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Table of Contents Introduction Chapter 1

Chapter 4

The Heart of a Gardener: Vision Born of Passion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 • The Great Commission in Today’s World, Church, and Family • Spiritual Preparation for Ministry • Celebrate Your Passion for Children • Jesus: Our Greatest Example of Passion

Site Appraisal: Facility Goals . . . . . . . . . . 39 • Survey Your Facility: The First Impression • Survey Your Facility: Evaluate Its Use • Facility Goals: Communicating Your Vision • Facility Goals: Creating Creative Learning Environments • Facility Goals: Creating a Supply Room • Facility Goals: Creating or Rebuilding a Playground • The Ideal Children’s Ministry Facility

Chapter 2 Soil Sampling: Today’s Child . . . . . . . . . . 14 • The Increasing Value of Children’s Ministry • The Value of Children • Explore the World of Children • How Children Learn • Answering the Critical Necessity of Bible Application • Defining Fun • Ministering to a Child: A Five-Step Process

Chapter 3 The Gardener’s Dream: Vision for the Ministry . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 • Your Vision Makes Your Passion Contagious • A Children’s Ministry Vision Strengthens Church Growth • Creating a Ministry Vision • A Great Commission Vision • Your Ministry Vision Affects All You Do in Ministry • Vision & the Children’s Ministry Job Description • Be a Servant • Disciple Others • Your Passion “Gilgal”

Chapter 5 Turning the Soil: Relationship Goals . . . . 57 • Jesus, a Master “People Person” • “PR” Stands for “Personal Respect” • Observing the Conditions of Your Soil • The Process of Turning the Soil • The Senior Pastor: Your Most Powerful Ally • The Survey: Turning the Soil of Opinions • Setting Goals for the Existing Team • How to Make a Presentation to the Church Board • How to Handle the “Real World” of Church Work

Chapter 6 Gathering Your Tools: Financial Goals . . . 80 • The Budget: Your Vision in Dollars! • What to Do When You Don’t Have Any Money • Overseeing the Budget

Chapter 7 Adding Amendments: Program & Curriculum Goals . . . . . . . . 90 • Evaluate Your Programs • Evaluate Your Calendar



• • • •

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Evaluate Your Curriculum Child-Targeted Curriculum A Safeguarded Vision The “Great Commission” Children’s Ministry Vision

• Programs That Support Parents • Programs That Train Parents • After-School Programs

Chapter 8

Chapter 12

Putting Up Fences: Personnel Policies and Procedures . . . 110 • The Value and Function of Policies • How to Write Policies

Garden Signs: Publicize Your Image . . . . 169 • Your Most Powerful Advertisers

Chapter 9 Building the Trellis: Program Policies and Procedures . . . . 132 • Paranoia or Wisdom? • Communicate the Policies

Chapter 13 The Fruit Stand: Recruit with Your Image . . . . . . . . . . . 179 • “The Lord of the Harvest” • Five Steps to the Recruiting and Training Process

Chapter 14 Chapter 10 Choosing the Seeds: The Design of Programs . . . . . . . . . . . 148 • Programming for a New Generation • Designing New Programs

Sharing the Dream: Leading the Team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 • The Plight of the “Lone Gardener” • Departmental Organization • Administrative Organization • Team Building

Chapter 11 Planting the Seed: Options for Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156 • Core Values for Programs • Regular Weekly Programs • Programs Beyond the Weekly Offerings • Programs That Teach Service to Others • Programs That Teach Lifestyle Evangelism • Programs That Produce Children’s Ministry Volunteers • Programs That Attract Parents

Chapter 15 Sharing Your Tools: Equipping the Team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207 • Teacher Training: The Key to a Dynamic Team • Training Child-Focused Teachers • What to Do When . . .

Chapter 16 The Gardener’s Peace: Protecting Your Passion . . . . . . . . . . . 219




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chapter 1 The Heart of a Gardener: Vision Born of Passion


assion is the energy that propels us to action. Jesus’ life of sacrifice and death on the cross must drive us to carry on his work. The closer we become to him who died for us, the greater our passion will be. The

person who lacks passion may also lack understanding of what actually happened at Calvary!

