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An Abnormal Children’s Pastor

I am a Children’s Pastor.

For those of you NOT in the know; that means I work at a church and my primary responsibility is for those members of the church having just been born up until they finish the 5th grade. There are many different areas, departments, and budgets within this broad scope of Birth through 5th Grade, but basically I work with the kids. Like most Children’s Pastors at a church my size, I don’t spend as much time ‘teaching’ kids as I do planning for what others will teach them. I basically manage the department that facilitates spiritual growth in the lives of the kids at the church.

Maybe you read this and you think that you have me pegged as a CP (Children’s Pastor). Let me clear up a few things, to help you understand me more. Here are some truths about me, that often cause me to not fit in so much with the other CP’s I meet.

  • I’m a man. Can’t change that, and it has even kept me from getting a job before. Reverse Discrimination?
  • I hate puppets. Seriously, I hate them. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, the first thing I’ve done is thrown out the puppets. Who uses puppets anymore? There not on TV, they don’t make Muppet movies anymore (or at least they shouldn’t), and I can’t justify doing things in front of kids that are so 1980’s.
  • I hate kid’s music. I really can’t understand why anyone would want to listen to kids sing worship songs on a CD recording. I get the value of music like THIS for background stuff, but why is kids’ music so weird? It’s just terrible. I do however, like to play music that is kid-friendly, and trust me… there is a difference.
  • I have never, nor will I ever, dress up like a clown. I wear normal clothes for someone in their early 30’s (at least I think they might be normal.) I do not wear green socks with red pants, and a cartoonish veggie tales tie to church on Sunday Morning.
  • I don’t like ‘Christian’ movies for kids. I think 90% of the ‘Christian’ movies and tv shows for kids are garbage. What I mean is that they are poorly created, poorly thought out, and rarely make any kind of spiritual impact. I’d rather my kids watch Clifford the Big Red Dog than most of the ‘Christian’ DVD’s I see around.
  • I hate making announcements from the stage on a Sunday morning for Children’s workers. Hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it! It’s like telling people to jump on our sinking ship, and it confirms the fears most people have that we’re desperate for help; which isn’t the case. Not to mention that it never works. I also hate for my Senior Pastor to make pleas for workers; it’s even worse than making the announcement myself.
  • I think that what I do in the church is equally as important as every other ministry that falls under the umbrella of our church. Not more important, not less important. Aren’t we really all doing the same thing, but on different levels?
  • I really consider myself someone who works more for families, than someone who works with kids. I love working with kids, but if that is all I do then I would really hate this job. It’s all about getting kids to have an encounter with Jesus that impacts those around them. (That’s you, Mom and Dad!)
  • I’m not a CP because I failed at speaking in front of adults. I really love speaking in front of kids, but not because I’m scared to speak in front of adults. I’m comfortable speaking in front of any age crowd, as long as I have something to say.
  • I’m not patiently awaiting a promotion to Youth Pastor or Senior Pastor. I really like working with kids. They’re more honest, more energetic, less grumpy, and they’re much easier to beat in basketball.
  • I’m not good at crafts. I don’t do coloring sheets in my spare time, and you can’t find craft sticks and glue in my office. I’m just not a crafty guy, so I’ve hired others to do that for me.
  • I don’t act childish. I don’t feel that I have to act like a 10 year old to get the attention of kids, and I think you’re fooling yourself CP’s out there if you do. That doesn’t mean I don’t tell jokes that only 10 years get, or that I act all snooty all the time. I’m just authentic, in a way that kids can understand.
  • I cringe when people call me a pastor. (I know, I know, I am a pastor. I’m educated and trained and ordained…) It took me years to come to this place, but I really can’t figure out what to let the kids call me. I think Mr. Jonathan is a little weird, and I think Pastor Jonathan makes me seem snooty in some way.
  • I read business leadership books. They’re better than most church books out there, and I think leadership is one area that CP’s should spend more time studying up on.
  • I don’t homeschool my kids. Let’s not go there, OK? (Except to say that I think everyone should do what they have convictions to do…)

There, it’s out there. I’ve gotten the burden off my chest, and I can peacefully coexist with those that think I’m a nut. One of the great things about having a blog and reading blogs is meeting other CP’s that are just like me. It wasn’t until I started reading blogs that I realized that I’m not alone. I’m still in the minority, but I’m not isolated!

