I can't juggle. I don't do magic. I'm not good at puppets. I can't even make a decent balloon animal. But believe it or not, I am a Nazarene children's pastor! I did not enter seminary to prepare to be a children's pastor. Ministering to children and their families is something that God brought into my life. And I am forever thankful.
Along with concern for issues like social justice, women in ministry, and the dangers of nicotine and alcohol, the Church of the Nazarene has loved and valued children since its inception. I am proud to be part of a church that doesn't see children as the church of tomorrow, but values them as a critical part of the Body of Christ today.
I ache when I see situations in which children never experience being together with the rest of the congregation in the sanctuary. Our children need their own spaces, worship, and discipleship environments that are developmentally appropriate, but I also believe that we are not whole as a congregation when an entire generation is missing.
I love family worship Sundays where we are all together and worshiping God as a complete Body. Is it a little noisier? Absolutely! But oh, does it feel alive and authentic, the way God designed us to be together in worship. The family will always be his primary means of discipleship and I love partnering with parents as they seek to raise their children in the knowledge and grace of God.
To be honest, when people see me as the woman-who-keeps-the-children-busy-so-that-the-grown-ups-can-worship-in-peace, it upsets me. Teaching children that God loves them and that Jesus died for them and wants a relationship with them is pretty important stuff and it is the entire church's calling'not just that of the children's pastor.
What a privilege and sacred honor it is to pastor children. God designed us to come to know Him early and to grow in his grace. An incredibly high percentage of those who come to know Christ begin those spiritual relationships in childhood. Therefore, I believe our children deserve our best efforts.
So what does it look like for this puppet-challenged children's pastor to do children's ministry?
- I build relationships with our kids.
- I see them as the extremely valuable eternal beings that God created them to be.
- I teach them who God is and how much he loves them.
- I don't want them to know about God I want them to know God for themselves.
I lose sleep over the thought that a child could be a part of our nursery and head into youth group 12 years later, knowing the 23rd Psalm, the 10 Commandments, John 3:16, all the stories of the Bible, and yet not knowing Him.
Yes, I enjoy the hype, the camps, the goofy games, and all the fun activities. But, I have a sign on the wall across from my desk that reminds me what God has asked me to do and what God has asked the Church of the Nazarene to do. It says:
'Tell the kids I love them.'
Janelle Beiler served as children's pastor at Cross Pointe Church of the Nazarene in Salisbury, Maryland, and currently teaches high school literature and is also a hospice chaplain.
Holiness Today, July/August 2012