When I first became involved in children’s ministry over 25 years ago, it was because I loved working with children. I loved it so much that some years later I took a full time job as a children’s minister just so that I could spend all my time teaching children about Jesus!
At least that’s what I thought I would be spending all my time doing…
Perhaps I was somewhat naïve as I started out, but a few years into that job, God helped me to see that a large portion of my role as the children’s minister was actually to encourage, enable, equip, challenge and train others to be able to teach children the Good News about Jesus from the Bible.
It was a hard journey away from what I thought was the front line of children’s ministry. Until God showed me that the front line for a children’s minister was entrusting other disciples with the gospel and preparing them to disciple the children and young people in the church.
I want to suggest that at the core of an effective children’s and youth ministry is Jesus-focused, relational, transformational discipling of leaders.
What does relational discipleship look like?
Below I have outlined five ideas that will help you develop a culture of discipling among your children’s or youth ministry leaders.
1. Recognise the great privilege that God chooses to use His people as co-workers in the discipling of others (1 Cor 3:8-9). But remember, God is the one who brings about the growth and transformation in His people as they respond in faith and obedience to His Word (1 Cor 3:6-7).
2. Start where you are. Sometimes it is not necessarily a matter of starting something new, but rather, it is building on a foundation that already exists. The following three questions can help you to asses where you are at and consider how to move forward.
What are you already doing to disciple the leaders at your church?
How could you share the discipling of leaders with other mature disciples of Christ at your church?
What opportunities can you see for discipling of your ministry leaders?
3. Take the time to do regular ‘pulse checks’ with your leaders. These are conversations that create space for leaders to honestly share the joys and struggles that they are facing in the ministry they are serving in.
Some of the things that you could ask in a ‘pulse check’ are:
What has God been teaching you lately?
How are you going with the ministry?
What is a joy or a challenge from the ministry?
Is there any way that I can help you?
Who is one child that you would like to specifically pray for?
Let your leaders know that you are going to be having these conversations, so that it becomes part of the culture of the leadership team.
4. Think about next steps for your leaders. As you get to know your leaders, consider how you can help them take one step forward in their leadership. But it’s not enough just to think about next steps. Talk with your leaders about how you see God transforming them and growing them. Observe them leading and give them constructive feedback, as well as time to self-reflect.
5. Pray for your leaders. Take every opportunity to pray with and for your leaders as you celebrate their triumphs and share their struggles. Colossians 1:9-14 offers a helpful framework to guide your thanksgiving and prayers for your leaders.
For children’s and youth ministers there are so many good and worthy things that fill up our schedules. These things often distract us, and lead us away from the front-line. But I encourage you to commit to develop a culture of relational discipling where leaders are encouraged, enabled, equipped, challenged and trained to be able to teach children the Good News about Jesus from the Bible.