The 6 Phenomena of Kids Ministry
Ministry is serious business. I mean, WE ARE DEALING WITH PEOPLE’S SOULS HERE! Eternity is at stake! It’s serious!
Except...that’s not really the case in Kids Ministry. We are rarely serious. And when we are, it usually doesn’t last long. That’s one of my favorite parts of leading a Kids Ministry team: We laugh ALL THE TIME. Seriously <haha>, we have more fun than any other ministry in the church. And do you know why? Because kids learn through play. It’s their primary mechanism for understanding truth. So, when we make learning about Jesus fun, they remember it. When we make a game out of learning that they are known and loved by God, they internalize it and it becomes part of who they are.
So, in light of this deep, theological foundation, here are 6 funny phenomena you’ll probably ONLY experience when you work in Kids Ministry:
1. The Death-Defying, “Partially-Potty-Trained” Preschool Tightrope Walk
There is no more precarious position for a ministry worker than deciding if you can actually finish the last 60 seconds of your lesson when your 3-year old student says “I have to go potty.”
Do they actually have to go right now? Are they just bored, and want to get off the lesson rug? If I say “Wait just a minute”, are they going to just stand up and pee on me right then and there?
The answer to your question is: Whichever choice you make, it will inevitably be the wrong one. Just accept it. Someone WILL pee on you when you work in the Preschool room. Someone WILL fake you out, and not have to go once you take them to the bathroom. Someone WILL stand up in the middle of your lesson, pull off their pants and Pull-Up, throw them in the garbage can, and then, standing naked from the waist down, sweetly say “I need a new pull up, please.” These are unavoidable facts of life in a Preschool Sunday School room. Embrace the pee, and keep plowing ahead.
2. Doing “Advanced Ministry Math”
Many of us in ministry might jokingly say “I don’t know why I had to learn Calculus in school. I work in ministry!” BUT...if you work in Kids Ministry, there are often complicated equations that you have to create and solve in order to do your job. Like this one that I needed recently:
“How many packets of JELL-O do I need to fill 12 Truck Tires, taking into account wind speed while the JELL-O is setting, the size of a 6-year old’s foot, and the slope of the grass underneath the obstacle course.”
The answer to the above equation, in case you ever need it, is: A LOT...you can return anything to Wal-Mart.
I should probably add that anyone who’s also directed camps has also used this Advanced Ministry Math, so this one may not actually be isolated only to Kids Ministry.
3. Having to sheepishly explain the contents of your car, no matter what day/week/month of the year it is.
If there were ever a monetary prize for having the strangest combination of items in a single vehicle, I could have retired years ago. I recently took my Toyota RAV4 to have it serviced, and they asked if I also wanted them to fix a recall on the rear passenger seatbelt. I said, “Sure!”
When I returned to pick up my vehicle, the mechanic came out and said, “Well, we were able to complete the back seatbelt recall work, but we had to move a dozen gingerbread houses, a giant Spiderman, and what appeared to be a Christmas Tree costume (??) to the trunk. I hope that was ok.” All I could do was stare at him and say, “Yes...that will be fine. Sorry about that. I work with kids.” Kids Ministry friends, don’t ever let someone borrow your car without first giving them this warning: Should they crash, there’s a possibility that they’ll need to be extricated from the vehicle surrounded by an orange wig, an inflatable sword, and any combination of squirt guns, nerf bullets and Superhero masks. Tell them not to try to explain any of it to the Emergency Services Workers.
4. Recruiting church members to do REALLY bizarre tasks with little or no explanation
My team once planned what we called our “Dirty Laundry Party,” where kids were all given a clean white t-shirt to wear over their clothes while they competed in Food Fight games and an obstacle course. It was absolutely one of the greatest events we’ve ever done, and you’re free to steal the idea for your own ministry.
One of the Obstacle Course challenges was to find “Meatballs” (AKA neon Koosh balls) in a pool full of Slimey Spaghetti. Using “Advanced Ministry Math,” we determined that we needed 60 Pounds of uncooked spaghetti noodles in order to fill this baby pool with slimey, gooey spaghetti. So, naturally, I posted on Facebook asking if anyone in the church was willing to cook a package or two of spaghetti and deliver it to the church before that Saturday. Then I dropped the bomb: I NEED 60 PACKAGES OF SPAGHETTI COOKED, AND PLEASE JUST TRUST ME THAT, YES...I ACTUALLY DO NEED THAT MUCH.
