Sustainable Children's Ministry: From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-Term Solutions, By Mark DeVries and Annette Safstrom

Sustainable Children's Ministry

From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-Term Solutions

by Mark DeVries and Annette Safstrom

Sustainable Children's Ministry
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: January 23, 2018
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4522
  • ISBN: 9780830845224

*affiliate partner

Are you a children's ministry leader on the edge of burnout? Do you find yourself working harder and harder to tame the chaos?

Mark DeVries and Annette Safstrom know how you feel. Flash and fizz can be effective at attracting young families, but without sustainable systems beneath the unforgettable moments, the impact is almost always short-lived. In this practical resource, you’ll learn how to recruit volunteers, partner with parents, navigate politics, and care for your own soul instead of frantically scrambling to do it all yourself. Sustainable Children’s Ministry will help you build a ministry foundation that will still be standing long after you are gone.

"Ministry is hard work. I appreciate the honesty of Annette's story and experience. She practically breaks down how to help you develop systems. Whether you're beginning in ministry or on the brink of quitting, this book is a great reminder that it's not about doing ministry alone, but about you and your church thriving as you develop the foundational structure for a fruitful and lasting ministry."

Yancy, songwriter and worship leader for kids and families, Yancy Ministries, Inc.

"If you are looking for a book to help you be incredibly strategic with life-changing results in children's ministry, then this book is for you. Think of Mark and Annette as your personal leaders and consultants to help take your ministry to the next level. I love both the strategy and the practicality."

Jim Burns, president of HomeWord, author of Understanding Your Teen and The First Few Years of Marriage

"Mark DeVries and Annette Safstrom have created an amazing resource for churches and their children's ministries. Senior pastors, church governing boards, ministry staff, and volunteers will all benefit from reading Sustainable Children's Ministry. It's not just a collection of good ideas, but a whole systematic approach to enabling your ministry to flourish. DeVries and Safstrom really focus on building a culture of shared ministry so that children's ministry workers do not experience frustration and burnout. Sustainable Children's Ministry is encouraging, inspiring, practical, and an essential addition to any ministry library."

Lyndsay Lee Slocum, senior associate pastor, Roswell Presbyterian Church

"Wow! This book is awesome. I wish it was in my hands thirty years ago! Finally, we have the definitive children's ministry book. A must-read for leaders. With personal experiences that are all too familiar for those of us in ministry, Mark DeVries and Annette Safstrom provide practical ideas for building solid, impactful opportunities for children and their families. Sustainable Children's Ministry has encouraged and excited me about the future of my ministry!"

Kathy McCarron, director of children and family ministries, NorthPark Presbyterian Church, Dallas

"Annette and Mark have given the church a much-needed gift. This book could become a textbook for seminaries and Christian education programs across America! It's a valuable guide for children's directors and pastors of churches who want to faithfully reach the next generation. Annette understands the demands and common challenges facing dedicated children's leaders. In a winsome and vulnerable style, she provides coaching in how to develop strong organizational systems and processes, and personal practices that build a sustainable and joyful ministry. The book is compelling and immensely helpful, and is full of practical tools and a good dose of humor!"

Kay Broweleit, retired children’s and family ministries pastor, Presbyterian Church USA

"If it is your hope to help children and parents know that the God of the universe loves them and that they can know, love, and serve this God in return, yet you find yourself frantically busy and overwhelmed, then authors Mark DeVries and Annette Safstrom would diagnose you and your church as suffering from chronic volunteer deficiency. Easy-to-implement remedies are available on every page of their new book Sustainable Children's Ministry. After decades of ministry, I cannot agree more that 'Putting functional systems in place will never be urgent, but without them, everything becomes urgent.' This book just may transform your children's ministry and also restore a sense of joy and purpose to your whole church as together you train up a child."

Kendy Easley, executive pastor, Bethany Community Church, Seattle

"There's hope for every tired and frustrated children's ministry worker out there, and you'll find it in this book. It's a step-by-step guide to building a healthy, effective, and collaborative children's ministry, and how to actually enjoy your ministry job again. Don't walk—run to read this book!"

