Jonathan Foster is the children's pastor at Journey Church in Kenosha. This past year Jonathan and his wife were able to go up in a hot air balloon as a gift from BGMC for churches giving. It was pretty amazing because their balloon ride had been canceled MULTIPLE times due to weather. We weren't sure when it would happen. I'm glad to say it finally took place and we were excited that they went above and beyond for missions and BGMC.
Church and city you are currently serving at
Journey Church // Kenosha
Age group you serve
Birth - 5th
Curriculum you use
For the weekend ministry, we write our own curriculum to align with the preaching in the adult worship services. We call this the "Big Idea," because the same topic, text, and application are present in kids, youth, and adult ministries. This keeps our church united and makes it easy for parents to lead their children spiritually at home. For the midweek ministry, we use Orange 252 Basics and First Look. This is a new approach for our church, after years of modifying and re-writing Ranger and NGM curriculum. Orange gives us a high degree of media quality and interactive lessons for our small groups to use in a discipleship format. But since we just started that this fall, the verdict is still out on how well this will move forward our "Authentic Community" purpose.
One phrase that describes your ministry style
Tell us about your background and how you became what you are today
God called me to ministry as I was entering high school, and he replaced my desire to be a multi-billionaire with a desire to shepherd. Through college, I discovered that my passion was to put the best skilled, most educated, and best equipped Christians into children's ministry, where we could make the most impact. Post-graduation and newly-married, I completely failed at landing a job as a pastor. After scrambling for housing and income, I landed a job with an insurance company and began to work in customer service. God used this time to teach me about leading people and how to pastor without having the title of a pastor. After 6 years with GEICO and shepherding a small children's ministry of about 8 kids in Iowa, God provided an opportunity for me to pursue a graduate education. My wife and I moved to IL, where I began 3 years of seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. My final internship at Trinity connected me to Kenosha First Assembly, which had been my family's church for a period of my childhood back in the 80s and 90s. That internship led to a part-time job writing curriculum, which led to a full-time job as a pastor after graduation. Since 2011, it's been an honor to serve at Journey Church and to see God at move in our region.
Tell us about a typical weekend service
Journey Kids in Kenosha has 2 age divisions - Elementary (K-5) and Early Childhood (0-5 years). We have 3 services - Saturday night and 2 on Sunday. The primary purpose for weekend ministry is "Passionate Worship," so that's what we focus on with the kids. Through music, Scripture reading, life application in small groups, prayer, serving on ministry teams, and giving through Kingdom Builders, our kids worship on the weekends! We use the "Big Idea" on the weekends, so kids learn the same concepts as the adults, just at a kid-appropriate level.
Tell us about your weekday ministry opportunities
Wednesday nights we offer small groups to promote the church purpose of "Authentic Community." Kids ages 3 and up are in small groups, often by age/grade/sex, with a Christian adult mentoring them. The curriculum is secondary because the primary goal on Wednesdays is relational. Spiritual growth happens in the context of relationships, and so many kids don't have Christian friendships or mentors! So building those relationships is the main goal!
What apps, gadgets or tools can't you live without in ministry?
What's your best ministry advice?
Lead yourself first. You minister out of your character, so if you are NOT leading yourself in the Word, in prayer, in accountability, in worship, etc. - then you will not have the capacity to lead children. You must set boundaries in place so that you can be spiritually disciplined and grow. The effectiveness of your ministry is limited by YOU. (Scary thought!)
Tell us about an interesting, unusual circumstance you face in ministry
Journey Church is planting a church in Lithuania, which will be our fourth campus. The campus will be English speaking, but most will also speak Lithuanian or Russian. Few children's resources are available in those languages. There are also significant legal barriers to child evangelism there. So that's going to be an unusual circumstance we face.
Tell us about your ministry team and how you rely on them
I am so blessed to have a church that believes in TEAM! I have two full-time directors and one part-time admin, and I thank God for them. Few churches invest such resources to get such high-quality folks as my team. Kayla "Elephants-and-Coffee" Johnson oversees our elementary ministry, and Emmanuel "Patriot Nation" Caraballo oversees our early childhood ministry. Annette Bass keeps the calendar and facilities running smoothly. God has an ironic sense of humor because with my team, he gave me 3 "yellows" (on their DISC profile) of various degrees, just because he knew I'd need some chaos, spontaneity, and fun in my life.
How do you keep track of your time and manage your ministry?
I really use my digital calendar to schedule my weekly tasks. By blocking out time for what matters most (including daddy-daughter dates), I can prioritize and make the most out of my time.
What do you do to be refreshed or renewed?
I am an introvert by nature, so being home on my day off, cleaning my house, playing with my kids, or reading a book is very refreshing to me.
What are you reading right now? or what do you recommend?
"The Connected Child" (Karyn Purvis) on dealing with children who have been traumatized. Also "Hero Maker" (Dave Ferguson) on leadership development of others.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
Do the "big rocks" first. There will always be time to take care of the "little rocks."
What ministry problem are you trying to find a solution?
I'm trying to figure out how to change a national culture that devalues investing adult time into children. Our culture continues to grow in self-absorption and the pursuit of pleasure above all things, even at the expense of the development of the basic societal unit - the family. My pleasure trumps spending time with kids every time. We give kids tablets so they won't bother us. We send kids to soccer and baseball without ever playing with them ourselves. And we never think to spend time with the neighborhood kids - why would we? "They're not our problem," right? And then we wonder why we have no volunteers. We must get adults to see children differently! And it has to start with the church.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Jenn Hewitt. She's a smart gal and has lots of ministry experience.
What would you like to ask them?
How does your approach to children's ministry change as you begin the personal journey of parenting middle and (soon) high schoolers? Or does it not change that much?