Last week I met with a group of weekday preschool teachers at Disciples United Methodist Church in Greenville, South Carolina who reminded me of how exciting and overwhelming a new school year can be for teachers and leaders. Those of us who are in ministry with children enthusiastically embrace starting a new thing. We know that “the one who began a good work among (us) will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Ph 1.6) Paul’s prayer for the people of Philippi on his second missional journey reminds us that our work with children and their families is both vital and also supported in prayer by those who care about children’s formation.
As the new school year begins, we bless backpacks, promote children in Sunday school, and plan for multiple fall activities. As teachers and leaders, we also need to know that there are ways for us to find support and strength in this important ministry.
- Always begin with prayer. This is the one means of grace that we can practice alone and in community, and the one that is God’s gift of communication with Him.
- Gather information that will guide your ministry with children by talking with key individuals and groups in the congregation, exploring the resources that you have in your local church, and contacting your Annual Conference and The Intentional Growth Center for advice and resources.
- Create a plan of communication with parents, guardians, and teachers of the children in your congregation. Utilize media tools to connect with busy parents who want to stay engaged.
- Suggest and seek out experiences that may be new or innovative in children’s ministries. Seek out children’s ministers at churches in your community, and arrange to meet with one another to offer collegial support.
- Advocate that all children are welcome and expected to participate in the full life of the church as vital participants
- Set realistic and innovative goals. Take time to listen to the needs of the children and families in your congregation and community, and find ways to serve them with intention and grace.
- Assure training opportunities for yourself, teachers and leaders. The Intentional Growth Center is committed to offering training for people in ministry with children and their families.
- Adopt a Safe Sanctuaries® Policy and live into it so that the congregation creates a culture committed to reducing the risk of sexual abuse.
- Use quality curriculum that is aligned with Methodist theology. Acquaint yourself with the curriculum and resource materials available from the United Methodist Publishing House.
- Stay connected and communicate with leaders in the congregation who work with youth, adults, and families. As children grow, the transition to youth will run more smoothly if you plan intergenerational activities. Open communication will allow everyone to work well in community.
- Remember Self-Care. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love yourself.
The Intentional Growth Center is dedicated to bringing you quality training for children’s ministers who are looking to grow professionally, theologically, and spiritually. Learn more about our consulting offerings here.
Rev. Melanie C. Gordon holds a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Clemson University. She is the author of What Every Child Should Experience: A Guide for Teachers and Leaders in United Methodist Congregations, Children’s Ministry Guidelines for 2013–16 Quadrennium, and co-authored Guidelines for Weekday Preschool Ministry and Growing Everyday Disciples: Covenant Discipleship with Children. Melanie also serves as the Lead Consultant for Children’s Ministry at the Intentional Growth Center.