THE GREAT COMMISSION IN TODAY’S WORLD, CHURCH, AND FAMILY The work of children’s ministry is extreme! It is extremely exhausting, and extremely fulfilling. On any Sunday, you may find yourself sweating, crying, running, hugging, laughing, stooping down, reaching up, wanting to escape, and wanting to savor priceless, eternal moments. I had a perfect example of the extreme world of children’s ministry one Sunday morning. Our nursery coordinator had resigned and we had a significant lack of adults to care for the children. I was frantically trying to shuffle volunteers around to cover all the classes while being pleasant and appearing that nothing was wrong. I was so focused on the immediate goal of getting all the rooms ready to receive children that I found myself not even noticing people. My eyes were glazed over with a mixture of sweat and stress. I was standing at a classroom doorway checking on the status of the adult volunteers in the room when I felt my leg being hugged. I looked down to see one of my favorite little worship leaders from our children’s church looking up at me with a smile that was right out of Heaven. All my stressedout circuit breakers were instantly reset. I knew what God was saying to me in the middle of my busy Sunday morning. God was telling me to remember what I was doing there. He wanted me to remember that the most important thing that could ever hap8

pen on a Sunday morning is that one of his most precious children would know him more intimately. My spirit was filled with deep joy as I stooped down and enjoyed the most beautiful hug ever. Little Sandy will never know how God used her that day. I will never forget God’s hug and encouragement to focus on the real work of the children’s ministry while being distracted by so many challenges. The Great Commission is Jesus’ command to go out and be involved in the world! If it weren’t for the Great Commission, I could imagine a large percentage of Christians simply sitting back and enjoying life in the “Saved lane.” The Great Commission drives us to be about the Lord’s work. In today’s busy world, the Great Commission requires more from us. We have to keep up with the pace if we want to have a voice or affect those around us. The increased expectations of this accelerated society force us to examine ourselves often. If we get complacent or lazy, the world will pass us by! Our personal relationship with God must be actively deepening if we expect to minister in today’s busy world. Are you sure of your calling and ability to lead the children’s ministry at your church? Do you know the presence and joy of the Lord in your daily walk with him? Is there something about overseeing the children’s ministry that makes you thrilled about going to work in spite of the challenges? Do you sense God’s favor and blessing as you do what he has laid in front of you to do? If there is any



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doubt in your mind about these questions, this chapter will lead you to find definite answers regarding these critical foundations of ministry. After reading this book, I hope you will be able to say that you know what you need to do to prepare yourself to be a gardener in God’s ministry field. You should be able to identify areas of spiritual need in yourself and make definite plans to strengthen those areas with God’s help. You may be thinking, “This is too basic, I want to get on to the important things like creating a camp program or making a board presentation.” Be patient, we’ll get there. I believe this first chapter is the most critical chapter in this whole book. Ministry is not about knowing how to do things, but about knowing Who is really doing them. Your personal, spiritual preparation for ministry will either open the floodgates of blessing into your life and ministry, or it will block God from powerfully moving in your work. Take the time to absorb the information in this chapter, and seek God’s wisdom and discernment as you prepare to reap a wonderful harvest for him. The comparisons of becoming a gardener to becoming a fruitful child of God are significant. Jesus told several stories about farmers and gardeners in order to call attention to the qualities of the heart that God was looking for in his people. We will look at the similarities between the qualities of a gardener and the qualities of a fruitful child of God. Before we do, let me say that these qualities are expectations that God places on all who serve him. The fact that you are reading this book says something significant about you, your calling, and your passion for his Kingdom. You picked up this book because you desire to be a significant influence in children’s ministry. You want to somehow direct or lead others. That’s good. God needs more people with the desire to lead, but before you are able to lead others, you must first become a follower yourself. Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, says, “Following is the beginning and the end of what it means to be a Christian. Everything in

between is measured by it” (Joseph Stowell, Following Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996; p. 12). God requires a clearly defined character of his followers. He has even more to say about the character of a person he chooses to place in a position of leadership.

