Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Devilish Deal: Compromising the Growth of your Children’s Ministry Program

The legend of Faust tells the story of how the scholar Faust makes a compact with the devil. The devil increases Faust’s knowledge of magic and gives him twenty four years of power and pleasure. After that, Faust’s soul belongs to the devil (Source: Encarta).

No one in children’s ministry would ever do that! Yet, at times we’re so desperate to see our program succeed, to experience growth, to have any kind of children’s ministry at all, that we make compromises that aren’t necessarily God’s will. Unconsciously, innocently, we make deals with the devil for something we believe is a good thing.

True, children’s ministry takes sacrifices. In order to have a successful children’ s ministry, both the church at large and individuals will need to compromise time, energy, and resources that would normally go to other programs. The church might get a little noisier, some workers might not get to as many adult worship services as they’d like, and some people in the pew might feel a bit of loss of control as the halls of the church teem with energetic children.

But sometimes, we want growth so badly, we inadvertently let go of other things we say we value. What are you willing to forgo in order to have that successful children’s ministry? Is the cost too great? I’ve learned the hard way that some of the following aren’t worth the sacrifice:

1. Doctrine. Of course not, you might say. But how many times do we water down the gospel message so kids will keep coming? Coupled with this is our entire spiritual emphasis. Do we replace the spiritual activities with food and fun just so the kids will keep coming? Yes, I know that fellowship can be a great time of building relationships with kids. Yet we always need to keep our eye on the purpose for which we exist, always being on our guard to keep from slipping into an all-fun atmosphere. The temptation toprovide activities that will keep them coming is like the slow oozing, sucking trap of quicksand; it can happen slowly and more subtly than you think.

2. Discipline and accountability: When someone questions what is happening in the youth program, have you heard the defense, “Oh, but the kids are having so much fun,” or “But we’re having decisions and new visitors every week” or “You don’t want to be too hard on the kids; it will undermine the love and acceptance we’re trying to teach them.” Church leaders bite their lips, hating to knock success. Yet accountability is extremely important. Your youth leaders need to be liable to someone, the elders, a youth ministry team, or the pastor. This includes accountability for finances, discipline, boundaries in use of church facilities, recruitment standards, and curriculum. Ministry is not a Lone Ranger mentality. It’s a team effort among many people and all team players to know and have a say in what is happening. To protect ourselves spiritually and fiscally, we need to be accountable to someone.

3. Direction: Small churches especially have problems with this one. So desperate for volunteers and new students, we let the personal enthusiasm of a new worker carry us away, then we turn our heads so we don’t see the oncoming train wreck. Every ministry program needs a plan. What do you hope to accomplish? How are you going to get there? What can you afford? Who is going to be in charge? What will be most effective for your community? No program in the church can exist for very long solely on the personality of a charismatic leader. You need to have a plan, supported with prayer.

4. Discernment: God’s word gives direction on choosing leaders. I believe that a children’ ministry director or youth leader are two of the key positions in the church and therefore, are subject to the same qualifications as listed for elders and deacons given in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. A youth leader should know how to manage his own children, should be well thought of in the community, should be self controlled and equipped to teach the doctrines of the faith. Just because we’re desperate for a youth worker does not give us permission to set aside these qualifications. If we do, we’re compromising our program and it will never be fully effective as God intends it to be.

You see, God cares more that we do ministry right than He cares about the growth of the program. If we follow His word and do ministry His way, He will bring the increase.

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