A church without children is like a buffet without dessert—not very fun. Through their energy, curiosity, and laughter, children bring life to any church or family. Children are God’s special people. That’s why the goal for the Pacific Union Conference Children’s Ministries Department is “A children’s ministry in every church.”
When I first became involved in children’s ministries, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I have come to love children’s ministries because of its potential to reach the next generation for the kingdom of God.
Because children’s ministries includes activities and events like Vacation Bible School and children’s evangelism, the Pacific Union Conference Children’s Ministries Department serves the entire population of each territory (see box left), not just the children from Adventist families.
In the Pacific Union territory, that’s a total of 12,224,000 children with whom we have the opportunity to share Jesus, both in and out of the church. As a pastor and a father, this is what I am most passionate about: sharing Jesus, especially with the next generation.
I was born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, and raised in Los Angeles. My mother grew up Adventist but left the church as a young person and was rebaptized when I was a teenager. Through her influence, I became an Adventist at the age of 17.
I received a B.S. in theology from the Universidad Adventista de Montemorelos in Mexico. I have served the church as a youth pastor, associate pastor, senior pastor, conference youth director, and NAD associate youth director, including in my current position as director for youth and children’s ministries for the Arizona Conference.
Throughout my life I have had a few experiences and interactions that influence my faith and work to this day.
My wife, Pastor Melanie M. Cruz, and my four daughters, Carmen, Carolina, Caryn, and Soleil, have always been my inspiration and motivation. They teach me many things about life and inspire and challenge me to be the man God wants me to be. I can’t imagine my life and ministry without them.
In college I had the privilege of listening to Pastor Alejandro Bullon during a week of prayer. He presented Jesus as a friend, and he shared the gospel in a way that was theologically sound, easy to understand, and not at all “preachy.”
My “Compas,” a group of fellow pastors and ministry colleagues with whom I have prayed, laughed, and cried for many years, has been instrumental in my faith journey as we all support each other in our personal and ministry lives. “Compas” is short for compadres, which means “close friends.”
Early in my ministry my then-conference president, Jim Stevens, made a meaningful difference in my life, and to this day pastor Jose V. Rojas is a good friend and mentor.
All these relationships and experiences have grounded and strengthened me in my faith and ministry, and I am excited about bringing this wealth of collective experience and spiritual blessing to children’s ministries.
Despite the many blessings children’s ministries has enjoyed, it has not been without challenges. During to the pandemic, as churches closed their doors, many of them were barely able to livestream their worship service.
The majority of our churches did not have the necessary resources to provide something for the children. We are blessed in the Pacific Union to have excellent children’s ministries leaders, who continued to serve to the best of their abilities in spite of these challenges.
There were several churches and children’s ministries leaders in our union who used Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms to continue providing Sabbath School, Bible studies, children’s stories, and other material.
In the Central California Conference, for example, Children’s Ministries Director Lisa Plasencia created a YouTube channel during the pandemic to offer parents and leaders resources for their churches. You may view that channel and the great content here: https://sdawest.pub/CCC_childmin. This content was a blessing to many children even beyond the Central California Conference.
This is just one example among many of children’s ministries leaders who go out of their way to serve. I am proud to work with many creative, innovative, and dedicated ministry leaders who believe in children’s ministries. Together, we strive to share Jesus with as many children as possible through our various activities, programs, and outreach.
For more information on children’s ministries in the Pacific Union, email Manny Cruz at MannyCruz@azconference.org.
Manny Cruz is the children’s ministries director for the Pacific Union Conference.