“Hallelujah!” Mike and Jasmine crowed. “It’s about time!” Outstanding! Excellent! and Hooray! caromed around the church foyer as the newly hired children’s ministries director was introduced to the congregation. Others stood silent, blinking.
“They hired who?!” Mavis muttered incredulously. “Excuse me?” Davis rolled his eyes.
Congratulations and delight over Suzy Wonder Woman mingled with doubt and disappointment, swirled through exhilaration, astonishment and angst and crested into a cautious wave that could best be described as “wait-and-see.” Both rivers had their tributaries.
Hoo-ray and High Gear?
Heading up the “hoo-ray contingent” were moms and dads of young children who waited for years for church leadership to take ministry to children seriously and “give it a place at the table” – e.g., on the payroll. The church relied on unpaid volunteers to staff this crucial role for decades. Most lasted a year or two before burning out and bailing.
These young parents were delighted that ministry to children finally had an advocate, a “paid staff person” – and were looking for giant leaps forward on the order of Apollo 11. “Children are finally getting the time and attention they deserve instead of the leftovers” Molly, a mother of four beamed. “Suzy is energetic, enthusiastic and full of great ideas” crowed Martha, another Suzy supporter. “She’ll kick children’s ministry into high gear.”
Less Than Thrilled
The less-than-thrilled crowd expressed concern over the twenty-four year-old, never-been-married, never-had-any-kids, never-been-a-parent, or raised-a-family new hire. “Of course she’s energetic and enthusiastic” mused Carla, a mother of twin three year-olds and two tweens. “Suzy’s single. She can spend her life at the church. She doesn’t have a husband, isn’t managing a household or raising kids – and doesn’t know anything about either!”
Shawn nodded, “You’d think that being a parent, having kids and raising a family would be bare bones qualifications for taking on ministry to children and families.”
“There’s nothing like having kids to prepare you for working with kids” opined Don, who taught the 5th and 6th grade boys Sunday school class for going on twenty years. “No amount of ‘book larnin’ can substitute for the Real Deal, parenting 24/7.”
‘Set up to Fail’?
Mindy and Drew pointed out that as gifted and capable as Suzy may be, “She’s struggling to keep her head above water as the church secretary, barely managing the load she already has.” Drew shook his head, “So they add more to her plate? In what universe does that make sense?” Some expressed concern that the combined secretary/children’s ministries role was “unfair” to Suzy, and that she was “being set up to fail.”
Livin’ in La-La Land
“It’s better than what we had before,” said Lynn, “relying on unpaid volunteers to run kid min.” Paula disagrees. “Now that we have a ‘paid’ children’s leader, people will expect more. They’ll jack up their expectations into the stratosphere. No way is Suzy going to be able to fulfill that on a handful of hours a week – and it’s not fair to ask her to.” Bill, a seasoned kid min veteran volunteered, “Children’s ministries is a full-time job. In a mid-size church you’re lookin’ at 30-40 hours a week, minimum. Anyone who thinks it can be done right on half that is living in La-La Land.”
The parents of three young girls, Brenda and Tom voiced similar sentiments. “At first we were thrilled to hear that the church was finally adding children’s ministries to the ranks of paid staff. We thought they were serious and looking for a full-time professional, not someone who’s splitting their attention and time between secretary and children.” Tom questioned the wisdom of transferring kid min leadership from “competent, qualified unpaid staff” to paid staff that’s “green” and “marginally qualified.”
Real or ‘Rah-Rah’?
Ben, a grandfather and veteran Sunday school teacher offered, “Sounds like church leadership was in a big hurry to make it look like they were doing something that matters. Why the rush? Why not take the time to do it right and find a grown-up for that job?” Ben noted that the candidate pool had consisted of two applicants, “and two applicants does not an adequate candidate pool make. I’ve seen this before” he continued. “People are in such a rush that they don’t wait on God to work in His way, on His timetable. It’s not real; it’s window dressing.”
His wife Myra chimed in, “Couldn’t they find someone with some seasoning? A few more years under their belt? Suzy’s vivacious and vibrant, but what about substance, staying power? I mean, really. How much ‘kid experience’ can a single 24-year old have?”
Shari spoke about other high-energy “ministry leaders” who “take off like a house afire for awhile, then flame out and fade. Kids need continuity and patience. Stability matters more than the quick rah-rah.”
Myra added, “A children’s ministry director should be able to relate to the people they’re ministering to. Relationships can’t be cultivated on the fly. That means slowing down and taking time. Lots of it.” She expressed doubt that Suzy would be able to give the role “the time and attention it needs.”
“We’ve seen it before” Ben reiterated, crossing his arms. “People get impatient and hire someone second-rate. At the end of the day it’s the kids who get short-shrift.”
Best or But…?
Questions whirled about Suzy’s lack of experience. Her inability to relate to moms and dads and the challenges and joys of child-rearing first-hand. Her questionable academic credentials. Many voiced concerns about Suzy “spreading herself too thin” and the failure of leadership to set children’s ministries up as a dedicated, solo role rather than a job-swap. Said one mom who declined to be identified, “Did they hire Suzy because she was the best candidate for the job and could do it well, or because they were desperate and couldn’t find someone better?” Her husband sighed: “What were they thinking?!”
Others cited questionable or haphazard performance in other roles, “inconsistent” or “inadequate” follow-through, spotty attendance and “over-committed.” One congregant who preferred to remain anonymous opined, “This decision says more about how leadership views ministering to children than anything else.” Another parent grimaced, “See what you get when a bunch of out-of-touch oldsters start making decisions that effect youngsters? How many of those guys have even set foot in a children’s classroom lately? How many children’s events have they attended or helped out with in the past decade?” He shook his head, “They just don’t get it.” Another commenter observed dryly, “Why don’t we just re-name the place The Suzy Show? That’s what it’s turning into.”
Other parents were more positive: “We’re joining the big leagues now!” and “Finally!” mingled with expressions of relief, exuberance, hope and cautious optimism.
Some saw the move like Lenny, who said: “This is a textbook case of how NOT to get a kid min leader. Children’s ministries has been on life support for years. I don’t know if this will make it better or worse. I hope it’s a step forward, but… it looks like the powers that be ‘settled for’ someone instead of getting the Right Person. It looks like they were in a hurry to get someone, anyone who was willing, vertical and breathing. What they wound up with is someone without any real experience or expertise.” He paused and then added, “That’s not only sad – it’s a shame. And maybe a sham.”
What do you think?