It’s easy to discuss overcoming challenges when surveying other ministries, but it is much more difficult to look at your church in the mirror and diagnose what every church struggles with in relation to kid’s ministry. This list is definitely not exhaustive, nor is it a checklist for a perfect kid’s ministry, but it is a collection of questions we can ask ourselves that will help Kid’s Pastors and volunteers find common ground. Many times when we hear other people share their weaknesses, it brings to light our own difficulties and allows us to move past them as we find solutions together.
Are we reaching kids where they are? Kid’s ministry is the new student ministry in many churches. If we are finding that student culture evolves quickly, then kid’s ministry changes at warp speed. Kids have access to technology and information that is quickly changing the landscape of our ministry. Many times we will find that our efforts resemble a rigged carnival game, and that no matter how many times we try to get the ring on the bottle it just isn’t fitting. The problem isn’t with the kids that we are trying to reach, it is with the way that we are trying to reach them. Relevance is making sure that your church is changing at the same speed of the community and culture surrounding it. We often fail to hit this moving target, citing excuses like “We have never done it this way” or “I don’t think we are ready for that.” The way to overcome this challenge is by allowing God to speak life and vision into our ministries from the leadership level, and boldly changing to continually evolve with your surrounding culture and community.
How well does your kid’s ministry fit in with the rest of the church? This is a great question to ask before every calendar addition and new idea. The hard reality is that many children’s ministries don’t really reflect the rest of the church, and they have become an island to themselves. This is why many kid’s pastors feel isolated and alone in their ministry. What if the kid’s ministry set the bar for their experiences throughout the rest of the church? How can we unite the vision and purpose of our adults with our kids? Could a kid’s volunteer go to another part of your church and lead well and transition well? These are all excellent questions to diagnose if your children’s ministry has made a departure from the rest of your church. If we do not intentionally try to create environments and experiences that unite our kidmin culture with the rest of the church, I believe that we will miss out on some really amazing opportunities to see growth, excitement, and to celebrate as a team when we see life change.
One of the biggest ways that you can help lead the way in this change of culture is to remind your teams that they do not simply change diapers, they change lives. If you are able to make sure that your teams understand that they are part of something even bigger than your kid’s ministry, they will begin to invite others to be a part of their team, and they will celebrate with the rest of the church when people give their lives to Christ, and when people take the next step in Baptism. This is a very subtle but important mental shift in leading and following in ministry, and if we can infuse this culture into our teams we can ignite them to achieve great things.
- Parent Expectations
What do parents at our church expect from our ministry? We need to start owning the responsibility to communicate our strategy to parents, and give them clear information about what to expect from our weekly efforts. I could stop there, but I think that we need to admit that almost every parent expects something different from kid’s ministry. It is both shocking and disappointing that we fail to meet many of these expectations, and many times we fail to meet them because we don’t have any expectations for parents. We should teach our parents that it is a shared responsibility and our expectation that they continue leading their families spiritually when they get home from Church on Sunday. It is our expectation but also our motivation to see the church and family unite in a meaningful way by creating thoughtful and creative approaches to teaching them on Sunday, and equipping parents to teach and lead the rest of the week. This means that Sundays should not be afterthoughts to large events, and our strategy should be to reach parents throughout the week in a convenient and meaningful way. Our ministry responsibility is to parents AND kids, and we have to be able to expand our reach from Sunday into the Monday to Saturday realm. The only way this can become a reality is by communicating our plan, and putting resources in the hands of our families that can encourage them to lead their family during the week, in whatever form is most easily accessible to your attenders: Facebook, Instagram, Email, Phone Calls, Text Messages, Dedication Events, Postcards. When we begin to see the resources and strategy communication start to encourage conversation and parent leadership, we will begin seeing parents as part of our team, and parents will begin to see our ministries as viable places for guidance, and not just “Big Church Childcare.”
- Measuring Results
Are we measuring our results in kid’s ministry? In order to improve our areas of investment, we have to measure results. If you are investing money, or if you are employed in a job, you want to have a measurable return for that money and time. We are investing both of those resources in our Children’s Ministries, but many times it is difficult to see a measurable return. This is for two reasons:
1) We don’t see transformational life immediately as in “big church” and sometimes the fruit of our labor doesn’t surface until many years later when we are no longer in the picture . I recently watched a baptism experience with some of my preschool volunteers, and they were able to see some of the kids that they have been spending time with every week take the next step in their faith through baptism. It was a great reminder that even though we spend time investing in kids and parents, we have hope knowing that God’s Word does not return void, and God will ultimately receive the glory for what he is doing in the hearts and minds of children.
2) We aren’t measuring anything that matters. Getting kids to come to our churches is sometimes more important than actually seeing life change, and many times that is just following the example of the rest of the church. We need to keep our fingers on the pulse of the ministry by measuring how our kids our responding to our investments, like how many kids know their memory verses for the month, or how are our kids serving others? Use your current system to track successful ministry, for example, try using the small group time that you use to build relationships with elementary students to track the kids that know their verse, and to count how many kids are taking home your parent resources.
Taking time to count what matters is the key to improving your ministry, and it will be worth the time on the back end when you see life change happening all around you. When you count your eggs after they hatch by implementing systems that count your first time guests, seeing how many kids are learning their verses, and seeing the end results of your ministry consistency, you will be able to brag on God and his faithfulness to your ministry!
- Leading Adults
Are we creating leaders? When Children’s Pastors become aware of their calling, it is most likely as a volunteer in a kid’s ministry. If not, it is at a camp or a YMCA or a fun all-nighter. The problem with these events is that they are all about kids, and when we say “YES” to leading a kid’s ministry, we are saying “YES” to leading adults. Once this preconception is wiped away, we can be even more intentional about investing in adult leaders, so that we can continue to enlarge our influence and begin growing a strategy to reach even more kids. We can begin this process by having meetings that teach your volunteers skills and leadership. You continue this process by setting up a structure to see your leaders succeed, and never give too much to a small group so that responsibilities are diffused and authority is shared. Great kid’s pastors have extensive teams, levels of leadership, and they don’t try to do ministry alone. If we desire to avoid this trap, we must be careful to build teams, avoid ministry monarchy, and always invest in our volunteers to make sure that we are making the most of the opportunity that God has given us.
Jordan Ledwell is the Children’s Pastor at Freedom Church in Acworth, Ga. He enjoys spending time with his wife Jessica, and his new son Lochlan. You can follow his church and ministry at: freedomchurch.tv and freedomkids.tv