Monday, October 25, 2010

On becoming a children's pastor

I didn't set out to become a children's pastor.  In fact, for many years, I wasn't sure if I even liked children or wanted to have any of them myself.  (Blame that one on a nightmare summer job as a daycare worker at the YMCA in my hometown!) But as in the cases of Georgia O'Keefe and Julia Child, I needed a bit more life experience behind me to find my calling.

After majoring in Russian and Foreign Service in college, I started on the path to becoming a career church-planter.  And I always worked mainly with teenagers and college students,  in the U.S. and Russia as well as in Germany.  Teenagers were great.  I could have deep philosophical conversations with them and then throw great parties with them.  They kept me young in a positive way.

But children's ministry never appealed to me for two reasons.  The main thing is that many of the children's pastors I know are über-extroverted people who ooze fun and love the thought of a roomful of 50 screaming little ones. I always thought you had to be wild and crazy and that just isn't me.  I have a strong tendency to be introverted.  I love to sit and think and be creative.  I much prefer reading a book or yoga to constantly jumping around and being in motion.

The other thing is that children's ministry is usually the last priority in church-planting.  Depending on where you are, it is much easier to start with singles.  Children are messy.  They are loud and require space of their own to move around in.  This complicates things for church-planters.  In fact, one of the most successful church plants in Berlin to date didn't have a children's ministry for the first 3 years.

That all changed during our second plant in Berlin after the birth of my second child.  We joined a team with a large number of children and there was no one to pastor them.  One of the men on the team took the job for a while, but he had to quit because he was needed to be the team administrator.  After a summer of being frustrated with the kids having only 'childcare' during church services, and realizing that if someone didn't provide a meaningful spiritual experience for them, they were going to be very resentful down the road, my dear friend Sarah took the job.  Sarah was single, a former school teacher and a lover of children.  I agreed to help her and together we laid a framework for children's ministry.  Sarah eventually had to quit, too, because she was needed for another job as well . . .

And then, I stepped up to the plate. One of the things that has always helped me as a church-planter is that I take risks and try new things. (Madonna and I have this in common that we reinvent ourselves in every phase of life.) It's part of how God made me.  So I took on the job and discovered that I really enjoy working with young children.  I love how their minds are curious and hungry to learn.  I love that they use all of the learning styles - visual, auditory and kinesthetic - to soak up and process information about their world.  I began to learn from them as well to see God and the world in a fresh way.

Besides on-the-job training, I began to research and learn from various sources about how best to teach and work with children ages 3-8.  Being involved in an Eltern Initiativ (Parent-run) Preschool here in Berlin also helped me to learn a great deal.  We tried some innovative things during that second church plant, which are topics for later blog entries. And in preparing for our third church plant, I 'stumbled' upon Godly Play . . .


  1. Loved reading your story! It's fun to hear how God leads...

  2. Hi Sheila,
    I found your blog through another site and am enjoying it! I can relate to your story - I also never imagined myself working with little kids and yet it has brought me joy I never imagined! I found my way with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - so I can appreciate your passion for spirituality and montessori. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  3. Hi Leslie, I just saw your blog. Thoughts from the Sheepfold, as well and I look forward to reading it! I've heard of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd through Godly Play and it will be interesting to read about your adventures and experiences. It's wonderful to cross paths with someone who is doing something similar!