Why won't kids flock to the church on Sundays anymore? They sure
will make a commitment to soccer during our church hour-every
Sunday without fail. It seems that too-busy parents and hurried
children don't want to connect with the church when our doors are
Well, maybe our doors aren't opening at the right times. Our world
is changing, and if the church wants to impact this generation for
Christ, then we must change, too.
A sign at St. Timothy's church in Omaha, Nebraska, summarized their
children's ministry's attitude: "Change is inevitable; progress is
optional." Besides the traditional Sunday morning classes, St.
Timothy's offers a family-oriented midweek program with a hot meal,
weekend kids clubs, and regular special children's ministry events.
St. Timothy's is among a growing number of congregations that view
changes in our society as opportunities for progress.
These churches don't fight the athletic events and commercial
endeavors that've crept into Sunday morning. Instead, they turn
their energies to identifying other times when children have needs
they can meet. Effective children's ministry programs match their
strengths and resources with children's needs to develop
multifaceted approaches. In various settings, they can reach many
children-and ultimately their families-with experiences of God's
love and a clear proclamation of the gospel.
By providing care in the following ministry-related settings,
churches serve families' practical needs.
- Church-sponsored child care is a safe place for kids to make
friends and learn about Jesus. (See "Starting a Daycare Program" on
page XX for specific guidance.) Offer more than basic care. Bring
in musicians, artists, and actors. Hold your own olympics. Tie into
the Bible each time for greater learning.
- Breakfast clubs or afternoon snack attacks meet practical needs
for latchkey kids. Along with a healthy morning meal or afternoon
snack buffet, provide interactive games so kids can learn about
each other and deepen friendships.
- Homework helpers can help kids feel good about themselves and
build relationships. With tutors on hand after school until 5:30,
kids can drop in or call for specific help. The homework helpers
can stock their rooms with school textbooks and even develop
friendships with several local school teachers.
Many congregations minister to groups with specific
interests or needs.
- Christian Kids Krew is a weekly after-school group that meets
in Palm City, Florida. It outgrew the leader's home when 72
children showed up one afternoon! At that point, they started
meeting at a local church and have even expanded to include a
second site in a nearby community. (See "A Growing Ministry.")
- Several innovative congregations have taken kids away from the
television and set them up front in the drama of the Bible. Good
News Bearers is an intergenerational approach that incorporates
high school mentors, fun dramas, and a bigger-than-life game where
kids share what they've learned. The program is adaptable to many
settings and uses active involvement to entice children into
learning about Bible characters. It's available through Educational
Media Corporation at 800-966-3382.
- Eastside Ministries of Fort Worth, Texas, provides services to
families with an emphasis on meeting children's needs. Children are
welcomed into a homey and comfortable play area. Eastside also
provides children's clothing, food, immunizations, and computer
training. In 1994, the ministry helped close to 1,400
Don't overlook the power of vacation Bible schools and
holiday pageants to minister to children.
- Offer a one-, two-, or three-day mini-camp for children over
Christmas or spring break. Use special themes such as Camp
Bethlehem to get into the Christmas story or The Gospel in Space to
build intrigue for missions in the future. Mini-camps offer these
advantages: extended time to build relationships, ability to focus
on a theme, and positive activities for kids when they're often
bored or alone.
- Hope Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas, handled their
fluctuating summer attendance creatively. Throughout June and July,
they worked on the musical O Me, O My, O Nehemiah!-complete with
costumes, staging, props, and choreography-and presented it to the
congregation in the fall. The more significant parts were assigned
to kids whose parents were able to make the commitment over the
summer. And, the church did provide an optional lesson and craft
time for kids who couldn't or didn't want to be involved in the
- East Hill Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, hosts a
creative summer day camp program. One week is Surfin' Safari,
another Sports of All Sorts. Costs are comparable to child care,
making these fun-filled and varied sessions a great alternative to
Chip Borgstadt is a youth minister in Nebraska.