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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Connections: Dan Rector
Oct. 20, 2013

Reaching Our Children

Dan Rector, a pioneer in children’s ministry, recently retired from teaching at North Central University (Assemblies of God) in Minneapolis after a 35-year tenure. David Boyd, national Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge director, recently spoke with Rector about the past, present and future of ministry to children.

evangel: You were one of the first officially designated children’s pastors in the Assemblies of God. How did the church go about hiring a children’s pastor when there weren’t really many being hired back then?

DAN RECTOR: I think some of the first ones came off the evangelistic field. That was where I was serving when I accepted my first position in 1971. That seemed to be the route to go when you were looking for someone who could work with kids. They either were people in the church who showed an interest in children’s ministry, and started doing it on a paid level, or people who were brought off the field of children’s evangelism.

As Assemblies of God churches began to grow in the late ’60s and early ’70s, churches began to consider multiple staff persons. Prior to being a children’s pastor myself, I had never heard of any church having more than a pastor and an assistant pastor or a youth pastor.

evangel: What kind of growth took place as churches focused on children’s ministries?

RECTOR: When I was at Quincy, Ill., the church grew from 225 when I arrived to 500 when I left five years later. Kids church was virtually nonexistent before I came, and it grew to about 200 kids.

I came to Bloomington, Minn., as the first children’s pastor in the state. The church was running about 450 when I came. The year I left, the church had 1,700 people. There were about 40 kids when I came, and we were running well over 200 children by the year I left, just in the elementary-age kids church.

You could hear similar stories about other churches that really started ministering to their kids about that time. I think kids ministry was a big part of our churches growing at that point in our history.

evangel: Why do you feel children’s ministry is so critical in today’s society?

RECTOR: I’m not sure it’s any more critical than it was in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. It was critical then, and I think it’s critical today.

Most of the statistics referencing the need for children’s ministry don’t change. You still have a greater impact if you reach children before their teen years. The need is the same: to reach kids at an early age, and to give them solid doctrinal teaching while they’re young. We need to give them the information they need to make good choices.

evangel: Do you see ministry trends that point to a solid future for children’s ministry?

RECTOR: The available technology is exciting, and I think we need children’s ministers, and ministers in general, who will see what can be done with all the technology. It’s so neat to have a kids church now with big screen projection, PowerPoint, video clips and other things that can be a vital part of teaching. It’s also amazing what can be done with the Internet to communicate with workers and parents.

Upgrading facilities and rooms is very important for the overall outcome of children’s ministries. Some churches now are not only concerned with what their kids are being taught, but are providing facilities and rooms that are specifically for kids.

evangel: What would your goal be for kids’ discipleship before they enter the youth group?

RECTOR: They need enough of a knowledge base to make good choices when they decide on what their faith is and what their standards are going to be. I’d like for them also to have some good ministering experience — either music, drama, or puppetry, or other avenues where the kids can use their talents and ministry skills.

evangel: Beyond knowing what’s right and what’s wrong, kids need to read for themselves what God’s Word says about these issues.

RECTOR: Our society is doing such a good job of indoctrinating and saying things like, “Shouldn’t two people who love each other be able to be together?” Of course, they are not telling the whole story. We need to do a better job of putting everything out there so kids can see and find the answers in the Word and know what the Word teaches.

evangel: What specific advice would you give to children’s pastors and children’s leaders?

RECTOR: 1. Build relationships. That includes relationship with God, family, senior pastor, staff, kids, parents, workers, and with other people. Most failures with people in ministry involve bad relationships. Relationship is the most important thing before you get into presentations or any knowledge-based things.

2. Be a learner. That means to not only read, study and take some classes and courses, but be discipled by someone. I think it’s good for anyone in ministry to be discipled.

3. Disciple someone else. “Never do ministry alone,” is another good quote I heard at a conference. Always be discipling or training someone else to do what you do.

4. Be a good communicator. The leading senior pastors are good communicators; the same should be true of children’s pastors. That means being a good teacher or preacher, or it could be writing or sharing information.

5. Learn how to demonstrate ministry skills and be proficient in them. Some of the illustrative or creative ministry things might not be your cup of tea, but when you learn them, you can teach other people to do them. They’re all useful in a variety of presentations.

6. Be professional in all you do. Dig in and learn the skills to help you be a more creative communicator.

7. Dream big and work smart. I had the dream of a Junior Bible Quiz national festival, and it happened. God ordained it. But it still took a lot of work.

evangel: It’s allowing God to give you His vision so He can speak a dream into your heart.

RECTOR: If it’s not of God, doors will be closed. If it is of God, the doors will be opened and it will come together. Those things God lays on your heart, if you don’t do them, God will give somebody else the dream to do them. But if you are willing to accept the dream, and work hard and smart to help make it happen, God can use you.

evangel: You recently retired from North Central University. Any idea how many students you’ve impacted?

RECTOR: It would have to be estimated. I think a very high percentage of them have used something they learned in the area of children’s ministry. Not all of them have become children’s pastors. Some have become senior pastors. Some have ended up being volunteer children’s pastors.

I remember a young man praying at the altar during a kids camp I conducted in Ohio a number of years back. He was praying for God’s will in his life. Last year he graduated as valedictorian with a children and family ministry major. He’s now the children’s pastor at Cedar Valley Church in Bloomington where I used to be. So it’s almost like seeing the whole cycle.


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