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The Irrelevant Children’s Minister

5 Things I Hate about Children’s Ministry

#1 The Irrelevant Children’s Minister

When I started doing Children’s Ministry I had a 18 month old son, and my wife was expecting our 2nd son.  I remember seeing environments designed for kids, that my own 18 month old wouldn’t have played in.  I can remember thinking that someone was missing the mark. I thought, when did nurseries become so irrelevant to 18 month olds?  Did they not know what was popular?  Did they have no idea of recent educational trends for 18 month olds?  I was a parent that had a keen understanding of this age group, yet the churches we would visit weren’t meeting the needs for my own kids.    The danger is that everyone cared  terribly  for my kids, they had just become irrelevant over time.  Slowly, slowly, slowly over the years they had lost a grasp of what was reaching kids “in-the-moment.”

In Elementary environments I see it all the time.  It’s the Children’s Pastor that force feeds what he thinks is funny to kids that don’t laugh at his jokes.  It’s the CP that plans for a circa 1983 Children’s service to kids that live in 2009.  It’s the CP that refuses to check his email, respond to a text message, or put pictures of kids on the Internet.  It’s the CP that thinks puppets talking to the ceiling behind a lime green bed sheet held up between two wooden chairs is “cutting edge.”  You might think, that doesn’t exist…but it does.  I meet Children’s Pastors all the time that never read books, and refuse to accept that kids multimedia needs are changing.

But you know what happens to Children’s Ministries like this?  They eventually stop bringing in new kids.  And a church with now new kids, has no new families.  And a church with no new families, is dead.  And Children’s Pastors at dead churches are officially irrelevant.  Don’t be that person!

So if you’re that guy (or girl) struggling with irrelevance, what should you do?  For starters get yourself back in the game.  Talk to kids with an ear to listen.  Find out what they watch, what they listen to, what they do, and what they like.  If you have kids at home, then you have a built-in research assistant.  If you don’t then you’ll have to get more creative.  Subscribe to K Magazine, read Kenny’s Blog, pick up any book by Jim Wideman and learn, learn, learn, learn.  Never stop learning.  When you’ve sponged up all that you can about how to reach kids, parents, and families together; then you’re well on your way to avoiding irrelevance.


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. Rob · December 14, 2009

    This will be an interesting list.

    The role of a CP is very different from church to church and depends much on the size of the church too.

    I find my role leaning much more toward the leadership and development of staff. A staff that works to identify, recruit and develop volunteers who impact kids.

    I still need a good feel on the most effective ways to reach kids which requires being a student.

    Looking forward to 4-1

  2. Kenny · December 14, 2009

    Ha! Thanks for linking to my blog… even if it’s the post you wrote on my blog. Although, its the best post you’ve written. Although this series is shaping up to be a really good one.
    .-= Kenny ´s last blog ..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-13 =-.

  3. Anthony Prince · December 15, 2009

    JC, I’m a fan.
    Passing this along.

  4. Cmdir · January 1, 2010

    I think you have to take into account that not all churches have huge budgets for the things you mention. I have traveled across the US, been in many churches from tiny to mega. They did not all have the “newest trends,” but they were relating to the kids in their ministry.
    Most 18 month olds are content to play. I think it is the parent that is not comfortable with the play area. Just saying…

  5. Lynne · January 4, 2010

    You know what bugs me that I find irrelevant and out-of-date??? Murals on the wall! Unless it’s done VERY well and intentionally and professionally, I find almost all murals to be very old-school and tacky. Most of the time it’s just someone’s mom in the church who enjoys painting who just sits down and paints pictures on the walls…. We recently painted over a bunch of scary looking murals of animals, parks, cars, random kids, and Jesus (the kids called it “scary Jesus”) that were in the halls of our children’s ministry area. Now our hallways look much more professional and consistent and more inviting for kids and families!

  6. Nathan · August 12, 2010

    Great analysis here. I think what you’ve hit on is the importance of relating to the people your ministry impacts. Whether kids, teens, adults, old people, etc. The importance is to relate to the flock in the best way possible. For some, it may involve following trends and contemporary thinking. Still, for others, it may simply involve being consistent with a message delivered by someone who can be trusted. My experience with kids is that the latter is most critical for success. My family and I take very seriously the whole stranger/alien concepts that Peter and others promote in the NT. It is my prayer children (even in 2010) can be guided to a point of recognizing that the attraction of “the world” is so strong and influential that it leads to death. While the methods may look less like Peter with the Jews in Acts 2 and more like Paul wirh the Greeks in Acts 17, the goal is still the same–abandonment of a life bound by this world and complete surrender to the author of eternity.
    Continued Blessings in your ministry! We should get together next time we’re in Lubbock!
    Nathan Woodmansee