Getting Church to Be Biggest Fan

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Money isn’t everything, but support is! Here’s how to earn more
support for your children’s ministry.

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Unless your church supports your program enthusiastically, how
will you support the spiritual lives of children?

You didn’t come to children’s ministry seeking fame and fortune.
We know you’re not in it for the applause. But unless your church
supports your program enthusiastically, how will you support the
spiritual lives of children? Children’s ministry isn’t a one-man
show-success depends on your ability to draw others to active
roles. For the most part, an atmosphere of support builds up over
the long run. It’s an effect of earned trust and what one
children’s minister describes as “one-on-one, side-by-side
stuff.”

Want to pick up the pace a bit? Consider these ideas to coax
your pastor, parents, and church members out from behind the
scenes.

CO-STARS
Senior pastors come in varying degrees of commitment and awareness
when it comes to children’s ministry. Even supportive pastors may
resist taking center stage to reinforce announcements, publicize
needs, or put in an appearance. Your senior pastor’s philosophy may
be “I have you on staff to do these things, and I expect you to do
them.” Many pastors forget how much weight their words and presence
can carry. What can encourage your pastor’s participation?

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*Realistic expectations-Linda Snyder, a director of
children’s and youth ministries in Georgia, advises against
expecting continual hands-on help from your pastor, who may already
be pulled in a zillion different directions. “Help define clearly
for him the times that his presence really is important and why
it’s important,” says Snyder.

*Supportiveness-Be vocal about your pastor’s gifts. “If
you’re having a difficult working relationship with a pastor, then
you find something that’s good,” says Snyder, “that’s what you
focus on, and that’s what you say to others.”

*Communication-Be relentless in presenting your
ministry’s accomplishments and needs. At a minimum, keep your
pastor informed through a monthly report, either at staff meetings
or in writing. Include prayer requests for people or situations
you’re concerned about. Snyder gives her pastor a copy of every
flier and letter she sends out. She lets him know when there’s a
family in crisis, so he can reach out. Keeping your pastor informed
also expresses your support-”If we know things he doesn’t know,
then he gets caught with his foot in his mouth,” explains
Snyder.

*Proactive involvement-Judy Basye, a children’s
minister in California, invites her pastor to open or close every
major event. “I build him into every program I do, which has built
a great rapport,” says Basye. “We had vacation Bible school, and
every single pastor on staff did something. I just gave them
jobs-ÔOkay, you’re going to be David; you’re going to be
Goliath…’ We’re part of a team, so let’s be a team! But then
there’s the flip side-I also need to be a part of whatever they’re
doing.”

SUPPORTING CAST
Most children’s ministers #1 struggle isn’t with involving the
senior pastor; it’s with getting enough volunteers. The greater the
number of children in your church, the more volunteers you need.
But you’re drawing from a pool of people who are already overworked
and overtired.

Mary Beth Foye, a Christian education director in Texas, turned
things around in her church with this script she wrote to attract
Sunday school teachers:

*Act 1-Church members suggest people who possess the gifts and
grace for teaching Sunday school. Foye and the education committee
add to the list and decide who’d be the best teachers for each age
level.

*Act 2-The education committee calls these people and invites
them to visit personally about this ministry opportunity.

*Act 3-Foye tells nominees about the basic responsibilities and
gives them a Sunday school handbook that includes a job
description. She tells them what they can expect from the church
and how they can expect to grow in their faith. She gives them
lists of substitute Sunday school teachers and teacher enrichment
workshops.

“We stress how important this ministry is and that we believe
they possess the gifts to be good,” says Foye. “I’ve found that you
have more success finding people to teach Sunday school this way,
as opposed to just calling them over the phone and saying, ÔOh, by
the way, will you teach Sunday school next year?’ “

CURTAINS UP!
You need more than Sunday school teachers, of course, in your
supporting cast. Creating a hit for children’s ministry takes a
whole church effort. Build audience participation by keeping
children and children’s ministry in the limelight. Besides bulletin
boards, newsletters, and word-of-mouth, here are a few bright ideas
to inspire you.

*Greeters-Have children join adults in greeting people
and handing out bulletins. “By making children visible, you
communicate to people that children are important to this church,”
says Foye. “I think that means a lot to people; they’re more
willing to give of their time and their gifts.”

*Worship service players-Susan Flaws, a director of
children’s ministry in Florida, recently had the children in her
church dramatize the pastor’s Sunday sermon. The children dressed
in biblical costumes and formed a living time line across the front
of the church.

*Visibility-Thomas Sanders, a minister of childhood
education in Texas, stole the show during a Mother’s Day worship
service by having three six-passenger strollers wheeled into
church. The 18 babies on board played up the need for more
volunteers. “We didn’t get everyone we needed,” says Sanders, “but
we got a big start that Sunday.”

*Publicity-Publicizing kids’ service projects produces
the most positive reviews for Snyder’s children’s ministry. Showing
the children practicing servanthood changes perceptions. That’s why
Snyder includes regular reports on the children’s visits in the
column she writes for the church newsletter. “The congregation
falls in love with the children,” says Snyder. “I think that’s the
message that needs to be given to the congregation-that children’s
ministry is fun, but it’s also vital.”

*Accessibility-Make it easy for church members to get
information about your ministry. To highlight her children’s
ministry, Basye set up a “lemonade stand.” People stop by after
church every Sunday to talk or pick up handouts-and sometimes
there’s even lemonade!

It’s taken awhile, but children’s ministry has become a front
row ministry-not a hidden ministry-at Basye’s church, “I think it’s
happened through my staff and me just being excited and reminding
everyone that children’s ministry is no more or less important than
any other ministry,” says Basye. “We accomplish the same goal,
bringing children to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

Kathleen Dieterich is an editorial technician for CHILDREN’S
MINISTRY Magazine.

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