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Matt McKee · May 9, 2008

    Incredible post. In fact it has inspired me to do the same on my blog. I would say that I very similar with all but 2 of your points. Unfortunately I have dressed up like a clown and kids do call me Pastor Matt. Thanks for letting us know who you are.

  2. Samuel · May 9, 2008

    Very good stuff. I actually laughed out loud. Very funny. Like Matt I to have dressed up like a clown (please note the use of past tense). I do have the kids call me Pastor Sam but just the kids. I am totally not into titles but I think it is good for kids to be respectful. Great post thanks for your honesty.

  3. JC · May 9, 2008

    I feel like I should go ahead and say that the kids and sometimes their parents do indeed call me Pastor Jonathan. I agree with Sam, there is a respect issue with it. I’ve just never felt comfortable with it.

  4. Anonymous · May 11, 2008

    Praying for you…your house, the mortgage payment, expenses, all of it.

  5. Paige · May 12, 2008

    I love this post. As a new (3 years or so) pastor’s wife I struggle with reconciling the ‘real’ me with what people think a pastor’s wife should be. Thanks for reminding me that it is o.k. to be me even if ‘me’ doesn’t line up with traditional thoughts of what a pastor’s wife should be. Also, my apologies for whoever it was from the homeschool community that made you feel the need to post that last comment. Most homeschoolers feel the same way you do, that each of us, as parents, have the right decide what is the best educational choice for our children.

  6. Kenny · May 18, 2008

    Dude! I loved this post! I think you and I came from the same mold.

    Yes, I too have thrown away puppets (gasp)! Not because they were worn out though… because they give me nightmares.

    Oh, and for the record. I’ve never been a clown. Ever.

    I do however like to make pushes from the stage, only because it is almost my only reach into the world of non-parents. When at a big church, it’s hard for me (and my team) to know everyone. I feel like I can lay the vision well enough that I’ll get some conversations out of the deal… and that’s usually how I snag some of the young marrieds, singles and college students (they’re not in my normal circles of influence).

    Great post. I didn’t know you had a blog. I’m a subscriber now!!!

  7. KC · August 23, 2008

    I’d have to agree that you’re indeed abnormal for a children’s pastor. It’s ok. Don’t give in to the peer pressure to use puppets ;)

  8. Forever Altared · March 2, 2009

    I need to find a children’s pastor – will you help me?
    Hey man, seriously if you know someone who would like to continue their ministry to kids in a different environment (a safe one) let me know.

    Behave yourself and I hear the awesome work you are doing at Trinity! Give everyone there our love.


  9. Joe Puentes · April 6, 2009

    Hey Jonathan – I know I’m almost a year late in replying to this post, but I just read it… I can relate to your post, I have spent most of the past 13 years of ministry in student ministry as the middle school pastor (about three years of it was in cm, but as the preteen pastor). I am now moving into the cm role and the family ministries director role…

    I have had some issues internally within myself, cause most of the cm “guys” (Which “guys” seem hard to come by in cm roles) seem to fit the “normal” cm role and us student ministries “guys” would call them fanny-packers, because they wear fanny-packs to carry all their stuff in instead of backpacks like student min “guys” (Sorry if i offended someone).

    I am an abnormal cm person myself, especially since my church has never had a “guy” cm before. What’s funny is that all the things you listed in this post I can say about myself… Thanks, its good to know I’m not the only one… I do think all our ministries are important in the church, but have always felt children’s ministry should be the most supported, most financed, and most encouraged. To be honest, if my new role required me to do some of the traditional cm stuff, instead of being the administrator, encourager of staff, vision-caster (Big-picture), promotor of cm, leader, supporter of the children’s ministry, plus help me have more of a complete picture of our family ministries then I “MIGHT” not have made the role switch… just being honest.

    Thanks for your blog – keep up the awesome work.


  10. Kenny · May 20, 2009

    It’s been a year since I posted a comment on this post… so I thought I’d do it again. Has anything changed? If you were to write this post again, would you add anything or change anything?

    Kenny ´s last blog post..The problem with Sunday small groups

  11. Jeff Mc Clung · August 23, 2010

    Thanks for putting this into words for us guys in Children’s Ministry. You nailed it!