Trends in Children’s Ministries
What are the trends in children’s ministries today? They’re so many different approaches to children’s church, Sunday school, and midweek clubs. I have friends who have swung the pendulum of ministry emphasis from outreach to simple maintenance and back again. Some seem to have trouble finding a place in the center.
A trend can serve to guide your children’s ministry or it can drive it into the ground. I like to look at positive trends rather than negative. What trends today are driving the church ahead in a positive way?
I cannot write about trends until I first discuss fads in children’s ministries. Let me briefly mention some fads that have come, gone, and come again. Then I will discuss some major trends in children’s work today. These hold true in America, but I’ve also observed them in my recent travels to Canada and Australia.
Fads come and go. When I was a boy, yo-yos, trolls, and pet rocks were the things to own. Now, skateboards have made a mainstream comeback. Nintendo 64Â® has become a substitute child-care giver in our society. Once again, my 10-year old needs a yo-yo.
Fads are as real in church work as they are in the world. Remember when everyone wanted a PlexiglasÂ® pulpit? How about trading in hymnals for the overhead projector?
In 1975, when I became a Christian, bus ministry was the rage. It had worked in a few isolated, yet high profile cases. Suddenly everyone had to have a bus ministry. Reaching lower income children and their families seemed to be the meal ticket for aspiring pastors. Churches that had no direction from God ventured into this labor-intensive ministry.
You couldn’t just bring them in on buses and let them run wild in the sanctuary. Now you had to have a “super church” service to keep them occupied. So bus ministries and super church services sprang up around the country. The trouble with fads is this: Without God’s direction, they are short lived.
Many churches now own one or more almost useless busses. Also, in closets somewhere are several thousand dollars worth of curriculum, magic tricks, and puppets. The fad arrived and departed leaving in its wake wondering children with a one-time taste of Christianity.
Over the years, I have watched as children’s workers have almost drowned in a sea of fads. These have included Saturday action rallies, puppet teams, spiritual warfare, wacky summer Wednesdays, CM websites, and more. Fads of methodology seem to constantly tug at the budgets of medium to larger churches. What church doesn’t have a large flannel graph set, a closet filled with old slide shows, or a complete set of choir bells with accompanying curriculum?
I visited a church which had a closet filled with the most beautiful and expensive puppets. When asked why this equipment was sitting dormant, the current leaders replied, “Years ago our church hosted a puppet training seminar. The church invested in all of these puppets. For about a year, we had a great puppet team. Then the director moved to another city. We don’t have anyone to direct a team anymore.” This story is all too familiar to anyone involved in or paying for children’s ministries.
For a time, many of my friends had a children’s church bank and variety store. The name and decoration varied, but the idea was the same. Bribe the kids by giving them play money and let them save and spend this in the store. I know of half a dozen churches that still have a treasure chest full of penny toy items sitting in a storeroom or behind a puppet theater.
In the late 80s, I talked to many workers who had begun to fill time in their classrooms with games and snacks. These times may not have anything to do with God or the lesson of the day; they were simply time fillers. This fad of entertaining the children for the sake of entertainment has quickly declined.
Fads come and go. Are they bad? Not necessarily. Waking a sleeping congregation to the need to reach children is good. Motivating children to bring friends, Bibles, and offerings does have a higher purpose. But we must move beyond fads. Our approach to children’s ministry, as the 21st century looms, cannot be dictated by the latest vegetable video.
Many senior pastors have adopted Rick Warren’s battle cry in The Purpose Driven Church. I believe this kind of vision-oriented management must also be applied to children’s ministries. God-directed trends have purposes that transcend current technology and hype.
Here are some trends that I have observed in our churches. These seem to be universal in nature. If you do not see these in your church yet, don’t worry. Trends sweep from place to place as pastors are made aware of specific felt needs.
Prayer has become a priority. What an awesome trend this is. Children are becoming prayer warriors. Adult congregation members are beginning to pray for individual children. Children’s workers are praying that the Lord of the harvest will send for laborers.
Sunday school classes, children’s churches, and club meetings are ending with altar calls. Pastors and children’s leaders across our land are discovering this simple truth: Children love to pray.
One Royal Rangers commander recently had every boy in his Pioneer group write down a sin or two on file cards. They took the cards out to the churchyard and buried them. As they knelt in prayer around the grave for sin, two boys gave their lives to Jesus for the first time.
A group of 10- and 11-year-old girls ran up to me on Sunday morning to tell me about last week’s Missionettes retreat. They stayed up in their cabin praying until 2:30 in the morning. Two in the group received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
These are not isolated incidents. Children love to pray. Adults need to pray for children’s ministries. A local children’s ministry undergirded with prayer is the wave of the future. This trend is directly linked to the next.
