Last week we had more hits than we have ever had in a week! I can only assume it is because you are getting to hear voices other than youth ministers. This week we continue the trend of hearing others voices. Children’s ministers open up and share their thoughts on what they want youth ministers to know in this week’s post. Enjoy their wisdom and take it to heart……
“What do you want youth ministers to know?”
Mary Alice Birdwhistell is the associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. She is a 2009 graduate of Georgetown College and a 2013 graduate of Truett Seminary. She loves traveling, Kentucky basketball, the color purple, and ministry both inside and outside the church.
As a children’s minister, I always dread the day when the new 7th grade students move up to become part of the youth group. At Calvary, we call it ALOHA weekend, and there are a full weekend of festivities to welcome the new youth into the fold. I always go to ALOHA weekend to introduce each of the new 7th graders to the rest of the youth and to bless them as they officially leave the children’s ministry. I leave ALOHA weekend tearful that these children are no longer children and wondering how they will do in the strange world of youth ministry.
What I want youth ministers to know is that I don’t want any of these children to slip through the cracks. I’ve spent years investing in and caring for them, and when they move up to youth ministry, I want to know that someone is going to carefully and intentionally follow through in that same work.
And I want youth ministers to know that I’m not disappearing just because these children are no longer in children’s ministry. Or at least I don’t want to. I still want to be a pastor to these new youth and to walk alongside them, too.
Youth ministers would be wise to remember that children’s ministers have deep relationships not only with these upcoming youth, but also with their parents. We’ve been with them for several years and through several different stages of life and faith. We can be a huge support to you, if you’ll let us. We can offer wise counsel, a listening ear, and a safe space to process situations together.
I want youth ministers knew that our ministries to children and youth don’t have to be two separate entities, because we’re stronger working together than we can ever be on our own. I wish we would collaborate more in helping to prepare the “tweens” for youth so that when that transition time comes, they’re more ready to take that next step.
I want youth ministers to know that I absolutely love it when youth are involved in children’s ministry, because our children absolutely love them. When youth volunteer in the nursery or in VBS or children’s worship, their presence makes an incredible difference. Youth really do set the example for our children, and they are role models in more ways than they may ever realize.
And, I want youth ministers to know that I admire you and the important ministry to which you are committed. I believe that youth ministry may be the most challenging work of ministry that there is. It requires so many different skill sets, such a unique personality, and incredible dedication. I want to support you and work alongside you, but I also want to learn from you and receive from you as a fellow minister of the gospel.
Rev.Cynthia Insko serves as Children’s Minister at FBC Frankfort, KY. She has also worked as campus minister at several campuses in Alabama and then in KY and in the area of spiritual formation as retreat leader and curriculum writer. She lives in Georgetown, Ky with her husband of 22 years and serves as taxi driver for her three teens.bio.
Things I wish Youth Ministers Knew:
- I am on your team! When we are a team everyone benefits- kids, youth,parents, us , and the whole church family. I am convinced what you do is valuable. Thank you for taking responsibility for the children just when they start to get hormonal and rebellious! Seriously, you have a hard job and I know it. Thanks for your love and dedication to youth.
- We are both ministers to families. You and I know that our work with young people is limited if their caregivers are not partnering with us and us with them. So let’s share confidentially helpful information about families that have kids who are youth and children. Let’s pray together for these families. Let’s listen together to them telling us what they need to help their kids grow spiritually. We can plan events together and even share funds, time and skills to serve families.
- I want to set you up for success, so let me know where youth are struggling. Maybe there is something I can do with them before they promote up to your program that will begin to address issues you are seeing. For instance, do I need to do teach the kids the books of the Bible because they don’t even open a Bible much less know where Psalms is? Do I need to begin teaching the kids about the church year so that when they are asked to help you lead an Ash Wednesday service they already know what Lent is? Are they co dependent on their iphones? Maybe I can start talking with parents about age appropriate guidelines for social media, texting, etc and introduce them to the idea that silence, and down time from electronics are healthy for reflection, rest, and wholeness.
- Curriculum choice is critical. Everything pre- purchased must be edited and adjusted for our setting. I am intentional about everything I do with our kids, making sure what I am teaching them fits with the theology and practice of our church. What do you want kids to know by the time they get to 6th grade? What do you want them to know by the time they graduate high school? Perhaps we can start a conversation and form a team with some lay leaders to get these objectives down on paper. Let’s make sure you and I are consistent in what we are teaching. Let’s evaluate curriculum together. This takes planning on both our parts.
