Today we are taking time to interview Sam Luce from Redeemer Church in New York. He’s coming to Atlantic Canada April 17-18, 2015 for the NEXT children’s ministry conference! NEXT is for anyone who serves in children’s ministry, particularly volunteer leaders. The win of NEXT is you go away encouraged and with practical tools to do children’s ministry with excellence in your context. I’m so glad to get to be a part of NEXT. I recognize children are a huge part of our neighbourhoods. Kids have big hearts to explore our world and to live for Jesus. God is using children in huge ways for His Kingdom.
So let’s hear from Sam…
Renée - Tells us a bit about yourself.
Sam - I attended Portland Bible College in Portland Oregon where I graduated in 1997 with a BA in Theology, upon graduation I became the children’s pastor at the same church for over 13 years. I have done children’s ministry for the last 23 years. In those years I have seen kids ministry grow and change tremendously.
I am currently a contributing editor to K! magazine, served as chairman of INCM for 4 years, co-authored “The Eric Trap”, have been involved in several book projects, and been blogging since 2007 (samluce.com). I have spoken at conferences and have done some consulting and coaching. My real passion lies in preaching the gospel, building and strengthening the local church in any way possible because I believe in creating environments where life change can take place. I truly believe that the local church is the hope of the world.
I have been married to my beautiful wife for 17 years together we have 4 beautiful children ages 10, 8, 5 and 2 years. We currently live in Upstate New York.
Renée - What got you involved in children’s ministry and why are you so passionate about children’s ministry?
Sam - It sort of happened by accident. (It's a long story.) Basically I thought I was being hired to be the youth pastor of my church. I didn't realize I was hired as the kids pastor until I had moved across the country. It was difficult because I was making my plans but God was directing my steps. I said a simple prayer saying “God if this is what you want me to do, work with kids, you need to give me a passion for it.” That prayer began a slow process of God both changing my heart and opening my eyes to the importance of reaching kids while they are young. In the years that followed doing kids ministry I always said kids ministry was the most important ministry of the church. Now four years in to being a campus pastor I am more convinced than ever of the importance of kids ministry to our church and in every church.
Renée - What’s the most important thing a church can do for their children?
Sam - The most important thing a church can do for their children is keep wonder alive. To paint a picture of Jesus that is bigger and more beautiful than ever. It's very easy for us to gloss over sin with kids because they haven't committed "big sins" yet. Yet the ironic thing is that if we don't paint an appropriate view of their sinfulness they will never have a proper view of Christ sufficiency. Kids need us to constantly point them back to big story of Christ's redeeming love.
Renée - Children’s volunteers love kids, but are often trying to do so much with so little. How can they still be successful?
Sam - 1. Know kids by name 2. Pray for kids by name 3. Step into their world 4. Encourage their parents
Renée - Any advice for a church trying to take their children’s ministry to the next level?
Sam - If you want to go to the next level:
- Pray - prayer is actively exchanging our weakness for His strength.
- Make kids ministry a church wide effort rather than a department. Understanding that if we fail to reach the next generation we fail to live the gospel we preach.
- Invest with time, money and effort to make ministry in your church multi-generational for the Glory of God.
- Constantly iterate. Never stay stagnate looking for ways to reach farther evangelistically and go deeper relationally.
Renée - Why should children’s ministry leaders and volunteers go to training conferences, like NEXT?
Sam - Leaders should attend training conferences because we are not just volunteers we are stewards. When you realize that you are a steward of the time and influence God has given you it changes how you use your time. It's not your own. I love how the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism draws this point out so vividly. It says “What is our only comfort in life and death?” The answer is "That we are not our own but belong body and soul to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” When we realize that we are not owners but stewards it changes events like these from “have to”, to “want to.”
Renée - We’re looking forward to welcoming Sam at the NEXT conference as we join together in what God is doing in Atlantic Canada to show and tell the Good News in our neighbourhoods. Click here to find out more about the NEXT conference and register. The price goes up after March 29.
Sam writes his own blog focused on leadership, children’s ministry and creativity at http://samluce.com/