Role of a strong children’s ministry in church growth
Mission statement of children’s ministry
The goal of children’s ministry is to lead children toward knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. To achieve this goal, we emphasize the following five areas:
Formal instruction, such as occurs in children’s church classes.
Informal instruction, in activities such as summer sports programs, and in the emotional atmosphere involved in all activities.
Service opportunities, in which children and volunteers become involved in serving the community and church members.
Adult Christian examples, in which children learn by seeing. Children see how adults interact with children, how they interact with other adults, and how they relate to God.
Service and support for the parents. By offering children weekly religious instruction, we also free parents to participate fully in the adult worship service.
Externally: A children’s ministry that is active and planning ahead has a great opportunity for activities that assist the church in spreading the gospel. Children of non-Christians can be invited to activities without feeling threatened. If the activity is offered without charge or with minimal charge, parents will be more willing to take their children. This is a nonthreatening introduction to the church. Children can make friends, parents can make friends, and the non-Christian friends can be invited to additional church activities, such as small group meetings and worship services.
Children’s ministry also helps church growth by making it easier for new people to attend services. Parents will be able to listen to the messages without distractions. They will be confident that their children are loved, and that they enjoy spending time at church and making new friends. In this way, children’s ministry helps evangelize parents.
Even if no children are in the congregation, it is good to be prepared for children. A church that wants to grow should pray for new people and be prepared for them. If members know that someone is prepared to serve visiting children, members can feel free to invite friends to church services. We want visitors, including parents as well as children, to enjoy the visit. We want parents to be able to participate in the worship and to listen to the sermon, and we want the children to learn something in a positive environment. This will not happen unless we prepare for the possibility.
Internally: Children’s ministry helps the church’s biological growth because it teaches children about their Savior. It gives them facts and experiences that help them learn about and respond to Jesus. The existence of a children’s ministry helps validate the importance of children within the church. As a result, children feel welcomed and loved at church.
Christians need other Christians to help them grow. This is one reason Christ founded the church. Only in a community are humans led to and nurtured in the love of Christ. The same is true for children. Children’s ministry brings adults and children together who might not otherwise get to know each other. This contributes to the building of bonds within the body of Christ. It also brings children together with others their own age, encouraging long-term friendships.
Transfer growth: Americans move on average every two to five years. For this reason alone, Christians are often looking for new fellowships. A vibrant children’s ministry will be attractive to most parents. It may also be attractive to senior citizens, singles and others who want an active role in their church. Many people enjoy working with children.
Children’s actions are based largely on emotion. Thomas Armstrong, in In Their Own Way, notes that a child learns only in the presence of either negative or positive emotions. Because of the connection between learning and emotion, a child’s church experience needs to include opportunities for joyful expression of emotion. Children’s spiritual life cannot be separated from their emotions.
Children who are given opportunities to be tuned in to their emotions through children’s worship, associating Christianity with joy and love, will learn to be spiritually responsive. Adult worship services are often too abstract to accomplish this. Children do not grasp abstract concepts until the beginning of puberty, and even then not at an adult level. However, a child can experience abstract concepts such as love and acceptance. Therefore, the church needs to nourish children through a “feeling” kind of ministry, in which children learn biblical concepts in an emotionally positive environment. The facts and the emotions work together to teach a consistent message.
Children need other children. They experience joy in making friends. Even infants notice the difference between adults and children. An infant will often ignore adults who come into the room, but will focus on children who enter. Toddlers are attracted to babies and other toddlers. This courtship with peers continues into adolescence and adulthood. Friendships are important.
Children’s ministry can help children learn to establish and nourish friendships. It can accomplish this through the following ways: 1) Direct encouragement, such as saying, Be friendly to these children, and they will be good friends. 2) Personal examples of the volunteers as they relate to each other. 3) Grouping children of similar ages so they have the opportunity to interact. 4) Sponsoring children’s activities that are open to community children.
Church-sponsored children’s ministry events
Families in the community are often willing to attend a church that will serve their children’s needs. A children’s ministry can sponsor events that are open to the community. These might be the community members’ first contact with Christianity. A welcoming environment for their children will make them more likely to want to find out more about the church. The church will be seen as relevant and helpful. Adult volunteers and children will be helping to bring people into contact with the gospel.
Help bring children to acceptance of Jesus
A well-planned children’s ministry places its greatest emphasis on leading children to respond to Christ’s love. This can be accomplished in every activity through direct and indirect methods, through instruction and example.
Summary of why the church needs a strong children’s ministry
Jesus commissioned his church to preach the gospel. Children’s ministry supports this mission in several ways. The church grows through conversions of children and of parents. Many families who have children are searching for a church home. If children feel comfortable and welcome at church, the parents are more likely to come back. Herb Miller says that if a family’s desire for a strong youth program is not met, regardless of other programs in the church, the family will not come back.
The church also has a responsibility to spiritually nourish all children who attend, to disciple them and help them build bonds of friendship. All the efforts have the ultimate goal of helping children build a good relationship with Jesus.
Regardless of the size of a congregation, it is helpful to assign someone to supervise children’s ministry. The major tasks of the director include the following:
Choosing and coordinating a variety of activities.
Planning and implementing children’s worship services.
Encouraging spiritual growth of children and volunteers.
Seeking creative methods to keep children motivated.
Beginning programs that include community children and parents.
Keeping the pastor informed of the ministry’s plans and needs.
Choosing and coordinating a variety of activities
A successful children’s ministry should be active. A director should have activities in progress and/or be planning new ones. The activities must be coordinated in an organized and professional manner.
Choosing activities: Directors will often be given activity suggestions by others. It is the director’s responsibility to evaluate the suggested activity within the framework of the overall mission. The decision-making process works only if it includes consideration of the value of the activity as it relates to the major areas of emphasis in the mission statement.
For example, if a summer sports program were suggested as an activity for children’s ministry, its role toward filling the goals should be evaluated. The activity could help the church preach the gospel by inviting community children. This activity would then contribute toward two of the areas in the mission statement. It would be a service opportunity for the adult volunteers to the community, and it would be an opportunity for the children to experience the good sportsmanship of adult Christian volunteers.
Borderline value: If an activity contributes toward the mission in a minimal way, its value should be weighed against 1) volunteer staffing and 2) whether another activity might accomplish the same goals with less effort. Sometimes an activity would be “fun,” but other activities may better fulfill the goals and purposes of the children’s ministry, as well as be enjoyable. A trip to an amusement park would be fun, but other activities might be just as much fun, less expensive, and more in line with your goals.
Coordinating activities: Once a plan is set in motion, much of the legwork can be delegated. The director should not be so tied down with details in every activity that he or she is drained of energy that could be used for creating future ministry plans. Although a director must be involved in coordinating some details, this is not the main job of a director.