This post has been rolling around in my mind for months…gathering momentum, losing momentum, changing focus, improving focus….you get the idea. And as I finally sit down to write it, for the third time, I feel a bit concerned, but more driven. What I’m going to say isn’t going to make everyone happy, and I’m finally okay with that. It still needs to be said. So here goes.
I’m distressed that “the church” (general term) doesn’t understand the value of children’s ministry. Effort, funds, and emphasis are placed on the ministries of people who can drive and give money and vote…but not on the future generation of smaller citizens.
An effective children’s ministry doesn’t need glitz. It just needs sincerity.
Play-dough is worth millions when it is rolled from a loving grandmotherly volunteer to an open-minded child. Paper and crayons can create a multitude of crafts in the hands of widows, widowers, and college kids….crafts ready to be shared by eager kids. Here’s my point: lack of materials should never be an excuse to not have a children’s ministry. The Bible and a willing reader are all that is truly required.
But therein lieth the struggle of so many church leaders…willing volunteers. I wish I truly had THE answer to that conundrum. But here are a few suggestions, from my experiences:
- VISION–Children’s ministry must be in the vision of the whole church…and not just lip-service, and not just from the kidmin leaders. Many churches have grandiose ideas for their congregations…but what about the children of the congregants? The church leadership (pastor(s), decision-making board, ministry leaders) must believe in the value of children’s ministry to start with. If they are truly committed to the importance of the spiritual growth of the kids, that fervor will be seen/felt and trickle down. Volunteers are more likely to step up if the requests are for heart-felt ministry, not mere babysitting opportunities.
2. RELATIONSHIPS— Getting to know congregants, their jobs, their interests is vital to finding volunteers. If you know who likes to cook, then ask them to cook the hot dogs/cookies/pancakes for the kids’ events. Crafty stay-at-home moms are a great resource for Sunday School or VBS preparations. Who are the OCD people? Ask them for help organizing the supplies or scheduling. Who are the ADD people? Ask them to lead the active activities with kids. Who are the social butterflies or the musicians or the builders? Once you know who these people are, ask them to use their skills with the kids. Don’t just expect them to volunteer, ASK them. Tell them that you see the value of their gifts…and you know where they could be useful. It may be out of their comfort zones at first, but remind them the relationships they will form are priceless.
3. DELEGATE–I made the mistake of loving all parts of children’s ministry too much…and not delegating enough. Again, the relationship piece is vital. If you know who is good at something, ask them to help. If you’re obsessive about the way something NEEDS to be done, give specific directions…or get less obsessive and be more thankful for the help. Delegating now prevents burnout later. If some church members are willing, but hesitant, have a coffee-talk about their concerns. Maybe they just need reassurance that the kids aren’t really little monsters. Maybe today’s older adults want to help, but they aren’t sure they can relate to modern kids….talk it out. If they are willing, help them be successful. Talk to kidmin leaders at other churches and plan events together…even across denominational lines. It will be good to share/gather ideas that work, split the labor, and build community.
4. SCHEDULE DOWN TIME— Overused volunteers become non-volunteers. Make a rotating schedule of helpers so that the ones who are always saying ‘yes’ will have a forced ‘no’ time. Despite what they tell you, they DO need a break. Whether rotations are set on a monthly, seasonally, or yearly basis, they need to happen. And appreciation gifts need to happen as well. Ask those bakers to bake some goodies for the Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, or VBS helpers. Get the artsy crew to make personal thank you cards for the ones who work each Sunday. An occasional ‘night out’ for the children’s ministry team is a great way to build relationships and rekindle the fire of service.
5. THIS REMINDER–The children of today’s church are the seeds of tomorrow’s church. They are the ones who will go out and tell their friends what a great place their church is…and invite their friends (and parents) to come along. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. We want them to be grounded in holy truth and Godly wisdom if they are going to lead our country into the future. If we skimp on their spiritual growth, it will not be a priority in their lives as they age. God help us if we are responsible for raising a godless generation.
Church, we are failing our children if we fail at children’s ministry. Inconvenient truth: we only get one chance with our kids. One chance to show them that God is important. Love is vital. Justice is right. If we ignore the development of this part of our ministry, we shouldn’t wonder why college kids and young adults don’t attend church. We didn’t show them its purpose.
We have one chance, church, one opportunity to impress on our children the importance of a relationship with God. What are we doing with it?