THE MOVE OF THE SPIRIT
God’s Spirit is moving in the lives of boys and girls around the world. Take the story of four girls by the swimming pool at the Illinois District campground. One girl slipped, twisting her ankle. The other three gathered around and prayed for her. As she was healed, all four girls were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Last month we had an altar service in our children’s church during which nine boys and girls, ages 6 through 11, were baptized in the Holy Spirit. This happened as we directed children to pray for children. God’s Spirit is moving in the hearts and lives of children and children’s workers.
Consider the children’s church leader who told me, “I couldn’t believe it. I gave an altar call and over 20 kids responded. I’ve never seen a response like this.”
In Denver a children’s pastor has trained boys and girls as altar workers. Children pray and anoint those in need with oil. Boys and girls have been saved, healed, and baptized in the Holy Spirit as these prayer team members committed their requests to the Lord.
Across our country the Spirit of God is moving in Sunday and midweek services and other meetings. We are truly experiencing a divine outpouring of the Spirit in these last days.
CHILDREN IN MINISTRY
Another exciting trend is the growing number of children directly involved in ministry. I have witnessed children serving as ushers, greeters, sound technicians, and worship team members. Children who have been empowered by the Holy Spirit are no longer content to sit and watch; they want to experience Christianity. Children are being allowed to minister in the mainstream in our churches. This is exciting because adult believers around the world are beginning to recognize the ministry gifts in young believers and are helping them develop their gifts in ministry.
On a recent trip to the Assemblies of God churches in Australia, I met a 12-year-old girl named Alicia. Alicia plays the piano and sings as part of a worship team in her church. She leads in worship in the main sanctuary with great effectiveness.
God directed two sisters from our church to evangelize their neighbors. The girls took a Who Cares? Outreach video across the street and showed it to an unchurched family. (Who Cares? was produced by Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade in cooperation with Gospel Publishing House. It is a 7-minute reproducible video tract for children.) The family—mom, dad, and four children—prayed with the 11-year-old and 8-year-old sisters that morning.
When God begins to move by His Spirit in your children’s ministries, there will be an increase in children actively participating in ministry. This trend of children ministering to other children and adults is growing rapidly. At first I thought it to be a fad, but I am hearing more and more stories of children serving in their churches.
In Latin America, Missionary Don Triplet has trained children to lead others to the Lord and to pray for them to be baptized in the Spirit. Many children and teens are coming to Jesus and being filled with the Spirit as young people trained by Don and his workers pray.
ALTAR CALLS IN THE CLASSROOM AND CHURCH
More and more teachers and leaders across our nation are experiencing the move of God in their classes and children’s churches. Why is this trend becoming the norm? Because more and more leaders are redeeming the time, they are setting aside time for altar calls.
The Assemblies of God is a movement that has a great tradition around the altars. I am thrilled to see that tradition being resurrected by our teachers and leaders. The altar call is alive and power-filled in the Sunday school rooms and children’s sanctuaries of America.
Leaders are taking seriously the possibility of spiritual response in their classrooms. Classes that at one time ended with a quick prayer and a take-home paper are now extending into the church time as children receive a new touch from God.
This is a trend that you, the pastor, should embrace and promote. Imagine what would happen in your church when children begin praying in the back rooms of your facility. This attitude of true ministry is quickly replacing the last remnants of the game and snack fad of the last decade. Teachers are replacing the need to fill time with spiritual happenings that go into overtime. This is a divine move of God.
How do these trends play out in light of the history being made by today’s church? The emphasis on prayer, the move of the Spirit, children in ministry, and altar time is continuing evidence of the revival winds of our day. These revival winds know no prejudice—age, race, or culture. And the children who are a part of today’s church are being caught up in this end-time wind of God’s Spirit.
Are there negatives? There always will be. Do children understand the implications of all God is doing in their lives? I don’t think so. To tell the truth, I don’t understand them all, either. But this I know, God is doing a mighty work in the hearts and lives of children and those who serve them.
When I see the tear-stained faces of boys and girls who have spent time in the presence of God, I know we are on the right track. As the church moves into the 21st century, we will witness a revival of incredible proportions—a revival that will, in many cases, begin in the Sunday school room and children’s church. We must not discourage this, but rather embrace the evident outpouring of God’s power on the children of our Movement.
I am excited about the generation of believers who are growing up today. They personally know the Lord and the works He can do in and through their lives. Trends of the world will try to destroy them at every turn. But our God is bigger than the world. The trends instituted by Him are far-reaching and eternal. Boys and girls are growing in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and with man. Blessed be the Lord!
From: www.ag.org web site. November 2013.
The above article, “Trends in Children’s Ministries” was written by Dick Gruber. The article was excerpted from www.ag.org.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
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.”