On Why I Chose Children’s Ministry

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.
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.

Feed My Sheep

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I just got back to the office after spending the afternoon doing the very best part of my job—newborn visits. I have to go to the hospital pretty often for work, and it’s rarely for a happy occasion. But newborn visits are different. They’re all celebration and smiles and lots and lots of baby snuggles. I love getting to hold those precious babies just hours after they’re born. I love their sweet new baby smell and their impossibly tiny noses. I love getting to pray with their parents—thanking God for this incredible gift of life and praying that these children will come to know and love him as they grow.

One of the greatest gifts of ministry is getting to be present with people during the big moments of their lives.   Often these are happy moments—births, baptisms, parties, and weddings. Other times the big moments are the hard moments—the moments of loss, fear, sadness, and pain. Tomorrow I’ll go back to the hospital, but it won’t be to visit a new baby.  Instead I’ll go spend time with another one of my kids, a sweet little girl who was recently diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Another a big moment. Very different, but just as sacred.

When Jesus was talking to his disciple, John, he told him over and over again, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? You say you love me. It’s time to prove it. Love the people I love. Love my children. Feed my sheep.

So much of my job doesn’t feel like feeding sheep. The logistics, the emails, the planning, the day-to-day drudgery of it doesn’t feel like feeding sheep. Herding cattle, maybe. But not feeding sheep.

But then I remind myself that if anyone understood the day-to-day work of ministry, it was Jesus. Jesus was there for the big moments, but he was there for the small moments, too. He knew that life-changing ministry happened just as often in the small, solitary moments that no one else noticed. Jesus was overworked and underappreciated. He showed us over and over again that there is more than one way to feed sheep.

I’m sitting back in my office now (still on a baby high), and I’m noticing that there are sheep to be fed here, too. In the emails to be read and forms to be filled out and planning to complete, there are opportunities to feed his sheep—to love him. Jesus said, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” Today I’m thankful for the task.

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