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Innovative Non-Sunday Ministries

Chip Borgstadt

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 open.

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.

CARE-GIVING
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.

FOCUSED GROUPS
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 children.

SPECIAL EVENTS
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 production.
  • 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 a babysitter.


Chip Borgstadt is a youth minister in Nebraska.

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