Sauerkraut and Children’s Ministry–Stating the Obvious

A got an e-mail from a friend yesterday suggesting that sauerkraut does not get enough attention in children’s ministry circles.  At first I thought he was just nuts, but on further reflection, it occurred to me that there can be some similarities. defines sauerkraut as:

cabbage cut fine, salted, and allowed to ferment until sour.

I define it as the all permeating and nauseating smell that would great me from time to time when I walked in the house and my dad had decided it was time for “something different.”

I like cabbage, in fact my favorite food of all time if Stuffed Cabbage.  But, there is something about sauerkraut which is so off-putting that I can hardly stand to be in the same room when it is being prepared.

I’m not a picky eater.  I would probably be healthier if I were a little more picky in terms of what I would eat.  There is a very short list of things which I dislike so much that I just can’t eat them, and sauerkraut happens to be on that list.  In fact, I had been married over 10 years before my wife, on a whim, one day decided that she wanted sausage and sauerkraut for dinner one night.  She had no idea about my aversion to it.  Anyhow, she spent as long as it takes to make sauerkraut (don’t know, don’t care) and had it simmering in the oven (???) when I got home from work.  After 20+ years, that smell took me back, and not in a good way.  I tried to eat it that night, I really did.  The cabbage itself didn’t taste bad, but I just couldn’t get over that smell!  In fact, I can smell it today as I sit here writing this article.

So, what does any of this have to do with children’s ministry?  I asked myself that same question.  My first thought was of Isaiah 3:24 from The Message “translation” of the Bible:

Instead of wearing seductive scents, these women are going to smell like rotting cabbages;

That didn’t really fit though.  Here’s what I came up with.  The analogy might be a little bit of a stretch, but I think there is truth in it.

Our children’s ministries are like sauerkraut because, all to often, we allow them to ferment in their own juices.  We come up with a great plan, cast a winning vision and set the wheel in motion, then we allow our ministry to sit there fermenting in its own juices until it puts out an odor so pungent that people entering the building are just put off by it.

The moral of today’s story:

Don’t waste the cabbage of your children’s ministry by letting it turn into sauerkraut!

Disclaimer: Today’s lesson does not work well with the 0.34% of the human population who actually enjoys sauerkraut.


  1. I happen to enjoy sauerkraut and think it does not get enough love in kidmin circles (as this negative, hateful article clearly proves).

  2. I would agree, the smell gets me too. For me, the only acceptable time to boil cabbage is when using red cabbage water for an object lesson, which I have done several times. I can bear the smell for the sake of the greater good. I also agree that even though it may work to turn cabbage into sauerkraut, there are many other better uses (like cole slaw). The same holds true for resources in kids ministry. Sure, it may seem like a good idea at the time, but there just may be a better way to spend your budget than the giant hamburger costume (or sauerkraut volunteer appreciation banquet).

  3. Barbara Graves |

    I’m sorry, Wayne, but I have to agree with Jared. I think we just need to put sauerkraut in the right small group, or small pot, with some corned beef, and it will serve the purpose God created it to fill!

  4. I would have never dreamed sauerkraut would be such a polarizing topic. Nice job Jared!

  5. Brett Starr |

    I have never tried sauerkraut and don’t ever intend to but…..

    I thought you were going to go somewhere else with that along the lines that sauerkraut, if you like it, takes a long time to make it taste good.

    So with kids or anyone who is a Christian, they can…
    Psalm 34:8
    Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

    And with those of us who lead in a ministry capacity it is our job to help lead others to taste and see that the Lord is good and take refuge, and rest, and shelter, and end up marinading on Him and then even if some think we stink, we can at least love others as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a pleasing and fragrant sacrifice to God.

    Anyways, I think what you are saying is that sometimes we get too stuck in “our/my” way of doing things and not budge which to others may seem stinky? Is that what you are saying?

    And, maybe the sauerkraut and youth in another building might be a good one!!!

    Brett (AKA) the youth pastor at Wayne’s church.

    • Brett,

      That is basically what I was saying. That, and if we continue to just do things that way we always have just because we have always done it that way, that ministries can begin to ferment and stink. Same idea.

      I thought about going where you did with it, but I just couldn’t convince myself that it was glorifying to God to compare Him to Sauerkraut. Maybe there is an analogy between God being good and evil being the absence of good and cabbage being good and sauerkraut being the absence of good. I don’t know. 🙂

      As for youth ministry, I’ve lived through one teenage boy and now a second quickly approaching that age. I can testify first hand to the fact that the smell of sauerkraut would easily be drowned out by various body odors and the smell of Axe deodorant. To which I say, in all sincerity, God bless Youth Pastors. There’s an extra crown in heaven for those who work with teenagers. I have no doubt!

  6. Although I hate the Message, I do kind of like your tie in verse!

  7. Hmm, think I’ll have some sauerkraut and wieners with mashed potatoes. The thought of it is making me hungry.

    Here is a different perspective.

    Sauerkraut appeals to me because I have had good experiences with it as a child. Brings back memories of my childhood and family meals. We need to give kids good experiences with the church family, good family meals so to speak. And different experiences for different kids.

    When my daughter, who was raised in a divorced home, returned to church as an adult, in the Air Force and a mother I asked her what took her back to church. She said, “I’ve continued to pray and read my Bible but something was missing in my military life and that was a church family. I wanted that sense of belonging that I had in my teen years so I went back to church.”

    This is my perspective only but I feel it’s not only our responsibility to bring kids to Christ but to build memories and lasting relationships. If they are pulled away from familiar surroundings such as home and family when they are adults, then maybe just maybe they will search out a church family near where they reside.

    Thanks for the idea for a good meal Wayne. By the way one time I had …. are you ready for this….. sauerkraut pie! It was actually delicious.