Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesdays with Women in Kidmin

Wednesdays with Women in Kidmin is about bringing together some of the leading 
women in children's ministry to share their knowledge and passion. 
For us to gather and learn from each sharpen each other.
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17

Being a Life Long Learner
Kelli Espiritu

Entering into my 21st year in Kid’s Ministry serving at the same church, I realize that I am an anomaly. Webster’s defines anomaly as,  Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.”

According to Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development (FASICLD) “Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career.” 

I read that shaking my head and praising the name of Jesus that He allows some of us to serve in ministry for longer that the average church leader.

Having two decades under my belt in ministry I owe my longevity to a God given “life long learner” attitude. You know that feeling, “I don’t need to attend another conference” or when you would rather skip sitting in on a sermon and sit in your office and work on a Sunday morning? That is when it is time to stop, drop, pray and repent. Ministry is not always what it is cracked up to be.  Like anything else in life, ministry has it’s ups and downs, but we need to take the initiative to feed our souls and develop our leadership skills. For example, your teeth would rot if you did not take the initiative to call the dentist and make an appointment for a check up. Your soul will rot if you do not take the time to learn about the character of our Lord and how to become the leader He created you to be. Eric Hoffner wrote, “The day you stop learning is the day you'll wake up to world you know longer recognize.” Harsh analogy, but I hope you get the point. Here are some things that have helped me survive and thrive in my 21 years of serving kids and families.

1. Have a “Senior Saint” in your life for guidance and accountability. 

     I define a Senior Saint as someone you look up to as a mentor or coach.  The Bible gives us the example of Paul and Timothy. Bingo! I have a few Senior Saints in my life that I go to for an objective point of view and I value their years of wisdom, their transparency and no filter look at life.  Quite frankly they tell me what I need to hear; not what I want to hear. And that is exactly what I need! I have stayed the night at their house. I have had long phone conversations. I have even communicated via text. It does not matter the means of the communication, just be sure to communicate regularly and be open to their exhortation, guidance and encouragement.

As you read this, I hope the name of a potential Senior Saint popped up in your head. Pray and present them before the Lord. You may not have a clue as to whom would be the Senior Saint in your life. No worries. Jesus knows who they are. Pray that you recognize and ask for eyes to see that person the Lord is sending you. The Lord will answer...I promise.

 2.  Meet weekly with your Senior Pastor or the person you report to. 

     To survive and thrive in leadership, it is vital to receive feedback. Think of why sports teams have statistics. It is a form of measurement. It gages improvement and it exposes the weak areas. Isn’t it healthy and beneficial to know what you need to work on?  Just like you make an appointment for a check up at the doctors office, think of your meeting with your superior as ministry check up. The meeting can be 10 minutes or an hour. Share what you’re working on or the vision the Lord has placed on your heart. Ask how to best handle the difficult situations that have or will inevitably come your way. In the coming months your superior will get to know you as a person and be a witness to your passion and love for the Lord. A healthy working relationship is the target and spending time together is a sure way to develop that in the life of a staff.

3.  Do not exclusively surround yourself will people that you like.

     I learned to surround myself with people that will help achieve the goal of our Kid’s Ministry, not necessarily people I like to hang out with. That’s harsh, but I amm speaking truth. God has gifted everyone with individual gifts and talents. Our focus is to be about the Lord’s plans. At times He takes us out of our comfort zones.  That may mean you'll need to be around people that rub you the wrong way. Implementing this into my meetings and ministry has been refreshing and has helped me develop an open mind to thoughts and ideas I would have never engaged or experienced. I found that God uses these people and if I prefer them over me, there's a blessing in it. God always gets the glory because if it were up to me, I probably would not have spent time with the “Debbie Downers” or the “We've always done it this way Wilmas.” If we surround ourselves only with “yes men” or “yes women” we will become our biggest fan! No Bueno! Danger! Danger! This took me years to understand, but it has proven to benefit Kid's ministry and our church family. Even though we are in charge, the reality is ministry is not about you!

4. Journal and have a consistent prayer life

For some of you, writing  is a chore and you'd rather clean a fish aquarium than sit down, organize your thoughts and write about them. I was so that person hook, line and sinker! However, the Lord allowed a life storm to sweep over me and writing in my journal became a way of releasing all the stress and worry that accompanies trials and testing. I'd pray and then journal and I found I developed a routine that taught me the much needed discipline I was lacking in my walk with Christ. Whether you experience a bump in the road or not, I have found healing and a surprising relief from pain when I write out my feelings. I now clearly see were I was and where the Lord has brought me! Wow! Can you say God Moment? To see his faithfulness to me and recognize how He sheltered me through a life storm has brought me the one thing the people I serve need, and that's HOPE!  Ministry has it's stressful situations and we as leaders should aspire to be healthy. Our prayer life should be the number one priority. Our prayer life is our lifeline.

