The Decisive Nature of Children's Ministry

Dr. James Emery White
Dr. James Emery White

Years ago, when our children were very young, our family went to a church while on our study break - it was a new church, very small, that was meeting in a movie theatre.  How can I say this... it was one of the most programming challenged services I've ever attended.

It was so bad, that we were looking at our watches five minutes after the service started.  When the service mercifully ended, we wanted to get out of there and never return.

I know, that isn’t very gracious and I should have been focused more on worshiping Jesus and...

…you would have wanted to leave too.

But when we went to pick up our kids, they were having an absolute blast.  They didn't want to leave!  There was a young couple who had just poured themselves into that ministry, and made it really, really good.

I still recall how they had transformed a meager space into a time-machine with special-effects music that took the kids “back” into Bible times.  New kids, such as ours, were treated extra special and taken to a treasure chest full of small toys from which they could choose.

We went to some of the best churches in the area that summer, but our kids pleaded with us to take them back to the one we could barely stand.

Now if I lived there, and felt compelled to find a church home as a father of four, do you think I would have at least given that church another try?

You can count on it.

Here's the lesson:

You can drop the ball in the service, but ace it with the kids, and have a chance that they'll return.  But no matter how good the service is, if the children's ministry is bad, they won't come back - unless they're folks without kids.

Too many pastors treat children’s ministry as a necessary evil.  It’s severely underfunded, understaffed, and underappreciated.

Wake up.

Children are the heart of your growth engine.

James Emery White



James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Originally published July 29, 2013.

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