Children’s ministry is sometimes the stepchild of the church. Observations from a Facebook group on resources for children’s ministry show complaints of low budgets, scarce resources of all kinds, including lack of volunteers, and lack of dedicated spaces in buildings. Of course, this is not true for all churches. Many of the large churches make a concerted effort to ensure children and youth are well cared for with ample budgets and beautiful spaces.
A visit to Saddleback’s Church Hong Kong location painted a picture of a children’s ministry that was first and foremost in the mind of its leaders. Pastor Stephen Lee proudly displayed the care taken in developing spaces for its smallest members and also a space for special needs children. From Saddleback’s Church Hong Kong website, one can link to a specific website for kids simply called, http://www.saddlebackkids.com/ which links back to the main church in California. The Saddleback Kids ministry motto is, “CONNECTING KIDS TO GOD AND TO OTHERS. (Saddleback.com n.d.)” Everything for the children in the organization is simple, well laid out, and easy to access. This ministry displays what a great children’s ministry can look like.
Good to Great by Jim Collins shows what it takes to distinguish good organizations and businesses from great ones. Collins lists a five-level hierarchy pyramid which explains why some organizations reach greatness (Collins 2001, 20). The first level is the “Highly Capable Individual” that makes productive contributions; level 2 is the “Contributing Team Member” that effectively works with others in a group setting; level 3 is the “Competent Manager” that organizes people and resources; level 4 is the “Effective Leader” who catalyzes commitment to a clear and compelling vision; level 5 is the “Executive” who builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will (Collins 2001, 20). All five levels are needed to go from good to great and Collins believes that level 5 leaders embody all five layers of the pyramid (Collins 2001, 21). Collins identifies a duality of characteristics present in level 5 leaders: modest and willful, humble and fearless (Collins 2001, 22). It seems to me that Saddleback’s leader in Hong Kong exhibited these same features. Pastor Stephen Lee was very modest about being the Pastor of the church in Hong Kong, describing himself as the Monday through Friday Pastor. He believed Rick Warren to be the pastor, which is very modest considering that Pastor Lee was already very successful in his own right. Pastor Lee was also very willful in deciding how every detail of the church was designed for maximum comfort and convenience for those seeking to worship with the church. As to fearless, the Saddleback Hong Kong website mentions a commitment to Local peace addressing issues of homelessness and human trafficking stating on its website,
Local PEACE provides the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love through a variety of outreach ministries in areas such as homelessness, human trafficking, mentoring, military/veterans, the elderly, those incarcerated, as well as many others (Saddleback Church 2019).
Finally, the leaders of Saddleback display humility by realizing that the goal is not self-promotion but promoting God and a relationship with Jesus Christ for the youngest members of its community of faith. The curriculum used by the church is clearly displayed on the website; the parents know what their children are learning and what to expect (Saddleback.com n.d.).
Although many small churches do not have the budget of a Saddleback Mega-Church, a church may also be missing some of the leadership levels, such as a clear vision of the Effective leader and the Executive level leader as shown in the higher levels of Collins pyramid. Collins provides a diagnostic tool in his leadership model that can help churches identify what is missing in its leadership. Pastor Stephen Lee of Saddleback Hong Kong shows us greatness is possible even when ministering to the smallest disciple.
Collins, Jim. Good to Great. New York: HaperCollins Publisher, 2001.
Saddleback Church. Saddleback Ministries – Local Peace. 2019. https://saddleback.com/connect/ministry/local-peace/hong-kong (accessed September 13, 2019).
Saddleback.com. Saddleback Kids. n.d. http://www.saddlebackkids.com/ (accessed September 13, 2019).