My take on the Fammin vs. Kidmin debate

Last year a couple of other kids pastors posted how they are Children’s pastors not family pastors.

Here is Justyn Smith’s Take http://www.justynsmith.com/2010/04/childrens-pastor-not-family-pastor-at-heart/
Here is Joe Mcalpine’s  take http://www.joemcalpine.com/?p=737

Justyn and Joe had some great points but here is my take on the debate between family ministry and kids ministry.

When I first started doing kids ministry we had fewer kids than we do today and I also knew less about leading a children’s ministry then. I still have lots to learn but one of the things I have learned is that if I focus on being a “Kids Pastor” I produce a model of ministry that is not reproducible.

Why thinking of yourself as only a kids pastor limits your effectiveness

1. You create a Hero mentality – You feel like it is your job to connect with and to be solely responsible for each child’s faith journey, as a family pastor you see the bigger picture and realize that no matter how talented you are you need a team at church and you need a team at home.

2. You create a co-dependent relationship with parents – One of he biggest problems in kid ministry is parents who hand the spiritual responsiblity of for their kids over to the kids pastor who is the “spiritual expert.” At the same time you have kids pastors willing to except the role as the spiritual expert in the life of every kid at church because they want to be seen as the hero in the eyes of every kid and every family. As a family pastor you focus on teaching kids how to connect to God and parents how to connect to their kids you see value in helping others be the hero.

3. You tend to try to do most things yourself – When you view yourself as a kids pastor first you focus on your relationship with the kids you serve to the detriment of the infrastructure you need to build to support future growth. When you look at things through the eyes of a family pastor you see the need to get the whole staff, the whole church to understand that no one can do ministry, especially kids ministry alone. As a family pastor I realize my #1 responsibility is not ministering to kids but in raising leaders to minister to kids. When you try to do things yourself and you think like a kids pastor you leave a legend and you don’t leave a legacy.

The best way to transform the life of every kid in your ministry is to change the environment they go home to Sunday morning. One of the reasons I have a hard time with most inner city outreaches is because kids experience heaven at the park where your tent is set up but that night head back to hell on earth where they live. Having said all of that I believe as a pastor the best thing I can do is work on how the church can impact the family.

One of the trends I find disturbing and this could be what caused Justyn, Joe and everyone who commented to react is how much energy we put into trying to get into the homes of the kids we serve. As a pastor the best thing I can do is create environments at the church where life change can take place, where kids can hear, understand, and respond to the Gospel. I need to work hard to make sure I have a team that makes that happen. With whatever resources I have left I need to empower parents to do the same at home. The church must never forget that we are called to be the church. (I am way to long in this post here is more on that thought http://samluce.com/?p=3955)

Families are more mobile then ever. Our influence is temporary. We need to leverage our influence to help parents become what God intend them to be the primary influencers of a child’s spiritual journey.

So even though my business card says I am the children’s pastor at my church I am really a family pastor at heart.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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34 thoughts on “My take on the Fammin vs. Kidmin debate

  1. I am so grateful for this post. You articulated what I have been feeling but lacked the words to say. Thank you for posting this!

  2. Sam, good thoughts, however many of your thoughts are things that I do think about and do as a children’s pastor. One, every kid has a “hero”. I’d rather it be me or some other kidmin volunteer who is passionate about God. Two, I don’t think as a kids pastor that it’s solely my responsibility for a child’s spiritual development. I work with parents and help them/resource them anyway that I can. Thirdly, not so sure the “Legend, legacy” statement is fair at all. In fact, I don’t think that’s accurate at all. My whole purpose in life as a kids pastor is to make Jesus famous and make sure HIS legacy lives on in the lives of people.
    In the I think it’s how each individual person views their role. Being a children’s pastor doesn’t limit my role or influence. I think FAMILY MINISTRY IS A CULUTRAL THING. I think it’s kind of odd how there is a family pastor, a youth pastor, but no “children’s pastor” almost like we’re implying that teens are not a part of the family unit because most family pastors focus only on young children and their parents. What about grandparents, teenagers an young adults–they’re all a part of the family dynamic.
    Just some thoughts. I didn’t take it personal…I think I’m just passionate about redefining who a children’s pastor is. There’s no doubt there are some old school thoughts out there, but I think a children’s pastor title is just fine. In the end I think that’s what many people are talking about–the title, not the role.
    PJ

    • Justyn I appreciate your thoughts. I think conversations like this help define terms that need to be defined. I don't think that you feel this way but I think there is a large number of kids pastors who need to think about what the role of a kids pastor is. For me the best thing I can do for each kid is to always be mindful of the family. I think the youth pastor should think the same way. Until we change the culture of our homes we will never be able to sustain the change in the lives of kids.

