NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Most growing churches have one thing in common. Children. Lots of children. Often, they are the children of young adults that the church missed in the ’70s and ’80s who are now seeking avenues of worship.
“Many pastors have discovered that preschool and children’s ministry is one of the most vital elements in a growing church,” said Lawrence Phipps, pastor of Vaughn Forest Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. Phipps was a conference leader at the National Preschool and Children’s Conference, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Phipps’ conference, “Connecting with Your Pastor,” helped preschool and children’s ministers understand the importance of teaming together with the pastor and other members of the church staff.
“People too often shrug off children’s ministry,” Phipps said. “They don’t realize that a lot of the time the only love children get is at church. We haven’t reached the unchurched people like we should, so we don’t understand the reality of their home life.”
Phipps stressed the importance of making children feel welcome at church. He said adults shouldn’t act as “wall police” who only care that things stay neat and clean in the church.
“Paint is cheap,” Phipps said. “Kids aren’t. We shouldn’t make children in our churches feel uncomfortable. They should feel loved.”
The question is how to communicate to the other ministry leaders that the preschool and children’s ministries are a viable part of the church. Phipps suggested seven steps to make that connection:
1) Practice a strong personal, spiritual walk. “The best way for believers to get close to each other is to get close to God,” Phipps said. A daily quiet time is essential, as is Bible study and fellowship with other believers. These things are often lost in the chaos of everyday living but should be regained in order to draw closer as a staff.
2) Pray. Many churches spend more time complaining than they do praying, Phipps said. An essential part of prayer that many leave out is listening. “We’re uncomfortable listening because it is then that God starts changing us,” Phipps said. He also recommended not only praying for your pastor, but also spending time in prayer with your pastor and other ministers at church.
3) Provide support within the church for the pastor. It is important to realize that your passion is not the only passion, Phipps told conference-goers. Each passion in a church is important, and the goal is not to make sure groups of likeminded people do not form, but that the groups can cooperate with each other. “The easiest way to get the different groups in a church to love and support each other is to be certain that the staff leadership supports and loves each other,” Phipps said.
4) Protect the pastor. It is important to protect your pastor’s time, Phipps said. “I pray for my staff, but I don’t always need details, because I’m really loaded down myself. I don’t know everything that’s going on with them, just like they don’t know all of the things I am going through.” Phipps said that he trusts the decisions his staff makes and knows they will come to him if that is necessary.
The pastor’s ministry should also be protected, Phipps said. “Don’t listen to criticism of your pastor. Pray with the person criticizing, but then instruct him or her to go to the pastor or staff member he or she has a problem with. Follow the Bible’s instructions, not the world’s.”
5) Promote the pastor’s ministry and vision. Phipps encouraged preschool and children’s workers to have a vision that fits within the vision of the church. “Without a vision, there are no parameters, no restraints and no power,” Phipps said. “Your vision must come from God. If it comes from you, it will die, and you will waste a lot of time doing CPR on it.”
6) Present the gospel. Children should be led to Christ, but not necessarily by the pastor. “I don’t have to be the one who shares the gospel with the children,” Phipps said. “Their teachers and leaders should be doing that as well.”
7) Produce fruit. Workers in the children’s department often become burned out. Phipps recommended that volunteers choose either Sunday or Wednesday to work, not both. “When they’re working with the children all the time, they’re not being nurtured themselves,” he said. “Make sure your workers are plugged into Sunday School and Bible studies as well.”
More than 700 people attended this year’s National Preschool and Children’s Convention, held at the LifeWay complex in Nashville, Tenn., in mid-October.
“The National Preschool and Children’s Convention is designed to help preschool and children’s leaders renew their passion and vision for ministering to preschoolers, children and their families,” said Cindy Lumpkin, editor-in-chief for leadership and ministry resources in LifeWay’s childhood ministry publishing.
“The convention is also a time for leaders to strengthen their skills in area of ministering, teaching, reaching and leading,” she said. “Our hope is that preschool and children’s leaders will leave with a renewed vision and challenged to make a difference in the lives of the children.”
For more information about this and other leadership conferences, visit www.lifeway.com/ev_ldr.asp.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PASTOR’S POINTS.