Children’s ministry looks different than it did a decade ago. The strategies we should be using today are not the same as they were at the turn of the century. Recent studies show that anywhere between 58% and 67% of Christian parents today choose a church with their kids in mind. These numbers prove that even though kids may be small, they carry big weight when it comes to family decisions about where to worship. So how can you boost this vital ministry area of your church? Here are a few things to consider:
Create a space just for kids. If you have not already, find a place in the church that your children’s ministry can call its own. I have seen several churches that shuffle their kids off to the fellowship hall or a musty cinderblock classroom that they are not allowed to decorate. Maybe you have a space for kids that has not been updated in a decade. When was the last time those walls had a fresh coat of paint in bright colors? Is the furniture safe and appropriate for children? If you are not sure what types of things kids would like to see in their ministry space – ask them! Do not be afraid to have some fun. Walls can always be re-painted.
Examine your safety protocols. Parents want to know that they can entrust their kids in your care. Safety is a much higher priority than ever before. At bare minimum, every adult serving with students and children MUST pass a background check. Regular training should be conducted on proper practices. Create or tweak your check-in and check-out procedures. Inspect your entrances and exits. How hard would it be for a stranger to casually enter your classrooms? I always try to look through the eyes of a visitor. Would a guest feel safe leaving their kids with your team?
Evaluate your curriculum. When was the last time you looked at the options available for children’s ministry curriculum? Is it relevant and engaging while teaching Biblical truths, or is it the same Sunday School book that has been on rotation for the past 5+ years? Just because it has worked in the past or your teachers are used to it doesn’t mean it is the best option for the kids. Personally, I prefer an ongoing, subscription-based curriculum that ensures it is always fresh and relevant.
Enlist the best. Children’s ministry IS NOT for everyone, so don’t just allow any able-bodied adult to teach. Who are the captivating story-tellers in your church? Who carries the proverbial confetti in their pocket and is ready to celebrate at any moment? Who has the patience to love even in the challenging situations? Finding these key volunteers may even mean pulling them from their adult classes for a season.
Partner with parents. Even with the kids who attend church consistently, at best we would have 52 hours with them each year. The amount of time the average parent gets to spend with their child in a year is 3,000 hours. It quickly becomes obvious that we need to equip parents to be the main disciple in their children’s lives. Provide your parents with resources to connect what their kids are learning at church to conversations they can have at home. Offer parenting classes. Pull parents in when their kids start to ask spiritual questions. Create opportunities for families to have experiences together. In a recent poll by Arbor Research Group, 63% of respondents wish someone would provide family experiences they can attend with their child. Children’s ministry reaches the entire family, not just the children.
Put your money where your mouth is. Far too many churches short-change their children’s ministry when they build their annual budget. They will easily say, “kids ministry is important,” but it often ends up being the smallest line in the budget. If you truly value this ministry area, your budget dollars will be a reflection of that. If you have a children’s minister on staff, they will appreciate this more than you know. Realize that there is more to fund than just candy and glue sticks. Effective outreach and retention requires a financial investment.
These ideas just skim the surface of breathing life into your ministry, but they are essential. Prayerfully consider how your church can effectively reach the next generation in an ever-evolving culture. God will bless your efforts, and you might even get to sneak an extra piece of candy or two!
Danielle Disch is the children’s minister at Parkview Baptist Church, Tulsa and can be reached at email@example.com.