A few weeks ago I was in Indianapolis at a gathering with a group of ministers from a wide range of places, backgrounds, and denominations. As we made introductions, we repeatedly asked one another the same questions: Where are you from? What church are you serving? What do you do there? When I told one participant that I was a children’s minister, he said something along the lines of, “So the typical job for a Baptist woman in ministry.”
For some reason, his comment caught me off guard. Maybe it shouldn’t have. He certainly wasn’t totally wrong.
For a long time, women in the church have been told, “No, but….”
No, you can’t preach. No, you can’t lead. No, you can’t be a pastor. No, you can’t have a voice.
But you can teach a children’s Sunday School class. You can help in the nursery. You can plan Vacation Bible School. And if you still insist that God is calling you to ministry, you can be a children’s minister. (But we’ll probably just call you a director.)
And so I get it. I get the comments and the resistance. I get the memes and the articles circulating around the internet with titles like, “Don’t Ask Me to Work in the Church Nursery.”
But here’s the thing…I still will. I will ask you to serve in the nursery and teach Sunday School and help with camp and lead missions friends. I will ask you to do those things because they matter. Because the work that happens in the nursery at 11:00 on Sunday mornings is no less holy and certainly no less important than the work that happens in the sanctuary. When we infer that children’s ministry is a second-rate job we are doing to children what we’re resisting being done to women—inferring that they are somehow not as valuable, not as capable, not as vital to the life and work of the church as adults. And they are.
I choose to work in children’s ministry because I believe that the spiritual formation of children is critically important. I also believe that children can and do make a difference in the church. Their joy, wonder, and curiosity offer the adults in the room an invitation to approach God the same way. The kids I work with each week ask questions that reframe my theology and challenge my worldview. I think that God delights in their fidgets and energy and not-quite-a-whisper comments during the sermon. They matter. And because of that truth, so does my job.
Don’t get me wrong—I believe that God can (and does) call women to do anything, including preach. But the work God has called me to involves play doh and millions and millions of goldfish crackers and teaching his littlest children about just much he loves them. And for that I am thankful.