It's nearly impossible to overestimate the value of children's ministry in your church.
—Parents love their kids.
—God loves their kids.
—I'm confident you do too.
But the fact that you care about the kids who attend your church may not show in your children's ministry.
Your church may have an inspiring vision, outstanding worship services and strong outreach ministries, but if your children's ministry isn't vibrant, families may stop coming.
No need to panic, but when it comes to children's ministry, there is a need for strong leadership and commitment to the next generation.
And I want to express appreciation to all children's staff and volunteers! You are heroes. Thank you for what you do.
It's not always easy, and you may not get thanked as much as you deserve, but please know that what you do is incredibly important, and you are appreciated.
One volunteer said that several parents of preschoolers shared that their kids cry if they don't get to come to children's ministry that Sunday.
It's never our goal for kids to cry under any circumstance, but that's a pretty good sign you are doing something right within kids' ministry when the children want to be there that much.
Children's ministry is a big job, and there is a lot to it, but if you focus on five core elements, you can build a world-class children's ministry that will help you strengthen and grow your church.
Here are the five key elements:
- Create a safe and attractive environment. Few things trump the safety of children while they are under your supervision at church. If you don't get this right, you don't get to do anything else.
From check-in and security to a safe and clean physical environment, it's essential that you do this well. With a heart to serve, part of your responsibility is to gain the trust of the parents.
That starts with an environment that brings confidence to moms and dads when they drop their kids off, pick them up and every minute while the kids are under your responsibility.
From clean flooring for the toddlers to enough volunteers to manage an appropriate span of care, a safe environment is the foundation.
Do you have a team member who checks on these kinds of things?
- Give genuine love and care to the children. Once moms and dads know the environment is safe, they want to know you care about their kids. It may sound obvious to say that loving the kids is important, but you can't take that for granted when recruiting volunteers to serve in kid's ministry.
Let me be candid: A little too often, and sometimes with a degree of desperation, churches are just looking for warm bodies to help out.
I understand the pressure to recruit volunteers, but you should not settle for "just anyone" with kids.
Pray for and select volunteers who genuinely love the kids! It's easy to see the difference.
These are the volunteers who know the kids' names, talk to the kids, sit on the floor if appropriate, pray for the kids, greet the parents—you get the idea.
- Provide consistent and quality training. After diligent recruiting, excellent training is needed. In fact, recruiting and training are the two core skills for anyone who carries responsibility for your children's ministry.
High-quality, ongoing and consistent training is a nonnegotiable for your volunteer children's ministry team.
Your training opportunities should be at convenient dates and times for the volunteers and don't hesitate to do some of your training online through videos. You don't have to highly produce it. Short clips with your iPhone work great.
Make your training events relevant, practical and enjoyable. Be ready to greet your team with some good coffee and snacks and be exceptionally well-prepared.
Your volunteers deserve the best. Train them well and encourage them often.
Note: Always start with background checks in the recruiting/training process.
- Teach Jesus as Savior. Safety, love and training are all preparation for the purpose of children's ministry—teaching kids about the love of God.
The central purpose of ministry to children is leading them toward a personal relationship with Jesus, toward knowing how much He loves them and toward what the Bible teaches. Timing matters; don't push them, but make God's love clear by your words and actions.
Few things are more exciting than seeing a child begin to understand and embrace God's love.
It's a rewarding challenge to teach profound theological truth in a way that a child can clearly and quickly understand.
Take forgiveness, for example. Kids know when they do something wrong or disobey mom or dad. They know what that feels like and how their parents respond with discipline and love.
Forgiveness is a profound truth that kids get when you teach it in a way that they can relate to and understand.
For a child to know that Jesus loves them, forgives them and yet wants them to behave with kindness to others, makes it all worthwhile.
From there, you can build a basic curriculum that covers the broader scope of the biblical teaching that kids need.
- Make it a lot of fun. Everyone loves to have fun, and kids need to have fun. It's vital to see smiles on the faces of parents, kids and volunteers.
Play and laughter is a natural part of being a child and needs to be included in children's ministry.
It's not only OK to enjoy the experience, but it's also key to your success.
If you have a safe environment, love for the kids and quality training and you teach about Jesus, then you are set to add all the fun you can.
Be creative and enjoy the time you have with the kids!
If you evaluate your children's ministry on a scale of one to seven for each of the five areas, how would you do? Which element do you need to improve first?
No children's ministry is perfect, but all can be improved a little at a time. I highly encourage you to do your very best in children's ministry, and you'll be glad you did!
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
For the original article, visit danreiland.com.
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