SPIRITUAL PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY It is true that today’s world is complex and busy, but it is also true that the Gospel message is still the same! God still wants to become real to the children of today’s world, just like he did thousands of years ago. The children are growing up sooner, and children’s ministry is definitely more complex than ever before. These changes in our world do affect what we do in children’s ministry, but nothing will ever change the basic requirements of ministry in general: passionate people sacrificing and building relationships with others. As a children’s minister, you must have passion for what you do! Without passion, you will struggle to have the energy needed to continually give what is required of you. Without passion, you won’t be able to survive the challenges that stand before you. Without passion, you may find yourself wanting to quit on a regular basis. How do you get this passion? From where does it come? How can you increase the passion you already have? The answers to all of these questions are connected to your spiritual health and perspectives. It is interesting, and perhaps no coincidence, that some of the qualities of a gardener are nearly identical to those required by God of his people: willingness to work; vision for the end result; patience; concern for individual plants (or people); concern for the whole garden (or world). As you study these characteristics, ask God to help you examine your own readiness to be a passionate gardener in children’s ministry. God’s Word is filled with requirements and blessings. God’s love is unconditional in the sense that his love is available to all, but his blessings are clearly 9



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Qualities of a Gardener

Biblical References to Character

1. Willingness to work

“ working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23)

2. Vision for the end result

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6:19)

3. Patience

“Wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14)

4. Concern for the individual plants

“Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15)

5. Concern for the whole garden

“Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)

connected to conditions. If you want to experience a full basket of ministry fruit, you must be willing to develop godly character through commitment, obedience, devotion, and sacrifice. Think about the work that it must take to raise orchids. I’ve never done it, but I’ve been told they require specific conditions and endless attention. Once you make the decision to raise orchids, you must read everything you can find on orchids, interview successful orchid growers, and be willing to learn through your mistakes. Becoming a children’s ministry gardener is no different. You can acquire all the right tools, be given a fancy title, and even develop a powerful children’s ministry logo, but if you are not prepared spiritually your fruit will be scarce.

CELEBRATE YOUR PASSION FOR CHILDREN It may seem strange, but I have met people in children’s ministry who show no signs of any passion for children! Can you imagine how that affects God? He created, gifted, trained, and called us to children’s ministry. If we don’t passionately care about children, and if that passion doesn’t propel us to lead children to God, then God’s efforts are in vain. Let’s look at passion for a few moments here. While you read these brief descriptions, ask God to help you examine your own passion for children.

Passion The Characteristics of Passion: Passion has a sense of urgency Passion grows over time and can occupy every thought or plan Passion causes action, sometimes to the point of exhaustion or death Passion increases with opposition Passion reproduces rapidly Examples of Passion: Fans at a sports event Political campaigns Members of organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) Patriotic celebrations and parades How you feel about the people whose pictures you carry in your wallet How Do You Get Passion? Experiencing an extreme loss or pain Research/studying Convictions of parents Identification with another’s loss or pain In response to another’s sacrifice or gift Spending time with someone who has passion




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JESUS: OUR GREATEST EXAMPLE OF PASSION The passion that drove Jesus’ physical life here on Earth came from having created everything, and desperately wanting all of his creation to enjoy what he, as Creator, offered to them. His passion compelled him to take a stand in the face of the most ominous political and military power in the known world. His passion forced him to speak out and take huge risks. His passion caused him to stop and touch a leprous man, a little child, and a woman caught in adultery. His passion kept him silent as his jealous accusers brutally killed him. Do you have passion like that? Does your passion for the lost children of this world keep you up at night? Does your passion for the confused, frightened children of broken homes drive you to make a difference in at least one of them? No matter how much passion we feel we have, there is always room for more!

Are you a passionate gardener ready and willing to plant the seeds of the Gospel in the soil of children’s hearts? Maybe this chapter has challenged you to increase your passion about children. Check out the “Passion Inventory” on page 13; it may help you focus on the areas that need some “passion punch” from the Lord! Keep in mind, as you take this inventory, that the source of your passion must be the Lord! You can give yourself all sorts of pep rallies about children or ministry, but if you don’t find yourself feeling the feelings of God, you will soon see your pumped-up passion fizzle down to nothing. Seek the Lord’s passion. See life and children through his eyes. Feel his hope and anticipation about what could be. Become his voice, hands, and feet as you passionately care for his children!

