's ministry, heed these words of wisdom from Eunice Miller.

•Develop and keep a strong relationship with the Lord.
•Children's ministry requires sacrifice; you're "on call" all the time.
•Develop a balance between your family life and your ministry.
•Develop a good working relationship with other staff members.
•Show interest and become involved in the lives of children and volunteers.
•Pray and evaluate situations carefully before jumping to conclusions or speaking out.
•Develop close supportive relationships with other children's ministers.
•Be prepared to "hang in there" in the good and the bad times.

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