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Separation Fixing

Separation is defined as an intervening space.  It’s the space between two objects.  It’s also the space between different ministries in our churches.

After serving in a church for some time now, I see another separation that happens and I’d love your help to solve it.  Maybe my words won’t express it correctly, but there seems to be a separation between what Senior Leadership at our churches see and what those working with families, students, and children see.  This isn’t an attack on either side, but here’s what I see:

Senior Leadership sees:

  • Events, events, events
  • Cost-Cutting budgets
  • Necessary Childcare

Family Ministry Leadership sees:

  • Weekend Experiences
  • Children being discipled
  • Volunteers serving
So who’s wrong?  Nobody is wrong.  I’m old enough now to know that different positions within the church bring different perspectives.  It’s important that as a Children’s Minister, that I also understand the idea that the senior leadership has an entire church to fund ministry for.  It’s important that as a senior leader, that I understand the heart of ministry that lives within those ministering to children.
So I’ve spoken towards the divide that exists, and now I have a question for you.  Don’t leave this blog without offering some answers for all of us.
How do we bridge the gap between these two very important positions in the church?
Have at it in the comments will you!

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. JC Thompson · August 3, 2011

    Communicate what you do well and not only that but make sure that you are open to seeing what other ministries are doing in your context.

    • Jonathan Cliff · August 3, 2011

      That’s a big one.  Being open to seeing what other ministries are doing.  I wonder how many of us actually know what’s happening in Senior Adult ministries, or outreach ministries, or others…

  2. Greg Baird · August 3, 2011

    I agree JC that the most significant key I found is communication. Two things I found help vision-cast & lead upwards/laterally (to senior leaderhip & co-leaders of other departments):

    * take every opportunity to share stories about our ministry with other leaders in the church, and also to proactively seek to understand their perspective & carefully address mis-perceptions when I heard them. I’ve made it a point to try to have a lunch/coffee apt. with at least one other pastor/leader from the church every couple of weeks to help facilitate this and maintain it as a priority

    * sending a weekly email to Senior leadership & other department heads simply highlighting what’s happened that week – stories, wins & challenges (heavy emphasis on the wins & putting a positive spin on the challenges part, like solutions we’re working on)

    I’ve found doing this consistently, especially over an extended period of time, truly helps them understand what’s happening (and why) in “my area”, and opens doors to help me understand what’s going on (and why) in “their area”. With greater understanding has come greater collaboration.  

    • Jonathan Cliff · August 3, 2011

      You are the ninja at this!  I’ve also done the meals with other pastoral staff, and learned to not be negative when addressing challenges we are facing in Family Ministry.  And the key is consistently doing it week in and week out.

      I think these suggestions are great!

  3. Beverly · August 4, 2011

    Communication is definitely    at the top of the list!! Since, I am a visual person, seeing the other ministries at work really helps to give  a better perspective. So, I try to attend a senior activity or lunch, or visit with the worship team before practice, etc. to see a little of what is happening in the other ministries. Also, I ask the senior pastors to walk through the children’s area periodically, then they can see the great volunteers at work!!

    • Jonathan Cliff · August 4, 2011

      This is another great idea Beverly.  I’ve invited other staff pastors to visit and evaluate our Children’s areas.  I’ll give them an evaluation form, and take them to lunch later in the week to discuss what they saw.

      I do this wanting some feedback, but also because it exposes them to the reality of ministering to kids and families!

      • JC Thompson · August 4, 2011

        I would love to see that evaluation forms…. Evaluation is the big thing for this next semester for me. Anything and everything you have on evaluation, I would love to see. Let’s chat sometime next week if you have time.

  4. Amy Fenton Lee · August 10, 2011

    I’m not sure I have a great idea to add – but I think this post could be helpful for lay leaders serving inside a church’s special needs ministry.  One thing I find is that the person who is often called to champion the SpNeeds inclusion effort comes from a volunteer/lay perspective.  Oftentimes they have a really hard time understanding the different perspectives of the church staff.  Without understanding the dynamic you describe, these lay servants are more likely to take the Sr. Staff’s lack of enthusiasm personally.  And oftentimes that lack of enthusiasm exists for the entire children’s ministry (not just special needs).  I’m not knocking either side (Sr. Staff or Fammin) I’m just finding there is value to understanding the differing views (as you present).  

    My dad is a senior pastor who I think it would be fair to say pours more personal investment and interest in the children’s ministry than most Sr. Pastors.  Reflecting on why he is so pro-kidmin/fammin now…I think it ties to a real change he saw in the church after he started doing baby dedications.  A number of new, unchurched parents started coming to the church JUST so they could get their new baby dedicated.  The church made a really big deal, publicly calling parents to the platform and praying for the families individually (a new baby was dedicated every Sunday morning!).  Those families would stay in the church, get involved in small groups and grow spiritually, all because they wanted their baby dedicated.  Dad shared with me one time that watching those early families mature and become influential lay leaders themselves made him a bigger believer in children’s ministry.  He saw his “success” as a pastor/leader directly tied to the success of the children’s and families ministries.

    • Jonathan Cliff · August 10, 2011

      Thanks for the comment Amy.  And I hope people will visit your site at  http://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com/!

      I saw the same thing out of a Senior Pastor before, when they adopted their first child well into their 60’s after not having kids before.  The entire dynamic of my relationship with him changed overnight, as he began to see things from a fathers perspective.

      And it’s a great point of how we deal with  passionate  leaders in our areas that don’t always see the “BIG PICTURE” of the local church.  I’ve coached many a frustrated leader through these things too!

  5. Mary · August 11, 2011

    How about church leaders with special needs themselves?   I’m a Lay Minister on the Autistic Spectrum.   Other church leaders are learning more about the condition because of me and people like me.