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8 Things I Learned in Children's Ministry

Updated Mar 10, 2014
8 Things I Learned in Children's Ministry
I vowed I would never teach Sunday School--so you can guess what the next decade brought into my life. Here are 8 things that I learned through my (reluctant) role in children's ministry.

When my husband and I were still in the get-to-know-you phase, he asked me, “What kind of church ministry do you gravitate towards?”

“I’ll do anything but children’s ministry,” I replied.

I love how God takes us at our word, but gently nudges us away from our misplaced worldviews. I’m sure you can guess what the next decade brought into my life.

Mm hmm. Two kids, a role as a pastor’s wife in a small church, and a first-hand introduction to all the woes and joys of the one ministry that I vowed I wouldn’t do. Here are 8 things that I learned through my (reluctant) role in Children’s Ministry:

1. God has a sense of humor

God chastised me and my big mouth. But gently. And with much grace. God really knows me better than I know myself. The one thing I resisted was the one thing He led me to do, and also the one thing that became a wellspring of joy. With my honeymoon baby (my daughter) quickly growing up and with a hubby in the pastorate at a small church, I knew unforeseen staff turnovers meant that yours truly was up to bat.  I was the only person left in our church who was qualified and able to lead the fledgling ministry of a dozen kids. “You think you hate this?” the Lord asks. “Give it a whirl, my daughter, and see.”

2. Prayer—Can’t live without it

So I gave kids’ ministry a whirl. I felt egregiously out of my comfort zone. It forced me to my knees. And that, of course, opened me up to the wonders of walking in friendship with God and of seeing Him answer prayer. I remember Sundays like the one where I took the time to pray for one particular little preschooler from a broken family. That very day, he approached me, thrusting a Bible story-book in my face. We settled down to read. And that random-but-not-so-random Bible story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den gave my little student exactly the comfort he needed...for that exact moment.

3. Unexpected moments are the best ones

When you’re working with kids, there are countless loose cannons—and I don’t just mean the children. You can’t control how the class will shape up, who will attend, how the students will respond. I aimed high by preparing well, but I knew the result was up to God. The farmer sows his seed and waters his plants, and then leaves the rest to God.

4. You need a team. But God will always provide

I marvel at how often I’d feel like we were short one Sunday school teacher or short one volunteer. I took the brunt of that shortage, spending a lot more time downstairs with the children than I had originally planned. But somehow, God energized me and He always filled the gaps, supplying willing workers when we most needed them. When one worker would quit (as volunteers are apt to do), another would somehow pop up in his or her place.

5. You learn by teaching

How many times did a simple Bible lesson prep bring me to tears? An untrained teacher, I was in a posture of utter dependence on God’s Word.  And He met me. He met me in my own life circumstances with applications that were exquisitely perfect, so timely, dripping with His grace.

6. Sometimes the hardest things are the source of the most blessing

I don’t gravitate to children. Really, I don’t. I confess that deep down, I sometimes prefer if children were seen and not heard. Little humans are cute. But they take So. Much. Patience. Thankfully, whenever I was at my utter wit’s end with a Sunday School problem, God would line things up to make a magical teaching moment. Bam. Unexpected happiness.

7. Don’t be so results-oriented

Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Faces do. I was thankful we set high goals for the Sunday school ministry, but we didn’t tie ourselves down to measuring success by numbers.  I learned to focus on people, not numbers. That philosophy did bear numerical fruit—the numbers grew—but dips and spikes in attendance never terrorized me. Instead, I derived a sense of success from focusing on life transformation (rather than obsessing over capital losses and gains). I asked God for joy, to be able to love and to be loved by the families in my care.

8. God sees the little things

In Luke 9:48, Christ says, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” In his upside down economy, the littlest things count: a glass of water filled, a snotty nose wiped, the tiny prayer uttered, those doses of extra patience for a class full of rambunctious boys. The little things. Thank God for such delightful sources of joy.

Julia Cheung Headshot Julia Cheung is a cultural analyst and journalist of relationships, always on the lookout for stories of beautiful misfits. She lives in Vancouver BC with the loveable motley crew of her pastor husband and two preteen children.  She is a bundle of antitheses, a lover of truth, a teller of tales,  a too often emotional egoist and a fervently curious anti-narcissist. You can find her online at wifeinredemption.com.