Kid & Youth Ministries… More than Bible Lessons…

therapy-counseling-familyIt’s a general assumption that Kid & Youth Ministries is all about teaching Bible stories, lessons, and planning activities to the kids that come to church on Sundays! Yes, we do a lot of that… However, that’s not all we do! In fact, that’s not probably not the most significant part of what we do… Gasp! (I can just hear the echo of shock from some reasons…) Yes, it’s true… teaching Bible stories and lessons aren’t the most significant part of what we do! If you ask me, the most significant aspect of our ministry is loving them unconditionally as we journey with the individuals.

We, at church, may have the challenge of not having enough face time with the children (in an average church, an average child will only spend 39-45 hours the whole year in Sunday School… that’s barely 2 full days worth!). However, we have the unique opportunity to journey with them through various life stage as long as the family continues to come to church. Lately, I’ve been reminded that a lot of our kids come to church with baggage from home life, school life, social life, etc. While we give priority to teaching the Bible truths each Sunday, we also make sure each small group leader connects with their students on a more intimate level. Most of the times, that’s where true ministry takes place. We hear about a fight the child had that morning with a sibling, about how he/she got in trouble, about how the child misses a parent who is no longer living with her/him, about feeling lonely and sad, about their hurts, and more. Also in small groups, the kids get to discuss Jesus more in depth with their small group leaders, share good things that happened during the week, and how God answered their prayers. We have the privilege of talking through these challenging and good times. We have the privilege of crying with them and celebrating with them.

Don’t get me wrong… everything we do is because we have deep desire to help kids know and experience Jesus in tangible ways… but people often think kids and youth ministries are all about activities, events, and lessons! We plan activities and events to provide more opportunities for draw more kids. And of course, we want the kids to learn the Bible. But our job doesn’t end there!

As we come to the end of academic year and we also prepare for Promotion Sunday at church, many of the small group leaders tell me that it’s their desire to stay with their small group kids! This makes me happier than I can express… because they realize that they don’t teach a grade, they don’t just teach Bible lessons, BUT they’re investing in the lives of the kids that have been entrusted in their small groups. The relationship and journeying with the kids through the good and bad times is what we really do… and we do this by sharing the unconditional love of Jesus! Kids are experiencing Jesus through their leaders! It can’t get more tangible than that in Sunday School!

All the volunteers and staff are privileged to journey with these kids and youths… because we get to experience God’s grace and redemption in their lives when they make decisions to follow Jesus. We get to develop relationships with the whole family and become a part of their extended circle of influence in the lives of the kids. We get to see them grow and mature!

This past week, I got another invitation to a high graduation of a kid who was in my ministry when he was in elementary school… and I was filled with gratitude as I thought back on his life… I’ve been able to witness him growing right before my eyes… and from a cute little 2nd grader to a tall, handsome, and God-loving young man!

If you ask me, the most significant things that all the volunteers and I do isn’t teaching Bible stories and lessons… but it’s really investing in growing relationship with the kids and families… It’s not easy at times, but I absolutely love what I do!

stop taking ownership!!!

I’ve been on staff at several churches for the past 20 years.  When you’re in ministry, you spend a lot of time discussing ways to get people, especially volunteers, to own the ministry that they’re serving in.  After all, we want people to take ministries seriously and care for them as they would care for their own personal affairs.  However, I recently had a conversation with a pastor regarding teaching people to let go of ownership!  Many of you in ministry may totally disagree… but in the process of trying to encourage people to take personal and earnest care for these ministries, we’ve created monsters.  (I can just feel all these crazy eyes right about now…)

Let me explain… I’ve come across dozens of stories of a single person who has such tight hold on one aspect of ministry that other people are too scared to get near it… or that one person who is THE obstacle to making any changes… or that one person drives people out from getting involved or worse, out of the church altogether!  It sounds crazy, but it happens more often than not!  It’s often that ONE person who has such tight hold on whatever they’ve taken ownership of that it alienates or discourages others from serving joyfully.

We’ve forgotten that this is God’s ministry… not mine nor yours nor Mr. Smith’s.  We’ve led people to take ownership in such a way that it’s become their personal ministry with personal agendas and personal directions rather than God’s ministry with His agenda and direction.  What starts out as a good intentions often lead to disasters… and I think this is one example.  I have witnessed a church where one elder single-handedly drove out all paid staff, other leaders, and eventually majority of the congregation.  And it came down to the fact that he felt too invested in this church… and if ministry direction didn’t fit his vision, it was rejected.  He was very dedicated… he was at the church practically every day… He served with much passion and commitment… In fact, I believe he truly loved the church… but his tight ownership of the church eventually led to people being hurt, rejected, bitter, and departure from the church.

open-handsSo what if we encouraged people to release their tight grips… and release their ministries into the hands of God… after all, God is the owner of the ministries that we’re in, not me nor you nor Mr. Smith!  What if we encouraged people to really listen for God’s direction… and be good stewards of the ministries instead of owning it?  It may just seem like semantics, but would that change people’s thinking and attitudes?

REAL Leaders, Marines, & Moms

So in case you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek!  I have a very short attention span, and I can barely sit through anything that takes longer than 10 minutes…  But I’ll sit through 50 minutes of Simon Sinek’s talks.  I find him amazing, fascinating, inspiring, and brilliant!  This morning, I came across this youtube regarding the title of his latest book.  It’s a must see-and it’s only 4 minutes!!!

I absolutely love what he talks about here because this is also biblical leadership.  When I first started ministry, I was trained under an amazing man of God.  He truly led by example.  We would have monthly church beautification Saturdays (that I actually dreaded because I’m not a physical labor person)… but my senior pastor taught us that we needed to be there before everyone else arrived, and we already needed to be cleaning rather than just waiting and sitting around.  As much as I hated these monthly ritual, I always looked to my pastor with awe.  He would show up in his sweats, and he was on his knees gardening at the back of the church.  When I was in seminary in LA and commuted by plane to SF to church, he and his wife gave me the keys to the church mini-van and his home so I would never ben stranded anywhere.  He said I was always welcome.  I could raid their fridge whenever I was hungry.  I knew that this was a man who was willing to lay his life down for any of his staff and congregation members.

So it came as a shock when few years later, I had a pastor who told me that congregation members shouldn’t see me in my “street clothes” or they shouldn’t see me working and living like the rest of them.  My new pastor told me something that was completely opposite of what I had been taught by my first senior pastor.  Over a decade later, I’m always surprised to hear of leaders that demand or feel entitled to the royal treatment.  Aren’t leader suppose to serve?  That’s what I had been taught…

When I came across Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last,” I just burst with excitement and emotions:  “YEAH!!!  That’s what leaders are!!!”  He even goes on to say “you’re either a leader or you’re not!”  WOW!!!  Marines eat last… Moms eat last…  How about us church leaders?  We live in a society/culture where many church leaders are often revered and put on pedestals.  People often serve me first because I carry the title “pastor” (which I really dislike by the way… I’ve never been fond of titles)… but perhaps we should take note from the marines and moms and learn to eat last!