      I think one of the things that changed my perspective was our church growing and being in the same church long enough to see kids who were babies grow up and go to college and walk away from their faith. The common factor with kids' who's faith remained was a family that created an environment that sustains lifechange. I my title is the children's pastor and that's fine but if you are not passionate about connecting with and transforming families in my opinion you are doing a job not functioning in a ministry.

      Justyn I appreciate your comment and all you do for kidmin lets continue to define and refine!

      sam

    • Oh and about the Legend vs. Legacy to clarify – I find when leaders are a one man show and are gifted the kids revere them and their volunteers feel they could never match their skill and so they never do. The kid's pastor loves the hero like status so he never does anything about it as a result when he leaves he takes with him everything that comprised a successful kids ministry. When you build a team you leave a core of people who respect you but not a legend you leave a long lasting legacy that will benifit the church for years to come. I see the legend kids leaders as more of the old school model where the kids pastor does everything and gets volunteers to watch. Hope that helps.

      • Don't necessarily disagree, except again I don't think it's a "kidmin" issue as a personality issue. It's just as easy to have a fammin be the "star" as well.

        I'm wondering if the discussion should be centered on STYLE of ministry and not TITLE of ministry…I'm very proud of my title of "Children's Pastor", but I feel as a children's pastor it's a no brainer to focus on families…

        PJ

  3. Good stuff. Especially the comments as well. A couple of things I would add, myself being both the children's and youth pastor (both of these I've learned from North Point): 1) Every kid needs someone else who believes what they believe. This is why we create environments where this can happen in kidmin and stumin. 2) Every kid needs another adult saying the same things that parents are saying at home. This is a principle true in preschool and become increasingly more important into the teenage years.

  4. Sam & Justyn, thank you both for your frank and honest commentary on this subject. While I too have the title of Minister to Children, I like to think I work hard to impact the family as well. As I've listened to this conversation unfold all over the #kidmin blogosphere over the last couple of years, I'm left with this one simple thought. Why can't I just be a pastor? I don't mean THE pastor. But a pastor. My calling is to shepherd people. Most of the time they happen to be little people. And I LOVE that. But every chance I get to shepherd big people, I do that too. So children's minister, family minister, adult ed., senior adult, or senior pastor are all good and worthy descriptive titles. But at the end of the day, at the end of my life, God is going to hold me accountable for how well I pastored the flock. And I don't think he's going to have a children's column and a family column. Does that make sense? Hey, I love reading and hearing from all of you guys. Keep up the good work!

  5. Sam & Justyn, thank you both for your frank and honest commentary on this subject. While I too have the title of Minister to Children, I like to think I work hard to impact the family as well. As I've listened to this conversation unfold all over the #kidmin blogosphere over the last couple of years, I'm left with this one simple thought. Why can't I just be a pastor? I don't mean THE pastor. But a pastor. My calling is to shepherd people. Most of the time they happen to be little people. And I LOVE that. But every chance I get to shepherd big people, I do that too. So children's minister, family minister, adult ed., senior adult, or senior pastor are all good and worthy descriptive titles. But at the end of the day, at the end of my life, God is going to hold me accountable for how well I pastored the flock. And I don't think he's going to have a children's column and a family column. Does that make sense? Hey, I love reading and hearing from all of you guys. Keep up the good work!

  6. Great job, Sam. Sometimes I think it's easy to forget that we've had the "children's ministry" model going on for a long time. It's called "youth ministry". And, really, it has some serious flaws. Reproducing the youth ministry paradigm with a different age demographic reproduces those same failures. And when I say "failures", i'm talking about some of the very issues you raise. It sets up the YM to be the "hero", it often puts parents at odds with YM and YM volunteers, and it is unreproducible. It simply doesn't have the effectiveness of changing the one most important environment for influence.

    As a former youth pastor, I'm absolutely invested in the Family Ministry paradigm.

