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Kids Pastor or Circus Master

Marty Martin

Then I inherited a giant time-sucker: a weekday preschool with more than 100 children and 12 employees. I quickly appointed one employee to be the administrator, but the school was still ultimately under my authority. Like a millstone, a pile of paperwork was always on my desk. Never-ending reports, reviews, and budgets tried to steal my joy. As my umbrella of responsibilities at church kept expanding, I felt less like a pastor and more like the ringmaster of an underfunded circus.

I considered changing my title from children's pastor to a hybrid such as attorney/office manager/accountant/police officer/marital counselor/graphic artist/Web designer/first-aid trainer/trend watcher/meeting aficionado/conflict resolver/master planner/sound technician/computer engineer/communications director/all-around nice guy.

As dramatic as all this sounds, I'm far from alone. Every children's minister eventually faces similar issues. So how can we keep the main thing-- young hearts--the main thing? Let me share some tips that have helped me keep children at the center of my children's ministry.

Focus on names. Although I'm pretty good with names, at a big church there are simply too many to remember. So I focus on learning children's names first, even before the parents' and volunteers' names. I want each child to feel as if I know him or her.

Our names are important to us, and we all feel better when people remember them. This is doubly true of children--who also lack the perspective to realize how many names we adults must juggle. Yes, sometimes I have to address a child as "kiddo" or "buddy," and twins are tricky (at one point, our children's ministry had seven sets!). But I always try my best.

Stay in touch with children. One simple, fun way I get to know upper-elementary kids better--and make them feel special--is by visiting them in school. At Christian schools, I'm invited to eat on special "Lunch With Your Pastor" days. As I eat and chat with "my kids," I realize that some pastors don't know which children are from their church.

Public and home schools can be more challenging, but with some help from parents, visits are possible. And the impact is long-lasting.

Cut down on time-eating tasks. I love preparing lessons and teaching, but many times I use a prepared curriculum with only minor tweaks. Loads of free, high-quality materials can save tons of prep time for you and your staff. Any bit of time saved leaves more room in your schedule for the essentials of ministry.

Delegate. To maintain your passion for shepherding children, delegating is essential--on weekdays as well as weekends. When I needed more office help and accountability than volunteers could provide, I pleaded, begged, and cajoled to get a part-time administrative assistant.

Don't forget to seek volunteers who want to help with children's ministry but not work directly with the kids. One woman helped purchase and clean supplies. Another person made reminder calls to volunteers and helped find replacements for last-minute cancellations.

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