Saturday, August 19, 2017

Real Deal or Short Shrift? How NOT to Find a Children’s Ministry Leader

March 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

“Hallelujah!” Mike and Jasmine crowed. “It’s about time!” Outstanding! Excellent! And Hooray! caromed around the church foyer as the newly hired children’s ministries director was introduced to the congregation. Others stood silent, blinking.

“They hired who?!” Mavis muttered incredulously. “Excuse me?” Davis rolled his eyes.

Congratulations and delight over Suzy Wonder Woman mingled with doubt and disappointment, swirled through astonishment and angst and crested into a cautious wave that could best be described as “wait-and-see.” Both rivers had their tributaries.

Hoo-ray and High Gear?

Heading up the “hoo-ray contingent” were moms and dads of young children who waited for years for church leadership put kid min on the payroll. Most unpaid volunteers lasted a year or two before burning out and bailing.

These young parents were delighted that ministry to children finally had an advocate, a “paid staff person” – and were looking for giant leaps forward on the order of Apollo 11. “Children are finally getting the time and attention they deserve instead of the leftovers” Molly, a mother of four beamed. “Suzy is energetic, enthusiastic and full of great ideas,” crowed Martha, another Suzy supporter. “She’ll kick children’s ministry into high gear.”

Less Than Thrilled

The less-than-thrilled crowd expressed concern over the twenty-four year-old, never-been-married, never-had-any-kids, never-been-a-parent, or raised-a-family new hire. Shawn said, “You’d think that being a parent, having kids and raising a family would be bare bones qualifications for taking on ministry to children and families.”

“There’s nothing like having kids to prepare you for working with kids” opined Don, who taught the 5th and 6th grade boys Sunday school class for going on twenty years. “No amount of ‘book larnin’ can substitute for the Real Deal, parenting 24/7.”

‘Set up to Fail’?

Mindy and Drew pointed out that as gifted and capable as Suzy may be, “She’s struggling to keep her head above water as the church secretary, barely managing the load she already has.” Drew shook his head, “So they add more to her plate? In what universe does that make sense?” Some expressed concern that the combined secretary/children’s ministries role was “unfair” to Suzy, and that she was “being set up to fail.”

Livin’ in La-LaLand

“It’s better than what we had before,” said Lynn, “relying on unpaid volunteers to run kid min.” Paula disagrees. “Now that we have a ‘paid’ children’s leader, people will expect more. They’ll jack up their expectations into the stratosphere. No way is Suzy going to be able to fulfill that on 14 hours a week – and it’s not fair to ask her to.” Bill, a seasoned kid min veteran volunteered, “Children’s ministries is a full-time job. In a mid-size church you’re lookin’ at 30-40 hours a week, minimum. Anyone who thinks it can be done right on half that is living in La-LaLand.”

The parents of three young girls, Brenda and Tom voiced similar sentiments. “At first we were thrilled to hear that the church was finally adding children’s ministries to the ranks of paid staff. We thought they were serious and looking for a full-time professional, not someone who’s splitting their attention and time between secretary and children.” Tom questioned the wisdom of transferring kid min leadership from “competent, qualified unpaid staff” to paid staff that’s “green” and “marginally qualified.”

Real or ‘Rah-Rah’?

Ben, a grandfather and veteran Sunday school teacher offered, “Sounds like church leadership was in a big hurry to make it look like they were doing something that matters. Why the rush? Why not take the time to do it right and find a grown-up for that job?” Ben noted that the candidate pool had consisted of two applicants, “and two applicants does not an adequate candidate pool make. I’ve seen this before” he continued. “People are in such a rush that they don’t wait on God to work in His way, on His timetable. It’s not real; it’s window dressing.”

His wife Myra chimed in, “Suzy’s vivacious and vibrant, but what about substance? I mean, really. How much ‘kid experience’ can a single 24-year old have?”

Shari spoke about other high-energy “ministry leaders” who “take off like a house afire for awhile, then flame out and fade. Kids need continuity and patience. Stability matters more than the quick rah-rah.”

“We’ve seen it before” Ben reiterated, crossing his arms. “People get impatient and hire someone second-rate. At the end of the day it’s the kids who get short-shrift.”

Best or But…?

Questions whirled about Suzy’s lack of experience. Many voiced concerns about Suzy “spreading herself too thin” and the failure of leadership to set children’s ministries up as a dedicated, solo role rather than a job-swap. Said one mom who declined to be identified, “Did they hire Suzy because she was the best candidate for the job and could do it well, or because they were desperate and couldn’t find someone better?”

Others cited questionable or haphazard performance in other roles, “inconsistent” or “inadequate” follow-through, spotty attendance and “over-committed.” One congregant who preferred to remain anonymous opined, “This decision says more about how leadership views ministering to children than anything else. They just don’t get it.”

Other parents were more positive: “We’re joining the big leagues now!” and “Finally!” mingled with expressions of relief, exuberance, hope and cautious optimism.

Some saw the move like Lenny, who said: “This is a textbook case of how NOT to get a kid min leader. Children’s ministries have been on life support for years. I don’t know if this will make it better or worse. I hope it’s a step forward, but… it looks like the powers that be ‘settled for’ someone instead of getting the Right Person. It looks like they were in a hurry to get someone, anyone who was willing, vertical and breathing. What they wound up with is someone without any real experience or expertise.” He paused and then added, “That’s not only sad – it’s a shame. And maybe a sham.”

What do you think?

A multi-published author, Kristine Lowder has authored 12 books and contributed hundreds of stories and articles to a wide variety of publications, both electronic and print. She enjoys hiking, reading, camping and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their four sons. Visit her at: KristineLowder.wordpress.com or KristineLowder.com

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