5.  Be mindful of what influences you.

In the 90's I didn't have a clue what a “blog” was and social media wasn't invented. (Yes...there was life before technology and yes, I am really that old.) I look back on my early years of ministry and wonder what was influencing me? Now a days, I read blogs, scroll through Group's “Inside Track” facebook posts, and google topics I'm interested in. Back then, my influences were books, relationships and conferences. It was beneficial but it lacked the instant feedback that all of us glean from today. I also recognize today the many “consultants” and Kid Director's out there that offer help and ideas. Many have blogs and websites that ministry newbies flock to. As I started following these people on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook it was neat to see their lives lived out, or witness what they wanted the world to see, on my computer screen and phone.  At conferences that I attend and teach at, I'd recognize a name and take their workshop, giddy, excited and waiting to hear and learn. After all, there's some sort of a connection as we tweet, follow and post. Especially when they would recognize me from a conversation we had on Facebook. Most of those speaking on the conference circuit currently are legit and some are my dear friends. Here comes the “but.”  But what I found was, due to self promotion, number of followers and ever present posts on social media, I began to prefer their ideas without digging in to see what these men and women really believed in. I got caught up in seeing them as a celebrity and hanging on to their every word and idea. If they had all these followers and have been blogging since 2001, I thought these guys and gals are experts!  This is what I found to be true. Just because one is a great writer, doesn't make one a great workshop presenter or teacher. I sat in some workshops with high expectations and was disappointed by the celebrity I created in my mind. The most crucial revelation I found was this.  Some of these guys and gals have totally opposite beliefs than me and the word of God. In fact, so much so, knowing what they believe, I wouldn't allow them to serve in Sunday school without spending time with them and praying about how they interpret God's word.  So all that said to say this. Be mindful and pray for discernment of what influences you as a child of God and leader in ministry. Pray for the Lord to bring you influencers that He wants to use in your life.

Since 1991, Kelli Espiritu, aka Miss Kelli, has been serving children and their families at Calvary Chapel Bakersfield in Bakersfield Ca. She is known as an advocate for Kid Ministry and walks in God given confidence of her calling of serving kids and their families.

In addition to her responsibilities at church, Kelli has been the featured speaker for numerous local, regional, and nation wide conferences. Her workshop topics include: Defining Kids of 2012, Parenting, Volunteer Recruitment, Pit to the Palace Transformation through Trials, Resolving Church Conflict, and Leadership Development for the 21st Century. Her diverse experiences in ministry have made it possible for her to connect with children’s workers and audiences ranging from volunteer teams, parents, church staff to church leaders.

Kelli has been published in Group’s Children’s Ministry Magazine July/Aug 2010 edition and  in Nov/Dec 2009 edition. With her driven personality and motivated “can do” attitude, Kelli serves as a Christian Ministries Training Association board member. She also is on the CYLMC planning committee for Calvary Chapel and is on an Inside Track team for Group’s KidsMin Children’s Conference. She has traveled with Mary Rice Hopkins and was a part of a first ever reGroup seminar in Loveland, Colorado in March of 2010.

Kelli and her husband Ernie reside in Bakersfield, Ca. and have 3 children, Ilyssa, Jordan and Kiani. She is their number one cheerleader supporting Ilyssa’s collegiate soccer career at The Master’s College, Jordan’s Chamber Choir at CSUB, and Kiani’s ASB, tennis and basketball events at Stockdlae High School. She is part of the Varsity Softball coaching staff, while in her 4th year serving as the parent club President for Stockdale High’s POSSE.


  1. Your post reminds me of the 7 years my husband & I served in Children's Ministry! Such useful tips! Great resource! Thanks for sharing! Thanks also for your link-up to UNITE on Tuesday! Hope to see you again next week! ~ jen

  2. I've been serving in Children's Ministries at my church for over 17 years. When we planted the church over 17 years ago, I was Nursery Coordinator and missed church for nearly a year! Now, I serve as Preschool teacher and serve as the admin to the Children's Pastor (as well as admin to the Senior Pastor). You've given some great tips for those involved in ministry!


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