Children’s ministry is important for all the obvious reasons. Children are loved by God. Children are important to the Church. They are innocent and impressionable. Their presence brightens any congregation.
But for those of us committed to promoting egalitarian principles, ministry to children is important for another reason–children’s ministry is adult ministry. And, of course, many children’s ministers–even in complementarian churches–are women. Every children’s minister spends a significant amount of time ministering to and with adults. A typical children’s minister works closely with scores of parents and grandparents, teachers, and other volunteers.
A young boy’s grandmother dies. The children’s minister attends the funeral. She offers words of comfort to the boy and to his mother. But what about the father and grandfather? She extends kind words to them as well, of course, and no one considers it inappropriate because she is merely a children’s minister.
A children’s minister gathers together a team of teachers to unveil a new quarter’s curriculum. But she does much more than simply hand it out. She surveys the curriculum’s themes, provides training in basic educational principles, and offers specific ideas for making the most of certain lessons. Her teaching team includes both men and women, but no one balks because she is merely a children’s minister.
A male leader in a complementarian congregation is asked to teach children about the ministry of the Apostle Paul in an upcoming lesson series. He is willing, but frankly he doesn’t know much about Paul. As a result, the children’s minister emails him a weekly preview of various aspects of Paul’s life. She explains Paul’s life situation, missionary methods, and core teaching; she also recommends resources for further study. On Sunday, he shows up well prepared, but quite nervous as well. So she provides last-minute encouragement amid her innumerable other responsibilities. Why can this woman teach and train a man? Because she is merely a children’s minister.
Egalitarians should value children’s ministers for all the obvious reasons. But we should also value them because countless female children’s ministers minister every day to and with Christians of both genders and all ages. These mere children’s ministers are flying under the hierarchical radar.