You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have: Interview with Children’s Ministry Leader

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Stacy served as a children’s ministry coordinator at her church in Hermiston, Oregon for six years. She’s passionate about raising up ministry leaders who are equipped to disciple children who will know and follow Jesus.

AD: Do you want to share a little bit about the children’s ministry at your church?

SC: Sure. In our church, we have a congregation of about 700 people on average that come every Sunday, and we have about 120 kids from pre-K through 5th grade that come in the doors on Sunday morning. We have two services and we run both of our children’s programs during those services, structured as Sunday School classes, where parents come with their kiddos and drop them off in the worship room for kids. We start with worship. We do about 20 to 30 minutes of worship, depending on what we have going on that week. Then we pray, and each week we have a different feature.

For the first Sunday of the month, we celebrate everybody’s birthday that month. We try to make it very specific, thanking God for these children and His creation and their purpose, and recognizing that each child is special, not on their own merit, but because God created them and He created them with a special purpose. We make that the primary focus of the first Sunday of the month during worship time.

Our Sunday School groups are sponsoring Compassion children, so on the second Sunday of the month we have a Compassion highlight. We have a group of 4th and 5th graders that are on the Compassion team and every 2nd Sunday they present something to the kids, reminding them to bring in their spare change for the sponsorship, and they talk about what Compassion does and how we’re able to reach children around the world for Jesus by sponsoring kids. They’ve come up with all sorts of great ideas like doing skits for the other kids. They’ve found some cool Compassion videos that they’ve shown on the television to the younger kids. They’ve gotten creative in ways to get kids excited about leading other kids to Jesus. That’s been super cool.

The third Sunday of the month, we send all our students to the worship part of the adult service with their families. Every third Sunday of the month is our baptism Sunday in the main worship service, and that way our kids not only get to be with their families during worship, but they also get to see how moms and dads worship and they get to be a part of big church. They also get to see baptisms. Before we started doing this, some of our kids didn’t ever see baptisms. We’ve made it a priority that our kids are seeing this act of obedience of being baptized. That’s our third Sunday.

Our fourth Sunday, we usually have something special that comes up that needs to be announced, so it’s more of a miscellaneous Sunday of the month.

After worship is over, the children go to age-appropriate groups for Bible lessons. We do that year-round, although we’ve talked about the idea of changing our curriculum in the summer and doing more of a missions-focused summer, using material from Voice of the Martyrs.

AD: What are some highlights from times you’ve had with the kids?

SC: I love VBS. I think it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a week full of excitement and fun, all revolving around loving and getting to know Jesus. It’s just awesome. I love seeing the kids grow throughout the week. I think the downside to that is not knowing a good way to reach the kids who aren’t coming to our churchhow to we get them back? How do we get them plugged in somewhere? That’s the challenge with it, because we want to make sure they’re getting the rest of the discipleship part in. That’s hard. We usually have about 220 kids at VBS.

Another highlight comes from a couple years ago. We had a 5th grader whose mom and dad had divorced when she was in kindergarten. When she was in 5h grade, she was in Mr. Bruce’s class. I don’t know exactly what he said to her, but during just the Sunday School teaching time, he was able to convey to her that is was not her fault that her parents had divorced. All the years leading up to that, she had thought she was responsible for her parents’ divorce. I remember that day she came to me and she was crying and she said, “You know what I learned today? I’m not responsible for my parent’s divorce.” I think that was one of my all-time favorite memories, that God would reveal this truth to her through a teacher. And that’s not what the lesson was about! God gave her freedom through the words that her teacher was sharing that day.

AD: Jesus was taking that time and he wasn’t using the lesson for teaching information, but to really affect this girl’s life.

SC: Yes. It specifically applied to her. I think some of my other fun memories were when we had some really difficult kids. We were able to take a discipline situation and talk to them privately about how the power of Jesus and forgiveness is something that He offers to us so that we can offer it to others. When you see a light click on in their little brains, you realize they got the idea. I love that.

We recently had two kids that kept getting after each other and just being mean and saying awful things to each other in class, bullying each other back and forth. I talked to them separately and the little girl literally gasped afterward. She got it. She had been saying, “Well he, well he…” but when we got into the forgiveness part, it was just amazing.

Over the last four years, I realized that one of the things I really enjoyed doing is actually teaching our teachers about teaching and talking with them about the why behind ministry. Why do we teach kids? Why do we volunteer to spend all this time at VBS? Why do we volunteer to be Sunday School teachers or even work in the nursery? It always comes back to the character of Godwho He is as our Father and who Jesus is as our Savior. I really love to teach about that. That’s been fun.

AD: You’ve had the Heroic Life Team come out and do a couple workshops. How do you feel those workshops have supported your vision to teach and equip your teachers?

SC: I think the workshops were absolutely in line with what God was giving me a vision for. The Heroic Life workshops reinforced exactly what God had given me and the why of what we’re doing. I remember one of you said, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” It was good to encourage the teachers to really get to know who Jesus is, and we’ve had teachers come and talk about that. They say, “I need to know this stuff before I can teach it.” During our prayer time, people will share about what God is doing or things that they’re learning.

The workshop sessions were super encouraging. One thing from the workshops that was helpful was when you did the storytelling sessions. I think you were telling the story of Mary and Martha. I remember that the way you told the story was so engaging that nobody was moving or distracted. They were focused on what you were saying. You showed them that this is a way you can teach kids and keep their attention. When we talked as a staff afterwards, lots of teachers commented on the storytelling section. They loved that.

AD: I’m so glad that was helpful.

SC: It was super powerful.

AD: Do you have any tips that you would like to share with other fellow ministry leaders and teachers?

SC: I think it’s most important as ministry leaders to really know who God is and what His character is. He is your line of defense and source of power. It really is a spiritual battle and He is our Defender. He is the why of what we do.

For resources on equipping leaders in your ministry to disciple, checkout our Workshops and Training page, where you can learn about hosting a Heroic Life workshop, or taking our Online Leader Training Course

Aubrey De Vries grew up in the Midwest where she learned to tell stories, teach music, and host tea parties. She served with Operation Christmas Child for seven years, working as a recruiter and trainer of volunteer teams. She is a graduate of Ellerslie Discipleship Training, as well as an Assistant Instructor with Simply the Story, a ministry providing tools to experience Scripture through story and discussion. Aubrey currently tutors dyslexic students and serves as the Director of Communications for Heroic Life Discipleship.

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