“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14 lets us see that Jesus knows children are important — he made sure to show them they are loved and valued.
Is your church doing the same?
A thriving children’s ministry is a one of the quickest ways to grow a healthy church, yet children’s ministry often gets overlooked. Here’s why it should be a top priority:
Your children’s ministry is an opportunity to sow into the next generation of spiritual leaders. Creating a safe, inviting space where kids can learn about Jesus should get you excited. They are your greatest mission field in your church and community! And, don’t forget that kids can also have an impact right now. Their love for Jesus can shine through and touch their family, friends, teachers, and classmates.
Growing a healthy children’s ministry is one of the best ways you can grow your church. Parents will do what’s best for their children. That means they’ll choose a church with a great children’s ministry — if your church doesn’t have one, they’ll go somewhere else.
So, what gets in the way of a thriving children’s ministry?
Budget. Budget constraints often mean children’s ministry is understaffed and under-resourced. It can be tough to justify spending a lot on children’s ministry, especially if families with young children don’t make up much of your church’s demographic.
Lack of volunteers. Children’s ministry often requires more volunteers than any other ministry in your church. Recruiting and training enough volunteers to keep your children’s ministry afloat is hard, and some churches don’t have a dedicated children’s minister to keep everything coordinated. That’s why it’s necessary to have a training program to help volunteers prepare for their teaching time and ensure their best chance at success. Success with volunteers centers on making their time feel valued and their contributions meaningful.
Leadership isn’t on board. A successful children’s ministry will have full support from the senior pastor. If a senior pastor believes and invests in children’s ministry it has a greater chance of thriving, even with limited resources. What’s more, if church leaders see a growing children’s ministry, they’re more likely to support it with additional resources that will help with attracting and retaining new visitors.
Put yourselves in the shoes of a new family visiting your church. If they bring their kids to the children’s area to check-in and see one volunteer in a dingy room with decor and toys that haven’t been updated in twenty years, do you think they’ll want to leave their kids there?
Do you think the kids will want to come back?
On the flip side, if they see a space that communicates fun and activity, they’ll see that you value their kids.
How does children’s ministry help your church grow?
If kids have a great time in your children’s ministry and are excited to come back, their parents will be too! Plus, if parents are excited about what’s happening at your church, they’re much more likely to invite their friends and neighbors to come as well.
As a bonus, families with kids participating in your children’s ministry are also more likely to volunteer in your church. They see you investing in their children and want to help contribute to the work the church is doing. This may mean they volunteer with your children’s ministry or that they step up in another area that needs help. Either way, you’re increasing the engagement of your congregation.
If your church builds the reputation for having a fantastic children’s ministry, your opportunities for outreach also increase. Parents who may not attend church themselves often want their children to grow up with some sort of faith structure. If your children’s ministry invites these kids in and ministers to them, you’ll have opportunities to reach their parents, too.
Even if parents aren’t coming to church on Sundays, you’ll have chances throughout the year to reach out to families. VBS is one great way to do this. Parents in your community may not be ready to commit to regular church attendance, but they’ll love the idea of dropping their kids off in a safe, fun environment during the summer (especially when it’s free!).
If you’re realizing your children’s ministry needs some work, here are some questions to help you find out where you can improve:
1. Do you communicate the safety of your children’s ministry?
As sad as it may feel, you must make full criminal background checks mandatory for those working with children in your church. Even if you believe your staff and volunteers have spotless records, parents leaving their kids in your care want to know for sure. This is a requirement for any sort of role that serves children — and the church shouldn’t be exempt. Need to find a background check service? Check out this list.
Do you have an efficient check-in system? This doesn’t have to be elaborate, and you can find what works for your church. Just make sure you know have a way to identify and keep track of the kids in your care. Know who they belong to, and have a way to contact their parents/guardians during service if necessary. If you need a check-in service, KidMin App and KidCheck are popular options.
Have an appropriate ratio of volunteers to children. If you have one volunteer and fifteen kids, that’s not going to instill much confidence in parents. And please think twice about having teenagers working alone with younger kids — they’re great assistants, but you need at least one experienced and capable adult guiding each class.
2. Is it inviting?
Do kids and parents immediately feel welcome? Your volunteers should be warm and kind from the start — after all, parents and kids often feel anxious about being separated. You might want to spend some time with your volunteers helping train them with ways to put both parents and kids at ease.
Does the space itself make kids want to come in and stay? Is it bright and fun? If you haven’t updated your decor in a while, this is a good place to start. There are a lot of budget friendly ways to make any space feel brighter and more contemporary. If kids are engaged by the space you provide, they’ll be excited to learn and will want to come back week after week.
3. Is it innovative?
Are you keeping up with the most effective ways to minister to kids today? The love of Jesus doesn’t change, but they way we present the Bible and its teachings to children should adapt to the way kids learn. Much of what worked in the 1990’s doesn’t work in 2018, and that’s okay!
It should be a fun challenge to keep evolving the ways we engage our kids in children’s ministry. Kids know when something is outdated — we need to be able to teach them in a language that they’ll feel comfortable with. Time for a new curriculum? Check out this or this.
4. Are you taking care of your volunteers?
Children’s ministry can be hard. If your church doesn’t have the budget for a children’s ministry director, you have to rely on a volunteer to head things up (not to mention the volunteers it takes to staff your children’s ministry during weekly services). Children’s ministry volunteers also accommodate a wide range of ages and developmental abilities. This is especially hard if they’re all combined in one or two classes. Not only are they keeping kids safe, they’re also teaching them about Jesus during the most impressionable years of their lives! That’s a lot of responsibility.
In addition, many volunteers have never taught children (aside perhaps from their own) and aren’t familiar with how to prepare or run a class. Taking the time to invest in training your volunteers will result in them being happier with their commitment and affirmed with better results.
And of course, remember to show your volunteers your appreciation. This can be a simple word of thanks and acknowledgement from your senior pastor during a main service, a small gift, or a dinner celebrating their contributions.
5. Do your kids love learning about Jesus?
Are your kids excited to arrive every Sunday? Are they telling their parents about what they learned once church is over? They should be! That is a great indication of how engaged they are with their class.
A healthy children’s ministry centers on a healthy community. The children’s ministry team arguably works harder than any group in a church. It takes an amazing amount of work to do it well. But it’s essential to foster an environment for staff, volunteers, and children that centers on hope and enjoyment. A child’s joy of learning about Jesus can be infectious. Catch their sense of joy and use it as you plan for your children’s ministry!
It’s okay if your church needs to do some work in your children’s ministry — most do!
Don’t feel overwhelmed. Even the healthiest children’s ministries need to keep improving and refining the way they reach out and connect with kids about Jesus.
Use the questions above to make a list of what your church can work on, then start chipping away as time and resources allow. Kids and parents in your church will start to notice a difference, and they’ll be grateful for it!