One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received has been, “Be a Life-Long Learner!” At the time I was given this gem I was in my 20s. I had graduated from high school, junior college, AND received my bachelors from a UNIVERSITY. I was like every other 20 something. I thought I knew everything. But, I didn’t! Not in life and certainly not in ministry.
My first remembrance of working with kids was in Vacation Bible School 1988. That summer I was asked to teach 3rd grade VBS at my home church. I had a blast and it was in that classroom that God’s will in ministry for me was born. A lot of water has passed under my bridge in the past 29 years. I’ve gone from VBS teacher, to Education Minister, to Kids Minister, to Kids Ministry Specialist. It’s been a great ride but here’s a shocking truth:
Things are different today than they were in 1988!
(Drop the mic)
Some of you can remember back to the late 80s and early 90s. In some ways, we were ending a long age of “everything’s always been this way” in Kids Ministries (and by the way, we would have never called it “Kids Ministry” back then). To be honest, that “way” had worked for a very long time and to many changing seemed ridiculous. But, things were changing (and quickly I might add) and our ministries needed to start reflecting those changes. If we were going to survive and thrive, we were going to need to be open to new things.
Just one example: In 1988 technology advances included overhead cel projectors and cassette players. One was considered on the “cutting edge” if he had successful transitions from the filmstrip projector and the record player. Some of you will remember that we were really stretching ourselves back then. Can you imagine if we’d stopped there, refusing to learn and refusing to move into the 21st century. At the very least, we would appear out-of-date and out-of-touch and our ministries would have become less effective.
In just 10 years the World Wide Web was sitting on my desk and my ability to search and find information moved from hours to just seconds and a few keystrokes. I went from sharing ministry information via telephone and US Mail campaigns (still good options) to emails, websites, and now texts, Facebook, and blogs like the one you’re reading today.
What about preschoolers and children? How have they changed? What about families? What about society’s views on religion and the church? Trends? Needs? Safety? Security? As much as these things (and others) have changed over the past 20-30 years, how much more rapidly are they changing today?
Learning is intentional and takes time. As leaders in Kids Ministry it’s important to set aside and protect time to learn. Here are some tips that might be helpful:
- Schedule Learning. Make a weekly appointment for continued learning and protect that time. It can be easy to ignore your meeting notification and “chase the urgent” but long term, learning and growth will multiply the time you’ve dedicated.
- Learn from Others. One of the greatest ways to glean knowledge is from friends who’ve gone before you. There are plenty of folks who’d love to share what they’ve learned along the way. It can be a mentor or just someone who’s “been there, done that.” Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from others success and mistakes.
- Seek Quality. There’s a lot of “stuff” out there. Be careful to not waste your time. Ask friends for recommendations for quality conferences, books, magazines, blogs, and podcasts that are helpful to them
- Stretch Yourself. Part of learning is being challenged. Allow yourself to be challenged with new research, new ideas, and new methods. As a good friend once shared with me, “Be a student, not a critique!”
As much as I’d like things to stay the same, they don’t. Some really great advances and findings have been made over the years, some not so great. Regardless, we need to be keeping up and learning. We need to be studying, we need to be watching, listening, viewing, and growing in our ministry.
Be a Life-Long Learner. Those five words have directed me over my years in ministry to preschoolers, children, and their families and I’m so glad someone had the wisdom to share them.
Here’s a learning opportunity for you to consider:
Bill Emeott serves as Lead Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Mercer University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Bill has served as a Kid’s Minister and currently teaches 2nd Grade Bible study.