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Ministry is shifting.
If you’ve been in children’s ministry for a while (as many of you have), you might feel like your skills are growing dull; strategies that used to work seem to fall flat. Practices that used to easily equip families no longer work.
Things are changing.
There are a host of cultural realities contributing to this shift in ministry. Rather than dig into them all here, I’d like to give you an insight into how your church can continue to grow and thrive in the midst of the shifting culture around us.
Here are three changes your church needs to make to serve kids and families better.
- Bury the Sunday-morning-only approach
A lot of churches put all of their eggs in the Sunday-morning basket (or maybe more accurately, all their efforts into weekends). Families are expected to attend one service; and children’s ministry is simply repeated for each one.
For many young, growing churches, I get why this is the approach of choice: given facility limitations, staffing challenges, etc., it is almost impossible to program for more involvement on Sundays. However, we can’t be satisfied to stay with this limited involvement, for the sake of the children; it simply doesn’t provide enough hours to impact the discipleship of a child. We need to put the Sunday-morning-only approach in a casket and bury it.
- Return to an old strategy
One thing all my readers would agree with me on is that not everything that is “traditional” is bad; however, I sense that among younger, growing churches, an “adult Sunday school” is considered old-school and as a result, they don’t want to touch it.
Yet its impact on children’s ministry is so significant that it can’t be overlooked. Every single large church that has adult classes has a larger percentage of children attending regularly; in my limited experience, I find that the number usually increases to 20-30%. Smaller churches with a “Sunday school hour” have even higher numbers.
Why? Because parents develop a sense of community through the classes that encourage their own faithfulness. When they are encouraged to be present, then their children enjoy the benefit as well.
A huge factor in producing infrequent attendance is the anonymity that comes for the parents through multiple services and campuses. “Nobody will notice if we don’t go this week” is a thought that occurs way too often. Then there are the parents who stay home and simply watch the online streaming of the service. That is certainly better than nothing, but watching online likely does very little for the children; they are probably playing (or sleeping) while the parents watch.
- Change your talk
Face it, church leader – you don’t talk enough about the role of kid’s ministry in intentional discipleship of the children in your church. You don’t. You may say regularly, “We have a great children’s ministry for your kids” and you may praise the children’s workers, but it comes across as “We have a great buffet for you at this church, and children’s ministry is one of the sumptuous dishes that you can try.” You know buffets: you can eat what you want, but you can also not eat what you don’t want. You need to instead speak of children’s ministry as veggies – as in “You must eat your veggies.” Regular participation is as vital to spiritual nutrition as veggies are to physical nutrition. If parents don’t make certain their children are regularly involved, then there is no other likely outcome than a spiritually malnourished child.
Want a biblical picture that supports this? Think of the best example of a disciple in Scripture (I’m not talking about the twelve apostles).
May I suggest Timothy?
Think about the spiritual mentors in his life: grandparent (Lois), parent (Eunice), and then spiritual mentor (Paul). That is a pretty powerful triangle!! When a child has all three of these kind of strong spiritual influencers in his or her life, the chances of spiritual health are pretty high. And the church’s role is to provide the “Paul,” the spiritual mentor outside of the family. It won’t happen unless the family attends regularly