KEEP KIDS MINISTRY ON TRACK
BY DAVE WELDAY-GUEST COLUMNIST
BILL AND DIANE WERE NEW TO THE AREA. THEY wanted to find a church home where they and their three young children could plug in and be involved. Many other area churches of varying sizes and backgrounds offer excellent, biblical ministries. After visiting, they chose us as their church home. Why? I suspect the real reason could be determined by listening to the message Diane left on my answering machine the following Monday.
“Mr. Welday, I have to say that I’m really upset with you.” (Uh-oh, this is not a good sign!) “It’s been only 24 hours since we visited your church and already Sam, my youngest, has been bugging me repeatedly with questions like: ‘Mommy, can we go back to that church we went to yesterday? I liked their KIDS Church,’ and: ‘Mommy, how many more days till Sunday? Can we go back there?”‘
Several years back a survey was done of unchurched people to ask why they didn’t attend church. The overwhelming response was that they perceived church as being irrelevant, answering questions that nobody is asking. But when asked what issues were important to them, the largest percentage indicated a desire for help in raising their families. Church! What an opportunity we have to make a difference in
people’s lives, to minister to them at their deepest point of felt need!
So what can you do to ensure that your church is reaching out to your community with hope and help for today’s family? Here are five principles I believe will help you get or stay on course, and experience the kind of growth–spiritually and numerically–God desires for your church.
1. Focus your children’s ministry on pastoring. Too often we are content to merely “teach” kids about God. We want to give them good information, to “learn the Bible” and to learn church doctrine. But giving kids biblical information is not enough. Recruit and train your children and youth leaders to model Christ for their kids, to pastor them and not simply teach them.
For some, this is a huge paradigm shift. For others it just makes sense. Jesus discipled His friends. He lived out the kingdom way in front of them and challenged them to do the same.
2. Expect and allow kids to do ministry. You can teach a young person about prayer and how Jesus healed the sick all you want. But when a child lays hands on another child and prays for them to get well–and they do–that’s a life-changing experience likely to stay with that child even in dark times when God seems distant. Create programs that allow opportunities for kids to do ministry. Let them do prayer-walks, support missionaries, participate in public worship. Let them do ministry!
3. Be visible in the community. Your children’s ministry is one of the best ways your church can be “visible” to your neighbors. For example, do you sponsor a Vacation Bible School or Backyard Bible Club? Every summer thousands of kids here in Orlando, Fla., attend Vacation Bible School (VBS) at area churches. Many of them are church kids, nut many are not. Their parents are simply looking for things to do with
their kids during the summer break.
Almost every VBS program finishes with a celebration ceremony where moms and dads are invited to attend. Here is a perfect opportunity to show these parents how much your church desires to minister to them and meet their needs for a sense of community and belonging. Not to mention giving them desperately needed support and help in raising their kids!
A backyard Bible club program is similar to VBS in that it has an evangelistic-outreach focus. However, it is distinct in that instead of asking parents to bring the kids to the church, a backyard Bible club is done in their own neighborhood, hosted by a church family who lives right down the street. You are effectively bringing the church to them!
Another variation of reaching out to families in your community and being “visible” is Sidewalk Sunday School. This is essentially taking your Sunday morning “KIDS church” program to a local park, school yard or neighborhood and “having church” for that neighborhood. You are literally taking your church service outside the four walls of your building and going to where the people are.
4. Make your services relevant to kids. You are competing with media conglomerates such as Disney and Nickelodeon for the heart and attention of your kids. I promise that your worn-out flannel-graphs cannot compete with all the new bells and whistles in terms of graphic presentation and excitement. While the curriculum you use is only a tool, make sure you create programs that are relevant to a sight-and-sound generation.
Be entertaining. Be visual. Be excited. Be passionate in your ministry with kids. Use engaging graphics, upbeat music (something other than Mrs. Jones playing her rendition of “Nearer My God To Thee”
on the organ), games, prizes, interactive object lessons–whatever it takes to make the unchanging truth of God’s love relevant to a media-savvy generation.
5. Connect kids to parents. In the past, children’s ministers have tended to see parents as “the enemy.” Now, there is no question that many parents struggle in their lack of parenting skills while others are open to insight and advice. We need to equip parents to minister to their own children. So let’s help them!
Certainly more can be said on the impact and importance of a Spirit-led ministry to children, teens and their families. But recognize that nothing will improve until the senior pastor catches a fire for seeing families won through dynamic ministry to children and youth. Remember that God is interested in winning not just your neighbors and nations but generations. His purposes cannot be contained in the span of a single lifetime. So too, your church must be focused on reaching the next generation. As you do, you will have His heart, His favor and His blessing!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY MINISTRIES TODAY, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2000, PAGES 37, 97. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.