There are two kinds of streams: one that meanders indifferently
and another that splashes along briskly without being slowed by
anything. While the first kind is non-threatening and placid, the
other kind seems harder to control.
But the second stream is going somewhere — today!
There are also two kinds of children’s ministries. Some are
uncertain of their destination while others move swiftly with a
strong sense of purpose. Just as both streams move water, both
kinds of children’s ministries serve children and have loving,
dedicated teachers. Both ministries also have a strong desire to
make a contribution to the lives of their students, but there’s a
big difference that affects children greatly. That difference is
found in the ministry’s vision — and how well the teachers live
and breathe it.
THE WHITEWATER QUIZ
Does your children’s ministry have a clear vision? Take this
quiz to find out.
1. We assertively seek to bring in those who haven’t heard the
message of God’s love. yes no
2. We are genuinely loving to anyone who comes to our church,
but we have no active programs to reach out to our community. yes
3. We have intentional programs to bring in new people so they
can sample the community of our church. yes no
4. Visitor attendance is low in our church and is usually
limited to visiting relatives rather than community members. yes
5. We follow up all visitors to let them know they’re welcome
and wanted back at our church. yes no
6. Children rarely invite guests to our church. yes no
7. Learning experiences are designed to meet learners’ needs.
8. Programs are primarily selected for price, appearance, and
convenience. yes no
9. Teachers excitedly learn right along with the children in our
program. yes no
10. Getting teachers to regularly teach and attend worship
services is a continuing struggle. yes no
Now, take a look at your answers. Tally how many yes answers you
had for the even-numbered questions and how many for the
odd-numbered questions. If you had more odd-numbered yes answers,
your children’s ministry is probably more like the raging stream
headed somewhere. If you had more even-numbered yes answers, your
children’s ministry may be going somewhere, but it rarely excites
the children and volunteers who ride its puny rapids.
But don’t be discouraged! There’s hope right around the next
bend. You can reshape the path of your stream.
THE BIG DIFFERENCE
Vision-driven children’s ministries develop learning experiences
that meet their learners’ needs. Sessions are characterized by
active involvement of all learners-even the teachers. Because each
person brings a dynamic experience with God, the classes reflect a
wealth of learning potential. The teachers dive in with the
children, enjoying new discoveries that help their faith grow,
These vision-driven ministries know that learning is not the end
product of their program. They constantly work to empower their
learners to reach others with the good news. Children hear the
faith stories of their teachers and practice finding the words to
express their own stories. In essence, these ministries help
learners gain the skills and confidence to take on the mission of
sharing their faith with their family, friends, and neighbors.
Those children’s ministries that do not clearly articulate their
vision reach those who come, instead of bringing in the community.
While there’s nothing wrong with having tradition, ministries that
are not vision-driven tend to rely upon tradition to focus their
efforts, instead of focusing on meeting people’s needs.
The lack of vision in a children’s ministry means it must use
“learner power” to maintain the program. This is when some
ministries haul out the rewards. Some offer treats for doing things
simply to keep the program going. Others get very creative —
giving awards for things other than attendance, such as bringing a
Bible or a guest. In the end, the unnamed outcome is the same:
Learners supply what the ministry needs to exist, instead of the
ministry existing to supply what the learners need.
If vision is so important, what can a children’s ministry do to
develop vision power? Try these three steps to increase your
volunteers’ vision and add new enthusiasm to your children’s
1. Pray for vision; discuss mission. Ask for God’s help as you
take a look at your community, not just your congregation. Where do
children spend their time? What activities could be more conducive
to building their relationship with God? What gifts has God given
your congregation? Besides looking at people with teaching gifts,
consider those who are good listeners or have gifts to encourage
and empower children to build confidence in their gifts. Musicians,
actors, writers, and athletes can help children’s ministries with
plays or sports events.
