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The Children’s Pastor that Ignores Early Childhood

5 Things I Hate about Children’s Ministry

#1 The Irrelevant Children’s Minister

#2 The “One-Man Show” Children’s Minister

#3 The Children’s Minister that Ignores Early Childhood

My official title at Trinity Church is as the “Pastor of Children’s Ministry.”   If you ask people at my church what I do, they’d say that I “work with the kids.”   If you asked specifically which age I work with, I bet 9 out of 10 people would say that I work with Elementary age kids.   I do indeed work with Elementary kids, however Elementary age kids only make up half of the kids I work with each weekend.   Is this true at your church?

#3 on my Hate List today is the Children’s Pastor that ignores all the Nursery, Preschoolers, and Kindergartners at their church.   By ignore I mean that they don’t program specifically with preschoolers in mind, they don’t spend budget monies on preschoolers, and they leave preschoolers out of all special events.   These CP’s spend 99% of their time spiritually developing grade school students, and then hire a part-time childcare worker to prepare the expanded nursery areas.   I’ve seen churches call everything under 1st grade, “Nursery.”   They then buy ample supplies of goldfish crackers, cans of Lysol, and wet wipes and call it a ministry of the church.

“So let that be a lesson to one and to all; a person is a person, no matter how small.”           –Horton Hears a Who

Kids are kids, whether they’re 6 months old or 10 years old.   We should be striving to make all areas of ministry to kids as excellent as humanely possible.   We have scientific proof that kids are absorbing their environments from the very first days of life, and I think as a church we should always work to direct kids towards Christ…no matter what age they are.

Where do we start?   It starts with nursery workers that pray and teach children to make God the center of their lives.   Did you catch that?   Nursery workers that see their jobs as leaders, and not childcare providers.   It will take time, and for me it’s a continual changing situation, but it will prove to be worth it in the end.   As the kids grow, we expand what is taught to them.   Building on each lesson, week after week, and month after month of physical and spiritual development.

In fact, if you want children in Elementary school to seek the things of God, then reach them from the earliest age. There is no excuse in our world now, as we live in a day and time that has some fantastic material for this age group.   I encourage you to check out Elevate Jr., First Look, and the plethora of other great material out there by publishing companies in Christendom.   The leaders in churches around the world are awakening to the trend of pointing kids to Christ from the earliest of ages, and it’s time you jumped on the band wagon.

Spend the time necessary to see if your nursery and early childhood areas are really reaching kid with the Gospel of Jesus.   Don’t be tricked into spending all your energy and time on the “Face” of your ministry, and instead work to reach all the kids in your church.   Always be on guard against the Babysitting mindset of Early Childhood ministry.   It’s not just childcare, it’s foundational care.   Starting laying the groundwork for kids to find Christ as clearly as possible.

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. Scott · December 16, 2009

    Preschool and kindergarten are where my heart lies. Thanks for stressing the importance of the early childhood years. Building strong foundations for spiritual development can be key to growth in the elementary years and beyond.

    Thanks for this series. You’ve helped me think…and that’s always a good thing.
    .-= Scott ´s last blog ..Blocks and Problems =-.

  2. Kenny · December 16, 2009

    Here’s what I’ve seen. No judgments here. If the Children’s Pastor is a female, the Early Childhood department is much more likely to be well taken care of. If the Children’s Pastor is a male, then elementary tends to get more of the focus. It’s just a trend that I’ve seen, but doesn’t happen all the time or everywhere.
    .-= Kenny ´s last blog ..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-13 =-.

  3. Jeff · December 16, 2009

    Wow! Love the blog, but I feel a twinge of conviction on each of the 5 areas so far. Truth hurts I guess. I’m glad that God has you speaking truth and pray that He will continue to help me to grow as a children’s pastor.

  4. Kendra Fleming · December 16, 2009

    I completely agree! To be totally honest, children learn MORE and at a FASTER rate during the preschool years than at any other time in their life.

    We need to capitalize on that fact! They are at an age where they are believing what you’re saying and turning those facts into a foundation they will build on into their future.

    I always wonder what people would think if we decided not to teach preschoolers their colors, the names of animals, or their numbers. Or what if we totally neglected engaging their imagination and developing their speech and motor skills. That would be such a huge neglectful waste of potential.

    The same is true about teaching our little one’s truth!

    Great post!


  5. dan scott · December 16, 2009

    dude! you’re SO on! great post! my preschoolers would agree too!

    I was full time in Elementary for three years before we hired my full time equivalent on the Preschool side.

    We’re FINALLY there… and man, the level of care our preschoolers (and preK volunteers) have receive now is exponentially greater than before!

  6. Rob · December 16, 2009

    Totally agree with you on this one.

    One of the greatest things we did was start Pat the Bible in our 18-24 month rooms. When you reach kids this age, you start them with a great foundation. Plus you hook young parents who will be dedicated to your ministry for years to come.


    Because you found value in the person their whole world revolves around.
    .-= Rob ´s last blog ..Performance Appraisals =-.

  7. Sam · December 16, 2009


    Great post again – love your insights! Hate all the things you hate. We are thin brothers separated at birth.

    Always love your humor and perspective.

  8. amy dolan · December 16, 2009

    thank you thank you for mentioning this!

    my first full-time ministry job was as 4/5 yr old teacher and curriculum writer at a large church. i saw first hand every week how a strong early childhood program directly affected the children’s faith.

    and i think it’s so important to empower parents to lead their preschoolers in faith – many parents (like some children’s pastors) feel overwhelmed by the thought of connecting with their young children on spiritual matters.
    .-= amy dolan ´s last blog ..emmanuel: god with us today =-.

  9. erin_english · December 16, 2009

    WOOT!WOOT! Thank you for this post!! I am so blessed to be a part of a church that gets it as far as ministry to preschoolers. We start laying a foundation to grow a child into a spiritual champion from the time they are old enough to 1st come to class, 6weeks! If you google you will find all kinds of information and ideas of different things people and organizations spend big bucks on to teach babies; Everything from potty training (@6weeks, aka “EC”) to reading, and on & on! One of the first names a baby will learn to recognize is his own, from repetition. So of course a baby could also learn to recognize that church is a fun and safe place where my teachers love JESUS and my teachers love me, and they can begin to learn and recognize the name of Jesus being associated with the loving care of a Baby Ministry volunteer. Again, thanks for a great post. I love that there are churches out there leading the way in ministry to our little ones. Go God!!
    .-= erin_english ´s last blog ..Live Nativity for K-5th Graders =-.

  10. Kendra Golden · December 16, 2009

    Don’t even get me started… :) Good stuff.
    .-= Kendra Golden ´s last blog ..2 Corinthians 2 =-.

  11. john federer · December 17, 2009

    i am blessed. i have a helpmeet who can run circles around me in nursery and preschool groups with about 70 kids under her belt it is a well oiled machine.i admit i love the elementary kids. maybe its because i “lost” a kid in my 2’s & 3’s class when i subbed for my wife to give her a break. not to worry he’s alive. me on the other hand, i was banished from the class for life.