    • David that's a great thought, I think you are on to something. I think alot of the stuff I see not working in Kids ministry is old ways of doing Youth ministry. Very interesting observation.

  7. Great post – but it forces some assumptions on the children’s pastor that aren’t exactly fair. By this post’s logic, every pastor on staff should change his title to Family Pastor and we’d have five family pastors on staff and that would get really confusing – or at least the Senior Pastor should change his title to Family Pastor! 😉

    I’m a Children’s Pastor simply because the kids need a pastor equally as much as all the others. If the youth can have one, and the singles, and the seniors and the young adults and the worship and college and career and every other age group, why not the kids? (Who actually need one more than some of these other groups?) When I first became a CP I thought I invented it! (1993) There was a pastor for everyone else and they wanted me to “coordinate” the kids and I said “No, I want Pastor the kids!” It has nothing to fo with being their hero, though I may be, or taking the mantle from the parents, though that danger is certainly there. I am a children’s pastor because the kids need a loving shepherd.

    I really don’t think there is a debate. I think there is room for both or a dual role. But I certainly don’t think the very role of CP is bad – I think when a church can afford it is a wonderful gift to the children, and also that the CP needs to work on helping the parents own their role as spiritual parents as the CP can’t do it alone, of course, no more than a SP can raise an adult alone either.

    • Karl I agree there isn't so much a debate in that we all love kids. I do believe that there is a huge difference in how that is worked out. I love teaching kids. I love kids thinking of me as their hero but what I love more is kids thinking the High School Quarterback who is their small group leader is their hero. I like that a mom of two teens takes the time to drive an hour to visit one of her small group kids in the hospital. I think the debate is not so much a debate over title as it is over a philosophy of doing kids ministry. We have to keep changing and innovating or we in kids ministry are going to suffer the same fate Youth ministry is currently suffering in my opinion.

      Karl I appreciate your thoughts and the perspective you add to the kidmin community thanks for leaving a comment on my little blog.

  8. Great post – but it forces some assumptions on the children’s pastor that aren’t exactly fair. By this post’s logic, every pastor on staff should change his title to Family Pastor and we’d have five family pastors on staff and that would get really confusing – or at least the Senior Pastor should change his title to Family Pastor! 😉

    I’m a Children’s Pastor simply because the kids need a pastor equally as much as all the others. If the youth can have one, and the singles, and the seniors and the young adults and the worship and college and career and every other age group, why not the kids? (Who actually need one more than some of these other groups?) When I first became a CP I thought I invented it! (1993) There was a pastor for everyone else and they wanted me to “coordinate” the kids and I said “No, I want Pastor the kids!” It has nothing to fo with being their hero, though I may be, or taking the mantle from the parents, though that danger is certainly there. I am a children’s pastor because the kids need a loving shepherd.

    I really don’t think there is a debate. I think there is room for both or a dual role. But I certainly don’t think the very role of CP is bad – I think when a church can afford it is a wonderful gift to the children, and also that the CP needs to work on helping the parents own their role as spiritual parents as the CP can’t do it alone, of course, no more than a SP can raise an adult alone either.

  9. Great comments all around because they make us all stop and really think through our own personal perspective. I will say this, from the point of a volunteer children's pastor who doesn't have enough hours in the day to do all for the kids/families/community that is in my heart and vision to do to show them Jesus. When I have to prioritize my time, my first obligation (if you could call it that) is to provide, as Sam said, an environment on Sunday where kids can "hear, understand and respond to the Gospel." After that, I work on resourcing our parents, and after that, I work on our community outreach, for the kids that don't have parents who will even take them to church. Many, many weeks, I only get the first done. But I feel completely confident that I have pleased God in that choice, and that's who matters. I hope that is the bottom line for us all. We're obeying what our Father has called us to do, where and how He leads as we seek Him for direction and vision.

    Love all you guys and all your wisdom and inspiration!
    Barbara

    • Barbara thank you for your perspective. I really appreciate it. Keep doing what you are doing your kids, families and church are the better for it. Looking forward to more coffee and conversation this year at orange.

