Create an irresistible ministry with these six powerful kid magnets…
You’ve heard this story before. Now imagine it: Almost 2,000 years ago, a 7-year-old boy runs to the beach and plops down in the sand, the very first person to arrive. A wave rolls ashore; a sea gull cackles. He pulls a warm roll from his lunch, unaware that his small meal is about to become a central aspect of this gathering. Soon the great Storyteller will be here, right in front of him. He can hardly wait. He munches on his roll as one by one, others-also anticipating the Storyteller’s arrival–make their way through the sand.
Now contrast that image with this: At 6:15 a.m. this Sunday, Harv Bunkley pulls up at his church, parks, and limps across the parking lot, jingling his keys. He whistles good-naturedly as he unlocks the glass doors to the children’s wing. He swings the doors wide for fresh air, kicks the stops down, and walks in. The children’s center is ready–chairs in rows; music playing; craft supplies on tables, just waiting to become a child’s masterpiece. The air smells like cookies. In minutes, kids will run through the wide open, anticipating doors. Your church doors are wide open too. When kids arrive, are they irresistibly drawn in, as if by an invisible “kid magnet”? Will they run in with the same can’t wait to get there attitude of that young boy so long ago? How do you turn on kid magnets in ministry and pull in today’s kids?
After years of interacting with kids, I’ve discovered powerful kid magnets–specific things that captivate children and bring them running on Sunday morning. These are things kids can’t live without. So let’s magnetize your ministry!
Magnet #1: Fun and Friends
Terrence wants “video game” experiences–exciting games, action, laughter, challenges, and fun. Sarah wants “text message” experiences–in-depth conversations with 30 other girls all talking at the same time, heart-moving interactions, and opportunities to discover common interests. So generally speaking, boys want fun and games, and girls want friendship and personal connections. Your job is to make sure kids get both, mixed together. Terrence will have fun–tons of fun–with interactive activities, irresistible games, and relevancy that challenges him. And Sarah will meet a friend–or five–on her very first Sunday because you’ve fostered a welcoming atmosphere where your kids are ambassadors and relationships rule. The reality, though, is that all kids need fun and friends–and that’s what they hope to discover in your ministry.
Ministry Magnet 1: Give kids exactly what they want–games and friends. Supercharge that magnet by carefully selecting games that teach and help build relationships and activities that engage kids while challenging them. Use relationship as your filter–everything you ask kids to invest their energy in should help them grow in their relationships with others and with Jesus.
Magnet #2: Miracles
Miracles…how we long to see miracles! God’s power to heal our loved ones, reverse tragedies, quickly right wrongs–but far too rarely do we recognize the true miracles in life. What about everyday miracles–God’s active work in our lives, his voice in the Word, his power to transform attitudes and relationships? What about grace? Forgiveness? Wow! Those are grand miracles we can share with kids every time we see them. We can showcase God’s power when we let kids talk about answered prayers and personal victories. Children are honest, and their honest stories of our personal, miraculous God at work are miracles other kids can grab hold of with both hands.
I hear about miracles from kids every Saturday on my radio show, The Coconut Hut Radio Show. “I prayed, and God made my mama feel better.” “I was really scared, then Jesus helped me.” “My mommy and daddy stopped arguing.” These are all real kids’ stories from real life about God, who does real, everyday miracles.
Ministry Magnet 2: Showcase God’s miracles, from the grand to the everyday. Spend time during each lesson talking about your personal experiences, but don’t dominate. Invite kids to talk about how God’s worked in their lives. Welcome their stories and listen carefully. Then celebrate God’s amazing power in our everyday lives. Let kids’ miracles help other kids open doors to their own miraculous walk with Jesus.
Magnet #3: Parables
Everywhere Jesus went, he took his bag of parables. Just imagine it–flowers in royal robes, a man with a log in his eye, a lost sheep found by the faithful shepherd. In fact, the entire Bible is a people book–a record book of heroes, villains, action, drama, and mystery. The Bible teaches truth, powerfully and permanently. Bring the Bible to life for your kids. Wake the boy Samuel to hear the voice in the darkness–darken your room and have kids take turns playing Samuel as you call to him. March out Goliath with thundering steps–let kids tromp around the room just like a giant would. Do these things–don’t just talk about them. Help kids see God’s Word and ways in action.
