There is a familiar pattern in children’s workers in their first few years of working for a Church.
It goes like this: An individual who loves children and enjoys showing them Jesus Christ is employed as a Church’s children’s worker. He or she has a proven track record of leading excellent children’s groups in a church context. He or she may even have a school teaching background. The children adore them. They can spot good resources to use. They are happiest in a room full of children. Over time the burden on them grows as they juggle rotas, trying to recruit new leaders, caring for disgruntled leaders who prefer the way things used to be, answering parent’s queries, seeking to develop new initiatives and managing the thrilling difficulty of coping with growing numbers of children. None of this was their passion or their experience. To make matters a little harder their staff colleagues don’t understand what exactly it is that a children’s worker is meant to be doing, so they find it hard to support or train them. Unfortunately sometimes within a year, the bright, young and enthusiastic children’s worker needs to step down.
You’re waiting for an easy solution aren’t you? I’m not sure what it is. All of us are different, with different experiences and different gifts. We all flourish when we spend the majority of our time doing what we enjoy and what we’re good at.
A good first question, before recruiting someone, is to ask, “Do we need a manager of children’s work or a practitioner of children’s work?” Because it might be that you have many lay people doing an excellent job of leading the children week by week. When they see the children’s worker coming over the horizon, they all down tools because this is the rest they have longed for. Suddenly the children’s worker is the only person in the Church who actively wants to work with children. If the Church has more than 5 children, this is a problem!
A practitioner of children’s work coming into a small church with few children may get to learn some of these other skills as the children’s work grows. That was my experience. I arrived clueless with relatively few children and just enough great leaders. I spent five years being terrified that I would be found out at any moment. In God’s kindness, the ministry grew slowly enough that my mistakes weren’t too disastrous.
Keep a close eye on your children’s worker. Understand what they’re good at. Understand what they enjoy. Understand why they wanted to be a children’s worker. Find out what they’re bad at. Ask what their burdens are. Remove whatever burdens you can. Encourage them they don’t need to justify their salary. They can use help. They can find others who are better than them at certain aspects of their role. In fact, they can get others to do everything, just as long as they keep on encouraging their team to show the precious children Jesus Christ.
You might be interested in checking out our children’s worker job description and roles and responsibilites documents here.