  10. I think as long as the guy who oversees children's ministry is the family pastor, we are going to continue to lose the kids in record numbers when they head to middle school or high school and especially college. I say this because the family is still the most important institution for sharing the Gospel during the teen years. I think fammin has to be bigger than just one area of ministry. I love it when the family pastor oversees all ministries birth through college (or even more than that). I have to agree with Justyn that ultimately family ministry is a culture, not just a position.
    I also think a lot of this is dependent on the person and the place of ministry. In some churches, kids' pastor may be a more appropriate title and in others, family pastor may better suit. I really don't think there is a "right" answer in this, just a better answer for different places.

    • I agree but I want to address more the an title. I think for kids ministry to evolve we have change our thinking that will keep us holed up in the pit of mediocrity. I love youth but I think they are stuck on one model of ministry for the most part. Innovation and a change of thinking happens on purpose not on accident.

  11. I think as long as the guy who oversees children's ministry is the family pastor, we are going to continue to lose the kids in record numbers when they head to middle school or high school and especially college. I say this because the family is still the most important institution for sharing the Gospel during the teen years. I think fammin has to be bigger than just one area of ministry. I love it when the family pastor oversees all ministries birth through college (or even more than that). I have to agree with Justyn that ultimately family ministry is a culture, not just a position.
    I also think a lot of this is dependent on the person and the place of ministry. In some churches, kids' pastor may be a more appropriate title and in others, family pastor may better suit. I really don't think there is a "right" answer in this, just a better answer for different places.

  12. You are absolutely right that the issue is bigger than title – but title communicates something. I like Children’s Pastor because I want the kids to know there is someone there focused on them and available to them. Beyond title, there are ways to let the parents know you want to be more than ‘just’ there for the kids, you want to be a resource for them and challenge them too. And there are a lot of ways to do that. And… (last and) I do think Family Ministry needs to be a cultural/church-wide thing, not one person championing it, or it will never get the priority it desperately needs.

    Family Ministry is a lot broader than families with kids as I was often reminded as a CP. So you’ve got to get the SP taking up the charge and leading it – if possible.

    • I agree with all of that the one thing that is difficult is helping SP see the value of connecting with parents in a non-antagonistic way. I think the CP needs to be the champion with the SP on board. Great thoughts thanks for adding in your 2cents.

  13. I agree/appreciate the comments in this post. While I totally agree that the church needs to have a comprehensive strategy to support families, am I the only one who finds it interesting that Jesus didn't have much of a family ministry? He prayed for kids, blessed kids, laid hands on kids, healed kids and raised kids from the dead. And while often a parent was present He never sent a parent home with parenting tips or teaching on how to be a better parent. I just find that interesting. Jesus had plenty of opportunities to help parents but didn't seem to make it a priority. But He purposely called the kids to Him so He could minister to them.

    • Great point Roger. Jesus in fairness Jesus never had access to a photocopier or perhaps he would have used take home papers. I am with you mostly. I think in the eagerness to connect with families the church has forgotten it is church.

      My whole point is that with all the arguments out there for being the pastor to the child I am afraid that it reinforces ways of doing things that are not scalable or reproducible. Jesus was a big fan of duplicating himself in others.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion Roger.

  14. Jesus didn't need a photocopier to tell parents how to raise their kids. My fear is that we have dumbed down the power of the word of God and Holy Spirit and replaced them with a poll-driven strategy. Just because parents feel the need to get help raising kids does not mean the church should quickly embrace a strategy that is not clearly represented in scripture. To me the word of God and Spirit of God are always scaleable and reproducible. I just get a little skeptical of strategies that depend more on public opinion than on God's word. But that's just me.

  15. Agree. I get frustrated that well meaning Christians make curriculim to sell and in doing so they try to make it appeal to everyone and in the process strip the curriculim of the very power of the Gospel they first desired to proclaim when they began writing. We need more Gospel centered curriculum in children's ministry.

  16. Roger, Hmmmmm, I find Prof Joel Green's writings on the Book of Acts utterly compelling as to the family ministry that Jesus was actually involved in. Transformed individual lives led to transformed families that led to transformed society – and in this way the gospel spread.

    He said: “The disciples have it as their mission to reach the city; but if the city is to believe, the home must be converted. But if this is so, then likewise, the unenviable place of children in household and community must undergo metamorphosis. Those transformative values that take root in the household will propagate transformation beyond its boundaries. More simply, to change the household is to change the world.”

    Just my thoughts – as a children's AND family pastor 🙂