God has given your congregation all the gifts you need to bring
the good news to your area. Trust God to help you discover and put
those gifts to use as you identify ways your ministry can make a
communitywide difference for children. Make two lists: a list with
five to 10 needs children have in your community, and a list of 10
to 20 gifts God has given your congregation. Use colored markers to
connect the needs and gifts as you determine the top five areas
your children’s ministry will address in the next year.
2. Put it in writing. Use a few sentences to clearly tell what
your children’s ministry’s vision is. Remember, you can’t do
everything — but if you don’t set out to do something, you’ll
probably end up doing nothing. One group’s vision statement
included a rationale and three goals: So that children may know,
love, and serve Jesus Christ, our children’s ministry programs will
affirm children’s involvement in the faith community, equip them
with a strong foundation in the biblical story, and empower them to
confidently serve others.
This statement focuses on efforts and provides a filter for
deciding which activities the ministry does. When faced with two
quality activities, the leaders consider which one will most
closely address the vision and choose that one. To keep that focus,
post the vision statement in classrooms and halls, and put it in
every ministry newsletter. Encourage leaders to make it part of
their daily lives.
3. Walk the talk. Make concrete plans with specific steps to
address the ministry vision. Assign implementation dates to the
steps, and evaluate them regularly. Realize that you may have to
make some adjustments to better serve your growing ministry
population — it might change as your ministry becomes more
vision-driven and reaches people who’ve walked by your church but
are now coming inside!
Is your children’s ministry going somewhere — or barely going?
As you empower your volunteers with vision, you’ll be amazed at the
Chip Borgstadt is a youth minister in Nebraska.
GETTING ON TRACK
Our teachers complained that kids in our program didn’t seem to
know the Bible well. Here’s how we got our program back on
All the department heads and I studied child development
principles in The Christian Educators Handbook on Teaching by
Kenneth Gangel and Howard Hendricks. Then the department heads
brainstormed ideas for what kids should know in five different
areas for grades 1 through 6. Then the department heads met with
their teachers once a week for four weeks to brainstorm ideas in
each area. After our goals were complete, we asked Christian
educators outside our church to critique the plan. Here’s our
Sunday School Goals
Grade 1-The Bible is God’s Word to us. It tells us right from
Grade 2-There are 66 books in the Bible.
Grade 3-The division of Bible books, such as poetry, law, and
minor and major prophets.
Grade 4-The Bible is inspired by God and written by different
Grade 5-The authors of the Pentateuch and New Testament
Grade 6-The authors of the Old Testament books.
Characteristics of God:
Grade 1-God is Creator; Jesus is God’s Son; the Holy Spirit is
Grade 2-God is love; Jesus is Savior; and the Holy Spirit convicts
us of sin.
Grade 3-God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, and
never-changing; Jesus is God who was born and lived on earth; the
Holy Spirit reveals God’s will to us.
Grade 4-The concept of the Trinity: God is Father, Jesus is Son,
and the Holy Spirit lives within believers.
Grade 5-God judges our sins; Jesus is our mediator; and the Holy
Spirit teaches, empowers, and gives peace to believers.
Grade 6-The different names of God; Jesus seeks a personal
relationship with us; and the Holy Spirit guides the believer and
reveals God’s will.
Grade 1-John 3:16-17; the names of the four Gospels; and the books
of the Pentateuch.
Grade 2-The 12 disciples’ names; Isaiah 53:6; the books of the New
Grade 3-The Ten Commandments; Psalm 23; the books of the Old
Grade 4-Matthew 28:19-20; the “Roman Road”; and 1 John 1:9.
Grade 5-The Lord’s Prayer; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:37-40.
Grade 6-The Beatitudes; Ephesians 6:13-17; Galatians 5:22-23.
All Grades — Follow weekly lessons and learn about life, church,
family, relationships. Grades 5 and 6 will deal with drugs,
alcohol, and puberty.
All Grades — God and Jesus are perfect and holy; we are all
sinners; the blood sacrifice is the remission for our sins — Jesus
was the sacrifice; the concept of heaven and hell; the goal to be
Christ-like; and church ordinances.