You have answered the call to serve as a minister to children. Calls come in a variety of ways, yet here you are. Whether your ministry touches three children in a small congregation, three hundred children in a large congregation, or the children who live in the community where you serve, you have been invited to gather dedicated adults and scripturally sound resources to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This booklet concentrates of the basics of ministry that help children grow in faith. It is the beginning point for organizing for ministry and is designed to help congregations use their own gifts to respond to God’s call to care for the children, on Sunday morning, through the week, and for special events.
This is one of the twenty-six Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2017-2020 that cover church leadership areas including Church Council and Small Membership Church; the administrative areas of Finance and Trustees; and ministry areas focused on nurture, outreach, and witness including Worship, Evangelism, Stewardship, Christian Education, age-level ministries, Communications, and more.
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Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2017-2020 Children's Ministries
Help Children Grow in Faith
By Melanie C. Gordon
CokesburyCopyright © 2016 Cokesbury
All rights reserved.
A Biblical and Historical Foundation
Our first glimpse of Jesus is of a newborn baby who grew and lived each phase of childhood. We assume that Jesus experienced the love and comfort of parents and the fears, sorrows, and joys of a child. Children relate to Jesus because he grew as they grow. We can assume that Jesus grew up in a home in which Hebrew parents were obligated to teach their children the Law and to raise them to be responsible members of the faith community. A young Jesus spoke confidently to religious authorities in the temple, exemplifying the importance of teaching children well (Luke 2:41-52).
It is important to remember that Jesus loved and honored children. Parents brought their children to be blessed by Jesus, not just in his presence, but also through his touch. Jesus publicly claimed children as models of pureness of heart and joy inherent in the kingdom of God. He reminded us that we are to tend graciously to our children, and warned us of the consequences of being a "stumbling block" in our children's growth and development (see, for example, Luke 18:15-17).
Our Connectional Commitment to Children
John Wesley was also committed to the education and formation of children; and traditionally, the United Methodist Church has provided a space for children to learn, grow, and actively engage in the congregation.
In his sermons and actions, Wesley took up the cause of children's issues, especially their intellectual and spiritual development. The Wesleyan movement inspired the development of health clinics and schools that accommodated children from all walks of life. Wesley personally visited children in workhouses and poorhouses, and established Sunday schools, going against the popular writings of the time and actively participating in social justice issues that had an impact on children.
The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This mission, which reflects Jesus' Great Commission, includes children. Faith formation for children is not an option. Leaders in ministry with children live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) by offering opportunities, resources, and experiences for children that are steeped in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, making this your primary task.
Paragraph 256.1a of The Book of Discipline states, "in each local church, there shall be a church school for the purpose of accomplishing the church's educational ministry." The Book of Resolutions, an official document of the church, contains several resolutions that address our commitment to children, including "Putting Children and Their Families First" (2027) "Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse in the Church" (3084) and "Child Care and the Church" (3081) All leaders in ministry with children should be familiar with these documents to understand The United Methodist Church's deep commitment to children.
The general boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church take seriously the role of children in the life of the congregation. Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church, through the Office of Ministry with Children, provides resources for leaders engaged in ministry with children in local congregations. Discipleship Ministries offers a quadrennial conference, the United Methodist Conference on Ministry with Children, and also holds the responsibility for training leaders; providing research; connecting leaders and congregations; and developing resources for use in local churches, districts, and annual conferences. The United Methodist Publishing House develops curriculum for children, and a Curriculum Resources Committee reviews curriculum for alignment with United Methodist theology.
The General Board of Global Ministries advocates for children worldwide and supports United Methodist Women in the Campaign for Children, which focuses on advocating for greater support for public schools in the United States. The General Board of Church and Society advocates for children in legislative issues. The Commission on United Methodist Men supports the office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting. The General Commission on Finance and Administration provides support for congregations in matters of risk and in keeping children safe.
Most annual conferences appoint an individual who is responsible for ministry with children. This person is knowledgeable about district and annual conference programs and can direct you to people available to train and resource congregations. The annual conference contact also supports those who work with children. Christians Engaged in Faith Formation (CEF), an organization available to develop leaders in faith formation, will share knowledge and skills in ministry with children.
God loves all children and desires relationship with all children. As Christians, we are called to cultivate that relationship. John Wesley wanted children to know and love God. Our heritage as United Methodists has shown a commitment to children through baptism, Sunday school, Bethlehem Centers, daycare centers for working parents, and homes for children. The United Methodist Church continues to name children as vital participants in the community, and God calls us to love, protect, and nurture them.
