One Sentence Summary:
A collection of mini-essays by kids ministry experts covering a wide array of topics related to the creation, implementation, and operation of quality ministry programs for children.
Bill Emeott is the lead childhood ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, having first spent fourteen years prior to this in local church ministry. Emeott has assembled an impressive group of contributors. There is a list at the beginning of the book detailing their education and experience, both of which are extensive. In total, this book contains the wisdom of nineteen individuals with more than 450 years of combined experience in children’s ministry!
There are ten chapters in the book, each of which contains between 5-7 essays with advice about various aspects relative to the chapter. Emeott contributes a brief introduction to every chapter, grounding the importance of each part of the conversation. The ten broader areas discussed:
- Crafting a plan for your ministry
- Managing ministry specifics related to staff and protocol
- Sharpening your ministry basics
- Developing your ministry team
- Understanding the kids in your ministry
- Sharing the Gospel in your ministry
- Connecting your ministry with families
- Ministering in difficult situations
- Navigating relationships in ministry
- Minister self-care, balancing life and ministry
Looking over this variety of topics, it is hard to believe so many helpful ideas could fit in just a little over two hundred pages. The rapid-fire nature of the book is one of its greatest strengths, though as I’ll discuss below, it would also be a potential drawback of the book. There are numerous sections of the book that are so useful and concise, each could easily justify the purchase of the book.
How should a person go about “firing” a problematic volunteer? What are the cultural factors that make this generation of children unique and different from the previous ones? How can we go about challenging the kids who are ready for something deeper? What should levels of Biblical learning look like when broken down by age group? How do I walk a child through the death of a loved one? These are significant questions that a person might not know intuitively how to handle, all covered in the book. There are terrific sections with safety lists for children’s areas, explanations of policies and procedures, and guides to the best uses of physical layouts and visuals. Again, many sections are easily worth the cost of the book.
On the one hand, it’s great to have a one-stop resource. On the other hand, because of how much is here, there are a few sections that I felt would really need more content and training than what could be provided in a 2-3 page essay. For example, there is a section about ministry implementation that talks about how to lead the church through change. This has been a major area of study for me. If a person were to believe with four or five quick tips he or she is ready to navigate the treacherous waters of congregational change, I think it would lead to problems. The brevity allows for lots of content, but occasionally not for as much depth as would be necessary for healthy implementation. Of course, there are numerous resources available that go further in depth on these topics, and I’m sure that the scope of the project would preclude spending too much ink on any one topic. This could be your first resource, but in some areas, it shouldn’t be your only resource.
Another issue is that with such a variety of contributors, there is a bit of overlap. There is more than one section talking about recruiting and training volunteers, as well as about communication and how to go about it. It’s hard to imagine this would have been completely avoidable in a compilation-style format, but there will be several parts that if read cover-to-cover, the reader would say, “I feel like I’ve seen something like this already.” Of course, if you’re assuming a person would flip only to the section they are presently needing, this could actually be a positive thing about the book, that everything relevant to a section is included.
One thing I would change about the book is that I would have made the final chapter (“What About Me?: Balancing Life In Ministry”) the first chapter. I know too many kids ministers with servant hearts who will do everything for everyone else before thinking of themselves. It would be a shame for a person to worry about every other aspect of ministry before tending to their own relationship with God. I’m sure Emeott would affirm that chapter order isn’t intended to imply importance, but I couldn’t help but see a familiar pattern in the arrangement.
If you could buy any one book as a reference for your children’s minister, you would be hard-pressed to find one better than this one. It is sufficient to provide a healthy, well-researched first few steps in a wide number of areas relative to kids ministry. This is a great resource for a dearly important area of church life. I give it 5/5 stars.