This article is reproduced from the New Zealand Baptist Children and Families December 2023 eConnect newsletter.  

“Hi. My name is Glenis, and I’m the Children’s and Family Pastor at Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church.” These are the words I have used to introduce myself for the past 24 years – 18 as a paid church staff member and six years before that in a voluntary capacity. 

Over these years, I have seen many changes. I have worked with three Senior Pastors, three Interim Pastors, three Youth Pastors, and three other Associate Pastors. 

More than that, I’ve seen how society has changed and how those changes have influenced churches, families, and parenting. Those changes have also impacted the way we do Children’s Ministry.

In this article, I’d like to reflect on some of the things I learned in almost a quarter of a century as a Children’s Pastor. I share these, not because I’m an expert but because throughout all those years, I was a student constantly learning from others and from the children I had the pleasure of walking alongside in the early stages of their faith journey. Here are some of the things I have picked up along the way.

It’s a calling

I believe a child can make an informed faith decision. As Children’s Pastors, we are often seen as the fun Pastors keeping the children occupied while ‘real church’ happens in the auditorium. But our role is way more important than that. Our calling is one of sharing the faith in a way that children can understand and then calling them to respond to it. Then, we work to grow them in their faith as we help them connect with God and experience the truths of His word. Without these things, a children’s programme is mere entertainment.  

It can’t be done alone

As a Children’s Pastor, regardless of how much experience, I couldn’t do it all on my own. Thankfully, over the years, I’ve seen an increase in support with the introduction of coaches, cluster groups, and networking to resource and inspire those who work with children. There has also been an increase in combined working relationships between different denominations encouraged by organisations like Scripture Union. I’ve found these times of meeting with like-minded people inspirational and vital. My advice to any Children’s Pastor, paid or volunteer, would be to make certain you have a group like this you are a part of. We need each other!

You can’t do it on your own on Sunday either. I’ve had the privilege of having many awesome team members make up my Children’s Ministry team. Some were parents of children in my kids’ programme; others were young people who had been part of the children’s ministry just a few years before. It was exciting and humbling to have them working alongside me now as leaders. This is one of the greatest joys of long-term ministry as the relationship changes from one of teacher to mentor. The time spent encouraging, equipping, and building your Children’s Ministry team is crucial to a vibrant kids’ programme.

Training – Keep doing it!

It’s pleasing that the need for children’s workers to be trained has been recognised, and many churches have allowed for it in their budgets. I have enjoyed courses run at Carey Baptist College and other training events, which helped me to grow in confidence in my role. It is essential to take up training opportunities for yourself and your team whenever you can. 

Know your place!

‘It takes a village to raise a child’, but as Rachel Turner writes in her book, ‘It takes a church to raise a parent.’ 

Over the years, in many churches, the role of Children’s Pastor has changed to Children and Families Pastor in recognition of the place the church needs to take in helping to equip parents to nurture the faith of their kids - not take their place. When I ran different family events, “faith @ home” courses, and just recently Rachel Turner’s “Parenting for Faith” course, the response was overwhelmingly positive as parents both understood they were perfectly placed as parents to be the greatest influence in shaping their children’s faith and were given the tools to do it. It is great to journey alongside parents in this way.

Encourage opportunities for the kids

Involving the children in the service gave them a chance to share what they’d learned and, at the same time, declare their faith. Special Sunday services were run by the children once or twice a year. As I talk to young adults now, the stories from the Bible they remember the most are the ones they were part of retelling to the church as they helped to bring it to life for them. (Especially Mt Sinai with the smoke machine and flashing lights).

It’s important also to provide serving opportunities. This can be simple but important tasks such as the church notices, collecting the offerings, greeting at the door, and especially praying for others, which should happen regularly. I also involved the children in service for people outside the church, baking and packaging for the food bank, cleaning community pantries, and supplying and delivering parcels to families. Create opportunities for your kids to ignite their passion for serving others. 

Connect with the community 

Community events can bring families into the church with the belief that they will have a positive experience, build relationships with people in our church community, and want to come back to know more about Jesus. Our Hair-Raising Hat Party (an alternative to Halloween) was one such event that encouraged our kids and parents to invite their friends and start great conversations about what the church offered. Over the 23 years I ran this event, many families have returned to our Christmas services or have joined our church community as a result. Find your mark in your community – what is your church known for?

Intergenerational Relationships

Something that I did early on was to ensure that the children were in the church service for some time so they could be part of the worship and prayer. I also found Prayer Buddies for each group of kids in my children’s ministry. These ‘older’ people would come into our programme regularly to spend time with the children. They would pray for and with them, look out for them when they arrive at church, send cards, bring in birthday cakes, and more. They would also get to know the parents and tell them they were praying for their family. The children would also pray for the prayer buddies and send notes home to them. 

In the last ten years or so, a lot of research has been done, and books have been written about the benefits of churches being more intergenerational. This is something that I grew to be more intentional about as I learned more, encouraged senior leadership, and communicated with parents, helping them to see that having their children in the service with them is a great opportunity – not a time to be absent from church because “there is nothing for the kids.” We have constantly tried to become more intergenerational in the way we run our services – especially during the holidays when the children’s programme doesn’t run. Social events were also done in such a way as to encourage intergenerational relationships to flourish, remembering that we are family and every age group can contribute. We are all the body of Christ. 

Keep the main thing – the main thing

With all the changes and influences in society, it is easy to get distracted as to what we should be doing. Parents often don’t understand the role we have and can feel that, as long as their child is happy coming and behaving themselves, then we are doing our job well, but we need to stay true to our calling. I tried to do that by constantly referring to the Mission Statement we wrote 24 years ago for the Children’s work at Blockhouse Bay and holding firm to the verse I adopted as the motto. I constantly communicated this to parents and the rest of the church. 

Mission Statement: To provide a safe nurturing environment, where we can work alongside parents to see the children come to know God as their Lord and Saviour and grow in Him. 

Verse: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

Finally, my 24 years in ministry have been made even more fulfilling and rewarding because I have been around long enough to see some of the fruit. I know some are not living for God now, and I grieve for them, but as I sit in church, there are some of “my” children leading worship. One is an Elder, another is our church’s finance spokesperson, another is the head of property, and several are in children and youth ministry. Others have gone to the mission field or are serving in other churches – even as children’s pastors!

I call them “my” children, but I understand that they are God’s children entrusted into my hands to do the best I can to point them toward Him. And, with His help and the help of His Holy Spirit, something special has happened in the lives of so many and in my life, too. What a privilege to be part of those journeys. 

As I stand down from this role and move away from the church that has been my family for so many years, I feel a sense of sadness but also a very humbling sense of peace. I don’t know what the future holds for the children at Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church or for myself. 

But I know that God does – and I can rest in that. 

“Hi. My name is Glenis - and I’m a child of God.” 

Photo: Glenis with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Provided by Glenis.

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