Our church body is incredible, and I had all 60 packages of spaghetti ready to be poured into the Spaghetti Pool the day before the party. That Spaghetti Pool was a highlight of the event, but I still got questions like, “What...are you carbo loading for a race or something??” (Even funnier, because I can’t even run to the mailbox and back without having to stop to throw up in the bushes.)
5. Making amends with parents when their child misunderstands a lesson
Once a month, we do a Kids Worship Sunday where kids get to learn their own songs with motions, and learn about worship in a kid-friendly environment. It’s always great fun, and we love teaching them new songs. Well, one Monday, I got a text from a mom who asked, “Umm...did you teach my boys to talk back to me and not obey when I tell them to do something?? They’re telling me they learned this from you during Kids Worship yesterday.” Shocked and appalled, I replied, “NO!!!! Of course not! We would never teach them anything like that! Where did they get THAT from?”
She replied, “I put them to bed last night and told them it was time to stop talking and go to sleep. After several trips upstairs, I asked them why they were being so disobedient, and they said, ‘We are just doing what we learned in church this morning!’ and started belting out a single (out of context) line of a song: “WE WON’T BE QUIET, WE WON’T BE QUIET!!!”
Moral of the story: Kids are concrete thinkers. They hear words and believe them for their simplest meaning. The song we taught is called “We Won’t Be Quiet” by David Crowder Band, and talks about never being quiet...ABOUT THE LOVE OF GOD. Clearly, we missed an opportunity for further education that Sunday.
6. The Great Nativity Play Breath-Hold
One of the best ways for you as a Kids Ministry leader to gain support for your ministry is to let the congregation see what your kids are doing! This means putting them in front of the congregation. Now, anyone who has ever prepared kids to perform in front of an audience knows this: You can practice one time or a hundred, and they’ll never do it the same way on stage that they do during rehearsals. This is why kids’ performances are so very entertaining for parents, and so very stressful for Kid Min leaders! From the moment they march on-stage to the moment they’re all safely back in their seats, WE DON’T BREATHE. WE JUST WATCH, WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING, WONDERING WHAT THIS GROUP OF UNPREDICTABLE LITTLE PEOPLE WILL DO.
This past Christmas, our classes acted out pieces of the Christmas story that were being narrated for them. They were in full costumes, and all did a great job sticking to what they had practiced. All... but one.
Our Preschool class performed the “Angels and Shepherds” scene. Boys were shepherds, and girls were angels. Their simple task was to stand facing each other, and when the narrator said, “The Angels appeared, and a bright light shone around them...”, the Angels were to turn on a flashlight and shine it at the Shepherds. Seems simple enough, right?
It mostly went as planned, but one Angel (there’s always one in every group, right?) quickly discovered that her flashlight was more useful as a Light Saber than the Glowing-Glory-Of-God. So, while the narrator read on, and the rest of the children finished the scene, this one little cherub moved to the front center of the stage, and performed her very own, impromptu light show for all to see.
I don’t know whether anyone that day actually heard or can remember the story of the Angels appearing to the Shepherds, but I know that they will never forget the special reenactment of “A Jedi Light Saber Christmas” that they saw last December.
If you want more info about why Kids Ministry is the funniest job in the church, or if your Kids Ministry could use some support, contact the new Elim Fellowship Kids Ministry Team! Email Mark Scorsone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ashley Milliken serves as the Director of Children's Ministry at Family Life Church in Warsaw, NY. She also works as a Registered Nurse at Golisano Children's Hospital in Rochester, NY. Prior to her current roles, she managed teams and worked in volunteer development for 7 years as the Executive Vice President at CompassCare Pregnancy Services in Rochester, NY. She says that "Making kids feel special and showing them the love of Jesus is what I wake up for every morning. There's nowhere I'd rather be than in Kids Ministry!"