Your Role as a Spiritual Leader
You are a vital part of the connection, and how you live out your life in accord with the biblical and historical principles of the church will have a direct impact on children and their families. In the letter to the community at Ephesus, the author appealed to his sisters and brothers to live into the unity of Spirit that God desires of us through Jesus Christ — one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:1-7). Those called to children's ministry live into this unity, and they use their gifts to serve the children of the congregation and the larger community in a multitude of ways. It is important to remember that God has given each of us gifts to be used to build up the community of faith (see Ephesians 4:11-13).
As a leader in The United Methodist Church, you set the example for the people that you lead — the children. Your life — both public and private — should reflect the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is difficult to teach what we do not practice or understand. The General Rules (the Discipline, 104) set forth a rule of life to aid in that practice. Marjorie Thompson, in Soul Feast, tells us "a rule of life is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. ... It fosters gifts of the Spirit in personal life and human community, helping to form us into the persons God intends us to be" ([Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995, 2005], 146, italics added). The General Rules expect us to begin by doing no harm and doing good, then to attend upon the ordinances of God through regular practice of the public worship of God; the ministry of the Word, either read or expounded; the Supper of the Lord; family and private prayer; searching the Scriptures; and fasting or abstinence.
While they are not specifically mentioned in this section of the Discipline, Wesley also included works of advocacy, service, and justice among them. All these practices will direct your life and support your ministry "to witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit" (the Discipline, 1117.2).
Self-care is your gift to God, to those you serve, and to you. Jesus spent time alone in prayer and visited Mary, Martha, and Lazarus when he needed to take respite. It is important to follow this model. Plan wisely. Set boundaries. Take time to care for yourself. Taking time for renewal is a discipline that will allow you to grow in holiness.CHAPTER 2
Ministry with Children
A vital, disciple-making congregation provides multiple opportunities for children to participate in the life of the church. "As people of faith, we are called to teach children through Scripture, our tradition as Methodists, the Social Principles, the ritual of baptism, and our concern for families. In responding to the call set before us, we will provide environments for children to be nurtured in the faith and to grow as children of God" ("Child Care and the Church," 3081, Book of Resolutions). The process for disciple making can be found within 122 of the Discipline. We make disciples as we create a welcoming environment for children, offer children engaging occasions to make a commitment to Christ, offer experiences where children can grow in faith by participating in the means of grace, and provide opportunities for children to help transform the communities in which they live.
The Spiritual Lives of Children
Children are spiritual beings, born with the essential knowledge of God's presence and with the potential for spiritual experiences with God to activate that potential. The role of those who are responsible for their faith development is to help children on this journey. Scripture gives the example of Jesus growing strong and gaining in wisdom in his community (Luke 2:40). A congregation that intentionally fulfills this role actively:
creates experiences that support children in the knowledge and awareness of God;
models God's unconditional love for all God's children;
provides opportunities that support children in discovering, developing, and sharing their unique gifts from God;
listens and responds to the needs of children.
Small Groups and Covenant
Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world in a vital congregation includes multiple opportunities for children to participate in small groups. During this kind of engagement, children are able to form deeper relationships with one another and with God. Small groups vary from Bible study to mission groups to Covenant Discipleship groups. As with any ministry, listen to children and offer them the space to shape the group. Consider helping children develop a covenant for each of these groups to equip them to recognize the importance of covenant as is found in Scripture and in our Methodist heritage.
The Digital Child in Christian Community
The children we serve today are surrounded by more technological advances than many of us could have ever imagined. Depending on your setting, you will encounter children who are savvy with technology from as early as eighteen months old to children whose families do not have the resources to offer them handheld technology. Most of them will fall somewhere in between. Your role in children's ministry is to understand how children learn in light of the digital age and to recognize the importance of forming relationships in community where all of the senses are engaged. Technology lacks the human touch. Technology cannot give safe hugs. Technology cannot console a grief-stricken child. It is a tool that can connect us to one another in new ways that can be healthy and encouraging.
