Recently the American Children’s Minister’s Association was unveiled across the web as a professional organization designed to create a professional standard in children’s ministry. Anchored by such children’s ministry pioneers as Jim Wideman, Roger Fields, and Dick Gruber, as well as several other pioneering leaders in their own right, the AMCA is an initiative which gains instant credibility simply because of their influence. It is for this reason I take their announcement seriously. And I do so with a view toward encouragement for the intent of their endeavor, and critique of issues which I am not sure have been considered, or addressed.
They aim to set a standard for professionalism in children’s ministry. Therefore, they have established criteria for recognition as members of their organization. This is normal in any professional organization. What is unique is that they are applying this to the context of pastoral ministry to children. So, here are my concerns.
- What about CM leaders in congregations which are not English speaking? In my city there are large Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, and Korean congregations, to name a few. In the years to come, how might various CM leaders of ethnic groups whose first language is not English be welcomed to an organization like this?
- What about denominations who do not require ordination for ministers to serve as pastors, or cms? Many require credentialing or licensing, but not ordination. Some have two tiers, licensing first as a requirement, and then ordination later as a confirmation of fitness for ministry. How might these groups fit in to the standard, which limits only to ordained CMs? Or will they simply be encouraged to raise their standards, as it appears is the case now?
- Why should any denomination recognize this organization as representing a desired standard? What steps are being taken to court denominations in a way that demonstrates perceived value to their constituent congregations and ministers? Let’s face it, while many CMs may be aware of the credibility of the leaders of ACMA, most denominational officials probably are not.
- Will the board of ACMA be static, or will it be peer elected on a rotation basis in the future?
- Will there be peer review of ACMA concerning its standards of recognition and any possible future publications (if publication is in the works)? By the way, practically speaking, there already is peer review in the form of social networking, blogs such as this one, and the individual decisions of hundreds of CMs whether or not to apply for membership.
- Because membership is limited to full-time CMs whose primary source of income is ministry, this excludes a large amount of volunteer and part-time people. Yes, I am aware they are looking at this, and have apparently adapted to state that they will consider specific cases on their individual merits, possibly granting recognition to persons with proven long-term track records of ministry. I wonder if they will apply this standard to full-time CMs who move from church to church every couple of years? They state that they want to avoid granting recognition to people who volunteer for brief periods of time. I appreciate the need for a high standard, but when I read that it makes me curious how they feel about recognizing full-time people who cannot seem to stay in one place for any length of time.
These are the points of concern which I have. If ACMA aims to be the standard of professionalism for children’s ministry, then by rights, the organization calls upon itself an increased measure of scrutiny. As I have told them on cmconnect.org, I appreciate what they are doing, and I esteem them highly. Indeed, at first I was anxious to join until I discovered I was not qualified. Further reflection has produced the concerns above and given me pause to offer my unreserved endorsement. Rather, I endorse it with caution, and encouragement to continue entertaining the wide range of feedback they have been receiving since the announcement. I think it has potential to be a wonderful contribution to the health of local churches, but more work may need to be done, not for my sake, but for the many whom they will influence in the days to come.