Pathway of Passion Passion will increase as you become more intimately connected with the most passionate person ever: God. It makes sense that the people who are examples of the lowest levels of passion are those who are the farthest away from an intimate relationship with God. Those “heroes” of passion (Mother Theresa, Joan of Arc, Paul the Apostle, Billy Graham, etc.) are those whose relationships with God could easily be classed as intimate. Where are you on this pathway? 1. Establish a firm foundation. Remember that God saved you while you were a sinner (Romans 8) and that you don’t have to work to earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Remember that God created you with unique abilities (Psalm 139:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 12:7, 18) and that it is he who empowers you (2 Corinthians 4:5-18). While God wants to support you (2 Chronicles 16:9), the only condition is that you seek him and want to serve him (2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 1). 2. Build protective walls. Don’t worry about what may happen. Trust God, but guard your thoughts (Proverbs 3:5; Philippians 4:6-9). Be aware of your weaknesses (Psalm 119:9-11), but focus on your goal, your passion (Nehemiah 6:9). 3. Grow through challenges. Don’t lose hope (1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 6:19). Learn from your mistakes (James 1:2-8). 4. Plan for progress. Pray for God’s provision and leading (Proverbs 3:5, 6). Then take action based on what you know (Matthew 25:21), and go in his power (Acts 1:8). 11




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Garden Pest: Passion-Killing Root Worms Evidence Because these worms do their destructive work under the soil at the root level, their existence in your garden may not be known until you begin to see the visible signs in your ministry leaves. Some visible signs of the passion-killing root worm are: an increased unwillingness to sacrifice, feelings of futility, a lack of any strong feelings about children, or a desire to quit the ministry all together.

Sources of Infestation Selfishness, self-centered thinking, apathy, or fear

Treatment 1. Limit your time with dispassionate people. 2. Spend significant time with passionate people. 3. Keep learning: remain humble, teachable, and hungry for more of God. 4. Try new things: methods, curriculum, and programs. 5. Become more intimate with Jesus: purify your thoughts, devote yourself to worship, prayer and stillness, memorize and meditate on God’s word. (Psalm 19:14; Philippians 4:6-9) 6. Remember what the Lord has done for, and through, you. (Joshua 4) 7. Grieve over the pain and hopelessness of this world; “see” with his eyes. (Matthew 5:8) 8. Let your security and identity be his; give him what you have. (Exodus 4:1-5) 9. Don’t give in to discouragement! (1 Corinthians 15:58) 10. Worship God no matter what. (Psalm 27) 11. Wait on the Lord for more passion. (Isaiah 40:27-31; Psalm 46:10, 11)




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Passion Inventory To help you grow in your passion for the Lord, children, and ministry, take this “passion inventory” based on Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34, 35: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” For each of the statements, mark either “Absolutely,” “Somewhat,” or “Seldom” based on your own personal passion. Be honest, and let the Lord show you where your passion needs some boosting!

PASSION CONDITIONS “If anyone would come after me” He wants us to personally want to come after him. 1. I have a personal, private conviction to follow Jesus. 2. My passion can’t be stopped by outside influences. 3. I follow him, not my own ideas or plans!

❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom

“He must deny himself ” He wants us to become selfless and free of pride. 4. My passion for the Lord has made me a new person. 5. I am a selfless person.

❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom

“Take up his cross and follow me” He wants us to be willing to live or die for him. 6. My passion for the Lord has no limits. 7. My passion for children’s ministry has no limits.

❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom

“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it” He wants us to risk our security and comfort. 8. My passion feeds on inconvenience. 9. I feel a sense of satisfaction because I am not focused on my own comfort.

❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom

“But whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” He wants us to be consumed with serving him and spreading the Gospel message. 10. My passion produces a new sense of identity, security, and peace within me. ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom 11. What I once valued in life has become “cheap” compared to my new joy and satisfaction. ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom 12. Those around me want what I have, and will follow Jesus too! ❏ Absolutely ❏ Somewhat ❏ Seldom Now, look at your responses to the inventory questions. Those questions to which you responded with a “somewhat” or “seldom” are areas for which you might need to ask God for more passion. For those “absolutely” areas, ask God to increase your passion even more. Ask God to make you even more passionately alive and effective in everything you do for children. Ask God to increase your ability to feel the feelings of children today. Ask God to give you more boldness as you grow in your ability to be a spokesperson for the children! © 2002 by Standard Publishing. Permission is granted to photocopy this page for ministry purposes—not for resale.