Mary Beth Abplanalp, youth minister

"This is the book I wish I had had twenty years ago when I first started in children’s ministry. I knew I wanted to do things differently but was not quite sure how. This is also the book I need to remind me to tend to the systems and not to get bogged down putting out fires. This is a resource that I will not only recommend to those in children's ministry, but will also use myself since so much of it transfers across ministry areas. The work of the church should continue well beyond any one person or leader, and Sustainable Children’s Ministry helps the people of God, whether paid or not, to live and serve in the ways God has gifted and called them."

Holly Dittrich, executive pastor, First United Methodist Church, Hurst, TX

"If you need wise friends to walk you through developing a meaningful children’s ministry built around systems that make sense and minimize chaos, take the time to read this book. Full of good advice, real-life examples, and strategies for remaining joyful while serving the church, Annette’s and Mark’s words are manna for people who want to do this work well for a long time."

Elizabeth Cole Goodrich, associate pastor for discipleship, Independent Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, AL

"It has been many years since I received that frantic call from my pastor saying that the previous children's pastor just resigned and he thought I'd be perfect for the job. I suspect that many children's pastors backed their way into ministry in much the same way that I did. I've learned a lot in the intervening years of ministry. And some of that learning came from the work of Mark DeVries, who came to my aid many times over the years with his innovative writing in the area of youth and family ministry. Now, with the partnership of an experienced children's pastor, Annette Safstrom, Mark has finally moved into my neighborhood of children's ministry. In a practical and easy-to-read way, this book will introduce you to key systems for ministry, providing a solid foundation for your ministry to thrive. As I read this systematic and well-organized book, I wished that I'd had such an easy-to-follow plan all those years ago. It would have saved my sanity over and over again!"

Trevecca Okholm, adjunct professor of practical theology, Azusa Pacific University; author, Kingdom Family: Re-Envisioning God's Plan for Marriage and Family

"Children's ministries need this book! It is packed full of practical and proven training that will help you get out of the weekly whirlwind and focus on what matters most. A must-read for anyone ministering to children and families."

Zach Coffin, director of next generation discipleship for the Wesleyan Church

"This book is a game-changer for the world of children's ministry. It accurately identifies the pitfalls and the challenges that most ministry leaders encounter and responds with practical, systematic methods to implement. I highly recommend this book to anyone in children's ministry as a roadmap to create a thriving, healthy ministry environment that brings out the best in your leadership."

Gina McClain, global children's pastor, Faith Promise Church, Knoxville, TN

"People who like cooking love the idea of a box that contains pre-portioned food and cooking instructions. Sustainable Children's Ministry is a box with ingredients that offer what it takes to construct and maintain a healthy, well-balanced ministry to kids and family. It comes with a manual written by two people, Annette Safstrom and Mark DeVries, who know the frontlines well and have sat and dreamed with hundreds of churches seeking to create an enduring ministry for children. This is the box you get to keep, and it gives you what you need to build a strong ministry and go forward."

Doug Ranck, associate pastor of youth, children, and families, Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA

"In a ministry culture where gimmicks and entertainment can overshadow the reason we serve, it is refreshing to read a book that keeps the essentials and the eternal front and center. Whether you are new to ministry or a seasoned pro, broken and burned out, or out of touch with what matters most, Sustainable Children’s Ministry is for you. Proven, practical steps mixed with just enough real-life ministry examples provide the reader with a resource to build a ministry from scratch, evaluate an existing ministry, or tweak a program to make it strong until the end. I look forward to sharing this book with my entire leadership team."

Danielle Bell, minister to children, Dawson Family of Faith, Birmingham

"As a children's pastor, this is a must read. Sustainable Children's Ministry will be my go-to guide for many years to come because I have seen the elements of this book transform our church's ministry to children and families in just a few years. DeVries and Safstrom speak to the specific struggles of children's ministry and show how to practically lead from a place of chaos into order."

