Getting Church to Be Your Biggest Fan

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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.”

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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?

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.

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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-’Okay, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Act 2 — The education committee calls these
    people and invites them to visit personally about this ministry
    opportunity.
  3. 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, ‘Oh, 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.”


Kathy Dieterich is the editor for Children’s Ministry
Innovations and was formerly associate editor of Group
Magazine.

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