- There is as much of an age difference between a 6th and 12th grader as there is between a kindergartner and 6th grader. It’s true. 6th graders have different needs than 12th graders. They need more guidelines and sleep and fewer choices than senior high kids. How can we transition them from children’s ministry to youth ministry? Let’s do some bridge programs together so middle schoolers know they can still talk to me in the hallway at church and so that they know they don’t have to pretend to be as cool as the senior high youth.
Andrew Noe is the Student Minister at Rosemont Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, and the moderator of this blog. He enjoys superheroes, and trying to be funny. He is married to the wonderful and amazing Hannah Noe. They have a super intelligent dog named Daphne, and a water-obsessed cat named Ellie
I was a children’s minister for a few years and even though I have always felt called to youth ministry, those years taught me some very valuable lessons. Here are 3 of those lessons:
- When “children” are about to become “youth” maybe it’s best to be a gradual change instead of in a quick moment. Over the course of the summer think about allowing the soon to be youth a chance to come to activities or events. Maybe just one or two during the summer, but this allows a gradual sense of getting to know the other youth, the youth minister, the volunteers, and the general sense of how things are done. It’s a much more welcoming approach than having teenagers rush into children’s Sunday school classes and “kidnap” them to take them to the youth room on promotion Sunday which so many churches do.
- Get to know the children before they are youth. This can be done in many ways. You can help organize the youth to volunteer at events like an Easter Egg Hunt, Trunk or Treat, Fall Festival, or VBS. Make sure you’re engaging with the children, and not just overseeing the youth. This can be a hard one to juggle. The best way to get to know the kids, and I hope to do this myself in the future, is to go to camp with them. If the kids go away for camp for a few days, try and go with them. You can see how they travel, see how the act in groups, how they act away from mom and dad. “That’s impossible, and my summer is too busy” Talk to the children’s minister ahead of time and look at the schedules and see if you can arrange it so it can work. This is long term investing. Maybe one of the smaller events could be taken out of the youth schedule for this moment to invest in the children.
- Let the children and children’s minister know you care about these kids. It’s hard seeing kids move into the youth, but is made easier by a youth minister who assures you they care for the kids and will take care of them. This better done by actions and not words. Don’t tease the children too much or embarrass them because you sometimes do that with youth. Instead take time to acknowledge each child is different, and some might not be excited to move into the youth ministry. Some might be terrified and wish they could stay in the children’s wing forever. Be kind.
Amanda Standiford is the children’s minister at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church in Danville. She is less than a month away from graduating from the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky! She and her husband, Adam, live in Georgetown.
When I think about sending my sweet, newly-promoted seventh graders into the youth group this fall, I feel a little protective. I know you are fully capable, and I know that the volunteers who help with the youth ministry are every bit as wonderful as the Sunday School teachers, missions leaders, and VBS workers who have loved these children since they were infants. But it’s still a little tough to let them go.
So here is my prayer for them as they transition from the children’s hallway to the youth wing, from coloring pages to ping pong, and from story times to discussion groups.
First, may they continue to love well. In the children’s ministry, we remind them frequently that they are beloved children of God, and that as such, they have a gift of love to share with the world around them. We talk a lot about what that looks like — about how we can reach out and share God’s love with the people around us who are just plain hard to love. This is easier said than done, especially in the tumultuous mess that is middle and high school. I pray that you and your team will challenge them to hang onto and to continue to develop that sense of purpose, even as they struggle with who they are and how they want their lives to look.
And as they wrestle with that, may they find both mentors and mentees. My hope for these children is that they find role models in the youth group and amongst the adults in our church — not necessarily people they want to be just like, but people whose hearts they’d like to emulate. I pray also that they look around them and notice the younger children who now look up to them, and that they’ll be gracious in that role and take time to talk to and play with the little ones who look for Christ in them. May they never be so consumed with their own journeys that they miss out on relationships with the people ahead of and behind them.
Finally, I pray they will be joyful. May they hold onto the good things about childhood for as long as they can. Allow them space to wonder, to laugh, and to ask questions without being dismissed as too childish. I pray they’ll learn to be responsible and caring without learning also to be continually weighed down and overwhelmed. Let them continue to find God’s goodness in the simple things — in art, in silly dances, and in a well-told story. Remind them often to put their phones and their iPods down and to live their lives. Don’t make them grow up too soon.
I love these children who are now becoming youth, and I trust that you will love them too. May they bless you as they have blessed me, and may they be blessed in their journey with you.