Sunday morning rolls around, and just like every Sunday before it, mom walks into Timmy’s room for the fifth time that morning to try to get him up and ready for Church. She has already tried the good morning song, ripped the covers off of him, and tickled his toes, but still no movement. “Why does it always have to be so hard?” she wonders.
Well, I am here to ask you, what if it didn’t have to be so hard? What if there were some practical steps that you could put into place right now that would help set up your ministry for success – to make it a place where kids want to come back, no, are excited to come back? Well, here are five things that have made a huge difference in our Children’s Ministry at The Crossing. They may seem pretty common sense, but it is amazing how these simple five things make the biggest difference.
5 Pieces to an Irresistible Children’s Ministry
1. Wait, I have to do what?!
Being prepared ahead of time is crucial! I cannot stress it enough. And, sadly, this took me way longer than it should have to figure out and put into practice. When I first started as a Children’s Ministry Leader, most Sundays consisted of me standing up in front of whichever class I was teaching that morning and reading from a script. I am sure you can imagine the response I received from the kids. In fact, I probably spent more time trying to get them to pay attention to what I was trying to read than actually reading!
Now, imagine if you showed up to Big Church on Sunday morning and you spent the entire sermon watching your pastor read straight from his script, nose buried in it. How many of you would enjoy returning to that church every Sunday? Let’s make it more relevant and imagine that you have ADHD and just arrived to the service already hyped up on left over Halloween candy. Still think you would enjoy watching someone read in a monotone voice all morning?
All of that to say that the better you as a teacher know your material, the more it frees you up to have fun with it! Get the kids involved and make it the best you can possibly make it! If it is not something that you would enjoy listening to, why would they? Being prepared before you arrive on a Sunday makes the entire day much smoother and, to be honest, much more enjoyable for all involved.
2. How is this Relevant, again?
Most of the older children in my church’s Kids’ Service can run circles around me when it has to do with anything technological – and I actually try really hard to stay current. Now, I imagine it is the same for your ministry since this generation has grown up in a very technological world. This, of course, means that the majority of your Children’s Ministry, especially the elementary-aged group, are extremely current and in-the-know about Pop culture, the latest “next thing”, or YouTube sensation.
So how do we make the Gospel just as relevant for these kids? It’s all about connection! We have to help our kids connect the life-giving and “living and active” Word of God to their everyday lives. Is the Scripture important to them? And before you ask that question, ask yourself, is it important to you? Do you get excited about the Gospel? If you are excited about sharing the Gospel, it will go a long way to making that excitement contagious.
If the children you teach find what you are teaching to be important, they will begin to apply it to their own lives. However, the opposite is also true – if they find what you teach to not fit into their worldview, they will quickly discard it as unimportant. So make it relevant – don’t be afraid to use technology, make it interactive, utilize your resources, find that perfect curriculum that seems to fit just what your children need, or whatever it is that you need to do to make the Gospel real to them in their lives right now.
The Gospel is powerful, and once they believe it to be important and true, it will begin to impact their lives! The Holy Spirit is good like that.
3. It Takes a Village, or so We’ve Heard
You cannot do it alone, as hard as you may try to do so. It is a team effort. I am sure you have heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it takes a group of connected, faithful, and passionate people to help a child grow up in the ways of the Lord. However, empowering and motivating a group of diverse, uniquely created people to have the same vision, who feel connected and excited to be reaching the next generation can take a lot of work.
First of all, they need to catch your vision for what you want to see happen in the ministry. This means you need to have a vision to begin with. When you think about your ministry, what is your “Big Win” – the ultimate Sunday or the end goal? Well, your volunteers need to know that vision. Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves. They desire to feel important and that they are making a difference – this means helping them see that they are not merely babysitters.
What they do on a Sunday morning (or whenever your children’s service takes place) has eternal significance. They could be the only chance a child has to hear the name of Jesus Christ – not attached to a string of curses. We don’t always know what home life some of these children have – so your volunteer may be the only source of love and safety that some of your kids ever experience. This is a sad truth. Being on time, prepared, and faithful truly matters, more than they may realize. So help them (who is them?) realize their importance to the ministry, to you, and especially to the children. Connecting with children and parents is critical. However, we only have a very short time to impact a child (an hour or two per week if that family attends regularly), while parents see their child every day. Therefore, what parents do will make the greatest difference in a child’s life.
Encouraging volunteers to connect with parents and to be that resource and lifeline for them will help to encourage parents to continue the investment at home. So if you are wondering how to motivate your volunteers to do more and connect more, well, maybe try encouraging them and equipping them more.
Here are some examples: thank them, praise them, provide them with resources, lend a listening ear, invest in their lives, let them know your vision, don’t be afraid to challenge them, pray for and with them and ultimately love them. Believe me, they will notice!
4. Connections – again
People need to feel like they belong, and children are no exception to the rule. When you make it a point to greet them by name, learn their likes and dislikes, celebrate their birthdays and sports wins, and seek to include them and get them involved, trust and relationships naturally begin to grow. This creates in them a sense of belonging and importance – and who wouldn’t like to feel like that?
Every child is different and unique. Some are extroverted and want to answer every question, while others are more reserved and take some time to get comfortable. However, there are few things better than watching a child come out of his or her shell and really get involved. The excitement on that child’s face it priceless. I love it!
I always make it a point to help kids connect with one another. As children grow and develop, friendships become increasingly important, and physical, social, and mental skills develop quickly. In other words, friendships and connections matter – and they make the fun factor increase significantly too!
5. This is so much FUN!
If you want a kid to want to come back to your service next week, it has to be fun this week. This is a no-brainer. What kid doesn’t eat, sleep, and breathe fun? When was the last time you woke up out-of-your-mind excited to be going to church?
Well guess what, the kids in your ministry can tell when you are having fun…and when you would rather be anywhere else. Ouch, right? This is why moms all over the world make cleaning into a game for their youngsters. Anything can become fun when it is a game – yes, even cleaning! So make sure you and the children are laughing, engaging, and having fun. I grew up in a church where Sunday School consisted of a monotone telling of a Bible story and a coloring page. Every. Single. Week. Super fun times, guys (insert sarcasm here).
But what if Sunday morning became the best time in a child’s week? What if we played incredible games, sang songs, and laughed until our stomachs hurt, all while learning about the best thing in the entire world – a God who loves us more than we could even imagine? If you have fun on Sunday mornings and make it fun for kids, it will be the kids who are dragging their parents to church every week, not the other way around. Image that!
While these five things may not seem like earth-shattering ideas, implementing them into your ministry takes time, effort, and a whole lot of prayer. Big changes don’t always happen overnight. Sometimes they seem to take forever and tend to ruffle a few feathers along the way. Change is not easy, but believe me, the result is worth it!
THE GROWING CHURCH SERIES
As a way of saying thank you, we’ll include 4 free resources: Sermon Evaluation Worksheet, 56 Weeks of Preaching Topics, Sermon Series Planning Evernote Template, and the Weekly Productivity Evernote Template.
Sarah Kilgore is the Children’s Pastor at a fast growing church plant in Williamsburg, Ohio, called The Crossing. She is a former missionary kid and has a huge heart to see kids find and follow Christ.