Editor’s Note: This article was inspired by Michael Bayne’s 4 ways for student and kids pastors to work together.
by Chris and Joanna Cummings
It’s not often that we find those in youth ministry working alongside those serving in children’s ministry. It certainly seems more normal for us to just stick to what we know in ministry. Yet there are many things that we can learn from each other and several ways we can work together to give our children, teens, and the whole church a more holistic experience of the kingdom of God.
As a youth minister and a children’s minister, we have had the experience of serving together in our church for the past three years, which is a constant learning process. We are continually stretching, growing, and challenging one another in ministry with the church and with children and teens. Throughout this process we have found a three areas where we deeply believe our teamwork is most needed. Children’s and youth ministries must take time to come together and create space for conversation, evaluation, and collaboration.
Think Theologically Together
Children’s and youth ministers need to talk about what we are teaching and how we are teaching it. It is important to sit down together and ask, “What foundations in faith and what experiences are we giving kids before they enter our youth rooms?” Asking this question will say a lot about what you can use to build off of or it may tell what you will have to correct when a child enters youth ministry. Good theology in children’s ministry is critical and flows directly into youth ministry. We should be having conversations together about theology in children’s ministry. Consistently meet together, not just to talk about tasks and events, but to ask, “What are our theological rocks? What matters most? What do you teach and why do you teach it?” Most of all, you must be willing to be open, to share and to hear both praises and concerns.
Partner with Families Together
Children’s and youth ministers must work together with the whole family unit. We know that parents are the most important part of teens’ faith. We urge parents to be involved with youth group and to have conversations at church and at home. Parents often either get discouraged with trying to start these conversations or are not in the habit enough to make it a part of their lives. But what if we are equipping parents to talk about faith from the very start? Sticky faith must happen in children’s ministry first, and our prayer is that it will continue into the teen years and beyond. Distribute newsletters and communications about current culture trends and ways parents can talk about those trends with their children and teens. Hold joint parent seminars about pressing topics like faith in the home, technology, culture, and sexuality. See your task as equipping parents for success when talking about faith, as opposed to complaining when they fail. Communicate as youth ministries and children’s ministries to one another and make it a priority to grow in relationship with all families of your congregation.
Provide opportunities for youth and children to worship, play, and interact with one another. Intergenerational community is important for everyone involved. The church is one of the only places that brings all of the generations together to build relationships but often we divide up the ages as soon as people arrive. Youth still need to play and kids give them an excuse to do just that. Children naturally admire and respect teens, and it is important for kids to see that it’s cool to be a follower of Jesus when you are a teenager. Teens need to learn to nurture and mentor others in life and faith and being with kids gives them an opportunity to serve in this way. Teens feel loved and affirmed by kids, and children are inspired and given hope for their future when interacting with teens in healthy ways.
We truly believe that the future of youth ministry is children’s ministry and that the future of children’s ministry is youth ministry. It is in working together that we can help the church be a truly holistic, continual, and intergenerational community for people of all ages to experience God, grow spiritually, and learn what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God.
Chris and Joanna Cummings are alumni of the Center for Youth Ministry Training who completed the program in May 2012 earning a Master of Arts in Religion. They serve together at Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tenn. as the youth (Chris) and children’s (Joanna) ministers.