Tell the sidewalk parables, too–the simple, everyday stories from the chapters of a child’s life walking in faith. Tell your personal stories, your unusual experiences, and the lessons they’ve taught you.
Ministry Magnet 3: Stories capture kids’ hearts. We’re fishing for souls–while they’re easy to catch, while they’re small. So set your bait, and make it delicious. Then reel ’em in!
Magnet #4: Wonder
Your church has people who can bring wonder into your ministry. Perhaps it’s someone who does cool ball-handling tricks, a teenage cartoonist, or a science teacher who can pour red liquid into muddy liquid and transform it into clear liquid. Find the people, programs, and activities that put the wonder in wonderful.
Wonder can be simple, but it must be special. Wonder doesn’t rely only on videos and media–it’s in-your-face, right-there-in-front-of-you stuff, a real-life touch of the amazing. And it’s a nearly irresistible magnet for kids.
Ministry Magnet 4: Look for the wonder-filled, wonderful people in your congregation. If you’re stumped, ask your colleagues and friends to recommend people who embody the wonder factor. That person might just be the one to capture a child’s imagination and open the doors to a lifelong love of Jesus.
Magnet #5: Beginnings, Middles, and Endings
I’ve done puppets for more years than puppets can remember, and they’ve taught me a few lessons. For example, make sure the puppet’s head is securely attached to the shoulders. It’s very embarrassing when two puppets do a comical head bump, and one head goes flying into the audience. And if you should suddenly lose your voice in the middle of a show, make sure it works well without any words at all.
What else have I learned from puppets? They don’t like to be on stage for a long time–partly due to puppeteers’ aching arms, but also because kids have short attention spans.
I keep ministry presentations segmented, doled out in short sections, so the program moves forward. Short, engaging segments recharge your magnets. They demand kids’ attention. Each section begins with a “grabber.” (“Hey, look at this! It’s a pencil with lead on both ends. Why would I ever need one of these?”) The middle section is brief, too. And the ending comes before kids expect it. If a child thinks, Oh, it’s over already? you’re doing a good job. Tease kids for next time: “Whatever you do–don’t miss next Sunday! I’ll show you something you’ve never, ever seen before!” Follow through by amazing kids next time.
Ministry Magnet 5: Powerful beginnings, middles, and endings–along with a healthy dose of curiosity-stoking–will keep kids running back, Sunday after Sunday.
Magnet #6: The Master Magnet
All of these magnets together create a strong attraction for kids. But the all-consuming attraction we seek to instill in kids won’t ever be achieved by human power or practice, no matter how clever. Children’s ministers need help from the invisible realm where yardsticks can’t measure and grade books don’t record pass or fail. And it’s there, precisely, that we leave the human tool shed, and reach for something beyond ourselves: The all-powerful, invisible, Master Magnet–the Holy Spirit.
Drawing kids to Jesus, bringing them through open doors with enthusiasm, can only happen as we pray continually, depending on God’s power to do what we can’t: attract kids spiritually, all-powerfully, and eternally, to Jesus. There’s no magnet more powerful. God answers our prayers, and, with spiritual magnetism, powerfully draws children to him–but not through our church doors into the foyer. God draws them to him through Jesus.
Ministry Magnet 6: Kids come to church from so many different backgrounds–you’ve got smart kids, sports kids, computer kids, timid kids, and so many more. The Holy Spirit can empower you to speak to them, in terms they each can fully understand. Now that’s effective ministry! And it’s exactly what we want for children.
“Bongo Rod” Butler co-hosts The Coconut Hut Radio Show, a nationally syndicated program with music and games for kids.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”
This article “Magnetic Ministry” by Rod Butler was excerpted from: www.coconuthutradioshow.com Web site. July 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.