Lead a church? Got a children’s ministry happening? Does anyone not on your staff know it happens? I’m not joking.
I get to visit a bunch of churches in my role as a youth and children’s minstry consultant and it often staggers me that if you were new to a church or walked in off the street one Sunday for a laugh – you could be forgiven for thinking that a church with a children’s ministry doesn’t have one. Often there is no evidence until the kids, at some point, head out of the service (who knows where?)
But seriously. I hear lots of churches and church leaders in particular talk of the need to make this ministry a priority – for children’s ministry to be of PRIME concern.
So, here you go :
P. Profile. Signage outside the church – does it mention children’s ministry? Notice boards in the church, any mention? Flyers and weekly news sheet – anything in there about children’s ministry. If you value it, you must give it profile. It needs to matter to the whole congregation, it needs to be part of your evangelistic strategy to your community. “Hey, did you know we have GREAT children’s work here? Bring your whole family!” This shouldn’t cost loads of money – often it is just thinking through what is on offer, simply having a sign outside or a notice on your website saying “services at 10am” says nothing to those who might come . . . what you talk about and trumpet from the front of church too – in the middle of your sermon and as you welcome people to church also commuicates what you value. Speak about the children’s ministry! Give it the profile and position it deserves.
R. Resources. Think about the time, people and money that will enable your children’s ministry to thrive. It is one thing to say you value it – and you can pretty much do all the “profile” stuff above without needing a chat with the treasurer . . . but, the rubber hits the road when we need to pay for something. This isn’t about employing a salaried worker to lead your children’s ministry, it is simply about providing what your volunteers (or whatever your team is made up of) with what they need to do a great job. Expenses are covered – whether that is for snacks at a kids group, publicity for events, paying for curriculum and teaching material . . . whatever they need, you, the PCC or deaconate has it covered. Included in this is paying for training / retreat time that will help your children’s ministry feel like a team and give them space together to share vision and be inspired. Resources is also about putting your best people in place – not whoever fancies a go – that’s not how you decide who preaches is it? You care about who is teaching and preaching from the pulpit – you should equally care about who is teaching the youngest in your care. Resource this ministry well and you are well on your way to making it a prime concern.
I. Interest. You can do both of the above without every visiting a kids group in your church. As church leader, you might think, “hey – it runs, it happens each week, I’m mentioning it when I remember.” What makes a massive difference to team is to know that their church pastor, leader, vicar is genuinely interested. Showing up shows you care! Volunteer yourself for a week – get stuck in alongside the team – experience the joys and challenges they do. See for yourself what the “need” is. You are a church leader, you aren’t serving the children’s ministry regularly so you could be bringing a very helpful objective view of how things can grow and develop if you showed interest . . . “I’ve seen it in action, our kids work is fantastic.” has more weight than, “somewhere in the building we have some kids with some adults who are missing out on the preaching.”
M. Model. Model your interest to others. As a leader what you give your time to and are seen to value has an impact on your church culture and ethos. What you model determines direction and values – think about that. How will you make sure that part of what you are modelling to others is the importance of the children’s ministry? How do you encourage commitment to other areas of church life? Do that for your children’s ministry. When Paul says, “follow me as I follow Christ” [1 Corinthians 4:16] . . . not the only time he says it incidentally, it really matters . . . he literally means “do what I do” – or “mimic me”. That is why this is so important – you can give something a greater profile by saying a few words, you can put money in without really caring, you can even feign interest . . . but, when you start owning it, showing it, modelling it – the more children’s ministry catches you and excites you, the more others in your church will see it’s value and want to join in with loving and serving the kids.
E. Equip. This takes things even further and requires more of your time than probably all the others. Equipping your children’s ministry team is as important as coaching people who preach, developing home group leaders and scrabbling around trying to find someone with a guitar who can lead worship . . . I have often seen churches where there appears to be a solid leadership development ethos and yet, children’s leaders can get left out in the cold. If you have taken the other four things seriously : raising profile, providing resources, showing personal interest and modelling engagement it is a natural step to have noticed that this team of volunteers – as you have seen them in action and got to know them – are creative, gifted communicators and leaders. Just like anyone else in leadership, they need equipping. Take the time to craft something yourself or arrange an evening with your team (and you!) to meet with your Diocesan Children’s Work Adviser and explore in more detail the areas where they need equipping. Special needs? Starting a mid-week out reach group? Engaging with parents? Thinking about schools ministry? What is it they need? Equip them!
Make your children’s ministrty of prime concern and see the difference it makes 🙂