by David Reneau/ May 8, 2021
When I was 16, I volunteered at my church’s VBS. I led with energy and creativity, and my small group had a blast. By the end of the week, my Sunday school teacher told my mom that I would one day make a great children’s pastor.
I don’t know if I’d call myself great, but what she didn’t know is that two years before, I was called into ministry. Six years later, I was to begin serving in children’s ministry full time.
Now after leading for years, I see in other young leaders what that Sunday school teacher saw in me. What I love so much about children’s ministry is that we have the opportunity to see the calling and the potential in kids before anyone else. We see glimmers of spiritual gifts and talents that are certain to be used for the Kingdom.
But how do we call it out of them? How do we develop and equip them for the ministry? What can we do as children’s pastors to equip kids to answer their call?
Here are 3 things I do to equip called kids:
1. Cast a wide net for interested kids. If you look at the 5 years we typically have an elementary student in our ministry, we don’t have a lot of time. But what we can do is create a pipeline for training our older students. This plants seeds and opens doors. Then, maybe if we’re lucky, we can help to develop them far beyond fifth and sixth grade into the person God has called them to be.
I call my leadership pipeline for kids K-Team, like the A-Team but for kids. No we don’t go on missions in a cool 80s van or have to know out Clubber before he gets on a plane, but it’s still an awesome time. K-Team is an extracurricular activity specifically designed for the last two years of children’s ministry for the kids. I charge a small tuition to make sure the families have some skin in the game and in return give kids a Bible, a t-shirt, and a class binder. I invite every fifth and sixth grader to join the group. I try to cast as wide a net as possible because I don’t know every kid who joins. Then over 6 weeks, I train them in the basics of following Jesus. We cover topics like how to pray, study the Bible, and share our faith. I was graciously given the curriculum by Brian Dollar after I read his book, “I Blew It.” I haven’t changed much of the content over the years because it’s still good and relevant to our kids.
As great as the bookwork is, it’s not the secret sauce of K-Team. Our meetings are 90 minutes long. The first 45 minutes covers the lesson, the required Bible reading, and Scripture memorization. In the second 45 minutes, students learn practical ministry, such as how to run sound, lead worship, plan and lead a service, do puppets, and even make videos. Then on the weekends I set up a rotation for each kid to serve in each area. Some do great, some not so much, but that’s okay because we’re all learning. This is usually where I begin to see the blossoms of potential. At the end of the semester, the students lead an entire children’s service. It’s scary and a lot of work for me and the volunteer team, but it’s a huge boon for the program, and parents love it.
2. Create opportunities for kids to go deeper. Six weeks is not nearly enough time to truly train kids or identify their calling, so after a student successfully completes K-Team, I invite them to an alumni group called K-Team+. In this class, the kids have to read more of the Bible, memorize more Scripture, and work in volunteer positions based on their gifts just like an adult would. I even go so far as to give them a spiritual gift assessment and try to place them where they’ll be best suited.
Like regular K-Team, the first half of the meeting is in a classroom setting where kids learn the 16 Fundamental Truths. I use my old Berean textbook and try to teach it on a fourth-grade level. It’s not the easiest thing, but it’s worth it. After bookwork, we dive deeper into their practical skills based on their talents and passions. Kids can be a part of this group all the way through middle school. If they want to continue after that, they can come back and help lead.
These leaders are usually the ones I’ve identified a calling on their lives. While they continue their practical training, I do the next step.
3. Give them opportunities to lead. As I said before, there’s not a lot of time when we have students in elementary ages. But it’s the following years that count as they learn more about themselves and about their relationship with God. This is when true equipping and nurturing happens.
The key is to create a safe place for kids to experiment and practice. At first, this was a real challenge for me. What happens if the kid bombs? What happens if they say something wrong? What happens if they can’t do it as well as I do? The truth is all of these things will happen. I had to learn to be okay with it and let go. There were sometimes where I had to step in and save the service segment, but then it became an excellent learning opportunity instead of a negative experience. As I heard Jim Wideman say, “Someone let me sorry all over a bunch of kids. I may as well return the favor.”
Because I was willing to let go, I’ve seen students lead worship in the main auditorium, preach to their youth group and high school, and become key volunteers in almost every area of the church, not just in the children’s area. They did so well because they had the opportunity to practice and learn with years of experience before they entered “the big stage.”
Equipping kids to do the work of the ministry is a joy and one that I get excited about every time a new K-Team semester rolls around. My prayer is that God gives you wisdom, courage, and maybe a little humility to allow a group of kids to lead. We’ll never know the rewards that it will bring here on Earth or in heaven.