Originally published in Children’s Ministry Magazine, March/April 2019.
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12 hard-won pieces of wisdom from a veteran leader’s heart to yours
By Debbie Mecca
(Debbie has worked with children and youth for 31 years in churches in New York and Connecticut. She’s currently the director of children and youth ministries at Saugerties United Methodist Church in Saugerties, New York
Not long ago, someone asked me to think back to when I first started in children’s ministry…over 30 years ago. The person asked me to share all the things I thought I needed to be effective—and what I learned I actually needed instead. I began to think about all the discoveries I’d made over the years—some happy, some uncomfortable, but all important. The result is this list, which is part confession and part advice column. It might save you a bit of wasted effort or ease a frustration you’re dealing with. It may even nudge along your own discovery. So here goes: the shortlist of lessons learned along my 30-year journey in children’s ministry.
I thought I needed to develop my own vision for the children’s programming.
What I really needed was to develop a shared vision with our church.
I thought I needed the approval of the pastor and church leadership.
What I really needed was the active support and involvement of the pastor and church leadership.
I thought I needed “bodies” filling Sunday school rooms each week.
What I really needed was adults who cared about children and sharing God’s Word with them.
I thought I needed flashy Sunday school curriculum.
What I really needed was to learn how to provide effective teacher training.
I thought I needed a big budget.
What I really needed was to learn how to be creative.
I thought everyone was fit to teach Sunday school and be involved in Children’s Ministry.
What I really needed to know is children’s safety comes first, and we must choose all volunteers wisely after completing background checks.
I thought I needed to simply put out the word and volunteers would flock to Children’s Ministry.
What I really needed was help promoting and advertising the joys of our children’s programs.
I thought I only needed to provide the programs and the children would come.
What I really needed was to involve entire families in various programs and activities throughout the year.
I thought it didn’t matter what space we used or how it looked.
What I really needed to know is appropriate and clean spaces project an image of caring, not just for the children but also for the space where we worship our God.
I thought I needed lots of meetings and planning sessions.
What I really needed was time spent in prayer and discernment.
I thought I knew all I needed to know at the time.
What I really needed to know is consistent study and continuing education were important to keep me up to date in the ever changing and evolving area of Children’s Ministry.
I thought I could do the job alone.
What I really needed was a mentor or coach and a group of other children’s ministers to help me, to laugh and cry with me, to share with me, to pray for me, to guide me, to keep me centered, and to let me know I wasn’t alone on this journey.