We can assume that Jesus grew up in a culture where children were formed and educated through relationships and face-to-face communication. Your primary formational tools are communication and building relationships. Help children actively build relationships with peers, with family members, and with the gathered community of Christ. Use media only to enhance those relationships.CHAPTER 3
As coordinator of children's ministries, you are "responsible for assuring that children are considered and included within the life of the congregation. The coordinator will lead the children's council, when organized, and will work closely with clergy and other program-related staff. The coordinator will vision, plan, and advocate for children, particularly in the areas of faith development, safety, and discipleship. The coordinator will work with other leaders in the congregation to assure that policies and procedures are in place to help keep all children and the adults who care for and work with them safe. These policies and procedures include such things as background checks, having at least two adults per group, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first-aid training. The coordinator will also advocate for mission education for children, including The United Methodist Children's Fund for Christian Mission." (the Discipline, 256.2a)
Your Ministry as a Children's Leader
In most congregations that serve a small number of children each week, the coordinator of children's ministry is probably the primary person responsible for seeing that the needs of children are met. In most large-membership congregations that serve a large number of children, the coordinator of children's ministry may be one of several age-level coordinators. Medium-membership congregations serve various numbers of children, so the children's ministry may be served by a coordinator or by a children's minister on the church staff.
If your congregation employs a staff person responsible for children's ministry, your job may be modified in relation to the staff person's duties and whether that person is employed full- or part-time. Although the responsibilities of your role as coordinator of children's ministries may vary, your primary task remains the faithful formation of children as they journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. Depending on the size and staffing of your church, your responsibilities may include these practices and tasks.
Always begin with prayer. This is the one means of grace that we can practice alone and in community and the one that is God's gift of communication with God. Pray intentionally for the children and their families.
Gather information that will guide your ministry with children by talking with key individuals and groups in the congregation, exploring the resources in your local church, and contacting Discipleship Ministries and your annual conference for support and resources.
Create a plan of communication with parents, guardians, and teachers of the children in your congregation.
Know the children. Learn the name of each child that you will serve in children's ministry. Address the children by name. Always know how many children you serve. Each child is a gift from God and deserves to be remembered and known.
Suggest and seek experiences that may be new or innovative in children's ministries.
Advocate. Identify key people in the congregation and community who are advocates for children's needs and issues. Advocate for all children to be welcome and invited to participate in the full life of the church as vital participants. Advocate for quality leadership. Stay informed about the gifts of church members. Advocate for sufficient funding. Keep financial planners aware of the needs of all ministries with children.
Set realistic and innovative goals. Appropriate goals are measurable, have a reasonable timetable for accomplishment, and fit the vision.
Assure training opportunities for teachers, guides, and leaders at various times of the year.
Be safe. Adopt a Safe Sanctuaries® policy and enforce it so that the congregation is a safe place for children and for the adults who engage with them. Know the Safe Sanctuaries® policy in your annual conference. The contact list for Safe Sanctuaries® is on the Discipleship Ministries website (www.umcdiscipleship.org) and atwww.MinistryGuidelines.org.
Use approved resources. Acquaint yourself with the curriculum and resource materials available from The United Methodist Publishing House throughcokesbury.com. Look for approved curriculum that says "UMC Endorsed."
Stay connected and communicate. Partner with leaders in the congregation who work with youth, adults, and families. As children grow, the transition to youth ministries will run more smoothly if you plan intergenerational activities. Communicate with leaders of groups with whom children's ministries share space, such as the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, or Alcoholics Anonymous. Open communication will allow everyone to work well in community. Connect with leaders in ministry with children at other United Methodist churches, as well as with other denominations and non-profits. A network of people who care for children is a valuable resource.
Excerpted from Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2017-2020 Children's Ministries by Melanie C. Gordon. Copyright © 2016 Cokesbury. Excerpted by permission of Cokesbury.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsBlessed to Be a Blessing,
Guidelines in Children's Ministries,
A Biblical and Historical Foundation,
Our Connectional Commitment to Children,
Your Role as a Spiritual Leader,
Ministry with Children,
The Spiritual Lives of Children,
The Digital Child in Christian Community,
Your Ministry as a Children's Leader,
Create an Effective Ministry Group,
Planning for Children's Ministry,
A Calendar for Ministry with Children,
Create a Budget,
Select Resources and Curriculum,
Evaluate Children's Ministry,
Create Safe Sanctuaries®,
Address Special Needs,
Ministry in the Community and the World,
Evangelism and Witness,
Inclusiveness and Ecumenical Awareness,
Ministries Related to Children's Ministries,
What Every Child Should Experience,
A Scope and Sequence,
Find Support and Guidance,
Basic Understanding of Ministry with Children,
Safe Sanctuaries®: Keeping Children Safe,
Formational Studies and Lessons for Children,
Newsletters and Resource Information,
Faith Development and Formation,
Resource Agencies and Organizations,
Mission Opportunities for Children,
Magazines for Children and Families,
General Church Resources,
UMC Agencies & Helpful Links,