The aim of children’s ministry is exactly what it sounds like—to minister to children—but I’ve always felt that I gain just as much as a volunteer. Between my teen years and now, I’ve worked with kids through vacation Bible school (VBS), Awana and Sunday School. It takes commitment, and it’s rarely effortless, but it’s always worth it. The kids get a safe place to grow in relationship with God and others, and I get to understand God and life in ways I might have missed otherwise. Here are six of the ways I’ve been blessed by children’s ministry:
#1: I saw faith in action
In a conversation with his disciples in Matthew 18, Jesus told his disciples—a group of grown men—that they had to become like small children in their faith. As I worked with kids, I got to see that picture of a child’s trusting faith played out again and again. The kids didn’t come with hesitation, cynicism, or fear of what others were thinking. They came openly, with their prayers, their offerings, and hearts to give to God. I want to be like that.
#2: I've seen God answer prayer
Many of my VBS adventures have taken place at my cousins’ EFCA church in western Minnesota. Most of the kids come from the surrounding farm communities, so they took it seriously one year when, as the week went on, it wasn’t raining. With the crops on the verge of dying without water, the children started a morning off with prayer for rain. By the end of the morning’s activities, clouds that hadn’t been in the forecast rolled in, and God’s answer showered down. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to refresh the fields—and show kids and teachers alike that God still hears and responds to faith.
#3: I got to let go and have fun
As we leave our own childhood behind, we don’t always take as much time for crazy play as we did as kids. That hesitation is thrown out the window for anyone who works in children’s ministry. As an Awana leader, I got decorated as a Christmas tree and recruited to mess up my hair as a preview of crazy hair night. As a VBS teacher, I got pelted with wet sponges and (dry) balled-up diapers during game time. For kids, fun is part of learning, and anyone who is a part of that process has the duty and privilege to let go and play too.
#4: I was a part of lives changed
Have you ever seen a child asking questions about Jesus’ sacrifice for them or choosing to be kind to a kid they’ve never gotten along with? I have. I’ve also listened as second graders recited full Scripture passages on who Jesus is and watched preschoolers repeat and learn to understand that “God is good and in control.” Knowing that God used me in some small way to bring about positive change in the life of a child is humbling, and I’m honored by the role He has let me play.
#5: I got to practice humility
Children’s ministry teaches humility to the teachers in more ways than one. To teach kids, I have to constantly pay attention to what they need, what they can understand, and how they see the world. I can’t just walk into a group of kids and communicate with them “my way”—I have to get on the same page as them and meet them where they’re at. Why shouldn’t I apply that same attention to all of my relationships? Philippians 2 tells us to put others’ interests first, and working in children’s ministry has taught me what that looks like.
#6: I heard old truths in a new way
Teaching the Bible to children requires hearing it yourself, and sometimes, the lessons you’re given to teach are the ones you most need to hear. I’ve kept 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Philippians 4:19 close ever since they hit me like a wake-up slap during VBS one summer. God’s Word reminded me that God provides what we need to face each challenge—including a way out of temptation. What the kids were hearing as simple truth, I was seeing through the eyes of someone who had failed time and time again after forgetting that truth. I had fallen down, but I could get up. In Christ, I could be victorious.
Two years later, our VBS theme verse was Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” It was my job to walk a dozen six-year-olds through the Bible lessons, which drew parallels between stories of God’s dealings with Israel and the ways He deals with us through Christ. There wasn’t a story I hadn’t heard before, but in order to teach it well, I had to believe it well. The God who miraculously led His people out of Egypt is the one leading us today. The God who promised to meet all my needs and make a way out of temptation in 2011 was just as willing in 2013. The God we’re calling our kids to through children’s ministry is calling us to Himself regardless of our age or place in life.
Is it your turn?
Everyone I talk to has their own story of how children’s ministry was a huge blessing to them, whether it was the relationships they got to build, the lessons the kids taught them, or the encouragement of being used by God. Even if you don’t have experience as a parent or teacher, your gifts and willingness can still help kids find a place to learn and grow. As I work with children, God works in me, and you can be blessed in the same way. Just be willing to get involved.
Do you attend First Free? There’s still plenty of room to sign up to help out with Vacation Bible School or other summer children’s programming. Stop by the table in the gym on Sunday morning to find out more.
About the author
Elizabeth Buege graduated from the University of Northwestern—St. Paul with a B.A. in English Writing. She works as a freelance book editor, offering writing and editing tips alongside her services at www.elizabethbuege.com. She also teaches weekly writing classes as the secondary writing tutor for the ESCHEL homeschool co-op in Oakdale, MN.
When Elizabeth isn’t working, you can probably find her reading or writing for fun. She also loves gardening, cooking, exploring parks, and hanging out with big dogs and small children. She attends First Free in Maplewood and is thankful to have found such strong fellowship so close to home.