Exciting is fickle

Childrens_MinistryOver the last several years, I heard a number of churches advertising their “exciting children’s ministry.” It seems that every new church start that put an ad on the radio wanted to be sure you knew their children’s ministry was exciting.

I may be in the minority, but as a father, that’s not what I want to hear. And as a pastor, it’s not a promise I want to make.

The demands of “exciting” are relentless. When you’re exciting today, your credit doesn’t last very long, but the expectations increase. What will you do to be even more exciting next week? And the week after that? And how long will people stick around once the excitement wanes? Check out the attendance for a slumping sports team and you might see.

As a father, what I want you to tell me is that your children’s ministry is focused on relationships. I want you to tell me that you have godly adults who will make my children feel special and valued. I want you to tell me that your first focus is investing in those relationships.

Therein lies the difference. Exciting is fickle; relationships are an investment. How much credit do you get from being exciting two weeks ago? A few weeks’ worth, probably. How much credit do you get from building a relationship two weeks ago? My six year-old is still talking about Miss Barry, her Sunday School teacher last year. I still revere some of those adults who loved and cared for me in the church when I was just in elementary school.

As a father, I’m scared that if your children’s ministry focuses on exciting, my kids will eventually give up on the church. There will come a week or month that it’s just not exciting enough and they’ll decide church isn’t for them anymore. Or they’ll join the crowd of roaming, dissatisfied Christians who can never settle down. Nothing excites or delights for long.

As a pastor, I don’t want to promise exciting because I don’t believe we can deliver. Not consistently enough. Because exciting always demands more. “You already did that last week. You need to top it to impress me this week.” I can’t deliver on that. Delivering a constantly bigger spectacle takes too much energy if I want to ever take some time away for anything more than spectacle.

These aren’t mutually exclusive. I really would like my church’s children’s ministry to be enjoyable. I want my kids to want to be there. But I know that they won’t be there long if exciting is the best you have to offer. Offer me more Miss Barry’s, and I expect that my kids’ desire to be part of the church community will grow stronger, not weaker, over time.

** A note: I’ve said nothing here about faith. That’s deeply important to me. But my primary concern isn’t for the church to teach my kids about Christianity. It’s that they surround them with a community of love and forgiveness. It’s particularly that a number of godly adults invest in relationships with them. More on the church’s role in my kids’ faith later.

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