Getting it wrong in children’s ministry


My slow journey toward ministry with parents

by Ellen Funk

                                                                                         Photo: Thinkstock

I used to think being called into children’s ministry meant I was to provide ministry to and for children with the help of some adult leaders. The job of parents was to bring them to church. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who got this wrong.

I got this impression from my childhood experiences in another denomination. There were always alternative worship options for children, especially young ones. The message I heard was children need to be separated from adults in order to be taught at age-appropriate levels. It’s interesting, though, that this was not what I chose for myself. As a second grader, I distinctly remember choosing to stay in the service with adults, preferring it to children’s church that went through third grade.

At Community Bible Church, our children’s church is for kids age three thru kindergarten. After being hired by the church 11 years ago, I simply assumed we would move toward offering children’s church for older children as well. This was largely based on what I perceived to be the “right way of doing things.”

Laura, a children’s ministry team member at the time, challenged my thinking. She suggested I read Parenting in the Pew and described the value of having her children sitting next to her in the worship service: Her children experienced corporate worship, learned to sit quietly and listen, were seen and known by the congregation and began to understand what it means to belong to a church family. Upon reflection, I realized my decision as a young child to worship with my parents was acceptable and, more importantly, valid.

Soon my closing remark on letters to parents became, “Thanks for allowing us to partner with you.” I started reading articles on what it means to walk alongside parents. And I joined a local children and family ministry network that reinforced the idea that parents should be primary spiritual disciplers of their children.

Our children’s ministry team wrestled with how our mission statement could be changed to reflect our desire to equip parents. And after several years, we felt it was time to switch our Sunday school curriculum to one intentionally written with the role of parents in mind. One of the neat features was “pre-teach” pages that allowed parents to introduce the Bible stories before kids came to class.

My view of ministry to families continues to be refined. I now understand that it isn’t my job to convince parents to take back their role as spiritual disciplers of kids but to help them see they have been doing it all along. The church’s role is to be their cheerleader and to equip parents with practical tools to do the job well. This can be done in any number of ways.

For us, resourcing parents takes the form of family fun events, service opportunities in which families can participate together, a family resource display with articles and a newsletter applicable for families of various ages and stages and the switch to The Gospel Project, a Sunday school curriculum where all ages study the same biblical themes. Our most recent offering was a six-week parenting course called “Direction With Dignity,” developed and taught by Calvin and Carolyn Richert, nationally recognized child development experts who attend CBC.

My journey to “parent ministry” may have been slow, but today I am an enthusiastic advocate of empowering parents to disciple their children.

Ellen Funk has been on staff at Community Bible Church, Olathe, Kan., since 2005, working with children and families. She earned a master’s degree in Christian Formation and Discipleship in 2015 from Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, MO, while simultaneously completing the Mennonite Brethren Studies certificate from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. Funk is married to Donovan, has three grown children and four grandchildren. She is eager to connect with other USMB children/family staff workers, to learn from and support one another.




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