Casey Cramer, pastor of children, youth, and families, Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville

"Leading has always mattered when it comes to ministry, and with today’s multifaceted pace, strategy matters as well. Sustainable Children’s Ministry offers a soup-to-nuts approach for building a sure foundation upon which children, volunteers, parents, and those in charge can be cultivated. Annette and Mark assist us by providing focused and caring ministry to our youngest in faith. We were never meant to do this alone and, in fact, we are robbing others of the joy of ministry when we don’t ask for help or don’t have a focused strategy. This how-to book breaks down the seemingly overwhelming chunks necessary for a mission-based ministry and changes have-tos into bite-sized get-tos. Lots of examples will springboard the imagination. I look forward to watching this book lead to continued evolution in congregational children’s ministry in the months and years to come."

Kris Bjorke, cofounder and director of InterServe Ministries

"Sustainable Children’s Ministry gave me a great boost of energy for my work during a time when I greatly needed it. I found myself laughing out loud when I recognized myself in many of the author’s own stories including grand mistakes, laments of isolation, and being stymied by the disease of chronic volunteer deficiency (CVD). But I also found hope in the very practical approach of encouraging me to be intentional about goals for Christian formation, building systems, using tools, partnering with parents, and clarifying roles. I also appreciated the practice of regularly identifying how God is at work in our ministries with children and relying on God’s creativity to sustain us in all that we do."

Laura H. Jernigan, associate pastor of Northwest Presbyterian Church, Atlanta

Read an Excerpt


1. From Chaos to Clarity: What’s So Different About Sustainable Children’s Ministry?
2. The Workhorse Syndrome: Moving Beyond a Do-It-Yourself Ministry
3. Beyond Goldfish and Bubble Machines: A Different Way of Doing Children’s Ministry
4. Measuring Up: Knowing What It Takes
5. Building Your Ministry with Simple Machines: The Essential Systems for a Sustainable Children’s Ministry
6. From Pearls to a Necklace: Putting the Pieces Together
7. Seeing What Others Can’t—Yet: Clarifying Your Vision
8. The Delegation Dance: Building Your Ministry Partners
9. Beyond Rotation: Building Your Dream Team
10. Beyond the Victim: Swimming in the Deep Waters of Church Politics
11. Children’s Ministry Is Family Ministry: A Recipe for Turning Parents into Partners
12. More Than Planning: The Essential Systems of Chaos Management
13. Your Ministry Marathon: Preparing Yourself to Go the Distance
14. Finding Your Bounce: The Inside Secret of Sustainable Children’s Ministry
Appendix A: Communication Plan
Appendix B: Sample Goals and Benchmarks
Appendix C: Sample Values Statements
Appendix D: Core Competencies Samples
Appendix E: Resources for Parents
Appendix F: Preventative Maintenance Calendar
Appendix G: Systems Checklist
Appendix H: For Reflection and Discussion


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Mark DeVries

Mark DeVries (MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary) is the founder of Ministry Architects, a consulting team that helps churches and ministry organizations build sustainable ministries for children, youth, young adults, and entire congregations. He served for twenty-eight years as associate pastor for youth and their families at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He has trained youth workers on five continents and has taught courses or been a guest lecturer at a number of colleges and seminaries.

DeVries is the author of Sustainable Youth Ministry, Sustainable Children's Ministry (with Annette Safstrom), and Family-Based Youth Ministry. He is also the coauthor of The Most Important Year in a Woman's Life/The Most Important Year in a Man's Life, and he has been a contributing writer for Josh McDowell's Youth Ministry Handbook, Starting Right, and Reaching a Generation for Christ. He and his wife, Susan, have four grown children.

Annette Safstrom

Annette Safstrom is a senior consultant, speaker, and trainer with Ministry Architects and has served in children’s ministry for over thirty years, including as director of a rapidly growing children’s ministry in Texas. She speaks at a variety of children's ministry events, including the Children's Pastors Conference and Group's KidMin Conference.

After graduating from Bible college with a certification in children's ministry, Annette earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Texas A&M University and a master's in research psychology from Southern Methodist University. She and her husband, Kevin, have two children.