“Add midweek children’s ministry? You’re kidding, right?” “Do you seriously think I have the time, energy, people, and resources to make this happen?” “Didn’t we stop doing Wednesday night services decades ago?” “I’m exhausted after our weekend services. How could I possibly run another program for kids and families during the week?” “For the sake of my own home and sanity, I’m drawing a line on this one. Before we talk about midweek anything, let’s start by making it through the weekend first!”
Sound familiar? If you haven’t had this conversation face to face with your church leadership, it’s probably rattled around in your head more than once. These are very real questions and concerns when it comes to conversations about offering midweek ministry. The tension between doing more to reach kids and striving for ministry sustainability is genuine. We have to ask whether midweek ministry is really worth it.
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As much as you dream of kids coming to know, love, and serve Jesus, the reality is there are plenty of distractions derailing this from happening. Media and extracurricular activities compete for everyone’s time and attention. Family life is fragmented and frenzied. Church calendars are at capacity and collection plates aren’t. The world is racing at an unbridled pace with people’s needs constantly on the rise. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but the current pace of change makes it difficult to navigate. It’s tempting to raise a white flag in surrender—but that’s not how we in children’s ministry are wired to respond.
“Things are changing so fast that no one seems able to keep up,” says Amy, a seasoned children’s ministry leader and mother of three. “It reminds me of days at the beach when our kids were small. They loved the ocean, but sometimes the waves came in so fast they’d be upended by one and couldn’t get back on their feet quickly enough to resist the next one. They loved the waves, too. But the relentlessness—not just the power—of the swells was just too much. A single wave would have been survivable, but they just kept coming and coming.”
Amy recognizes ministry realities and remains committed to forging a way through. She knows families are caught in the same cultural undercurrents as churches. She knows kids need more meaningful touch points than 60 to 90 minutes every other week at church, but family attendance patterns are what they are. Her leaders want to invest more, but they’re stretched thin. Amy, along with the broader children’s ministry community, needs encouragement and equipping to respond before the undertow pulls her away from her Godgiven mission to reach and disciple kids.
4 Steps to Maximize Midweek Ministry
To touch kids’ and families’ hearts deeply, we need renewed perspective and practical approaches to connect consistently with God and each other. We cultivate discipleship, worship, and ministry in followers of Jesus over time—not instantaneously. In the same way, churches can become longstanding relational communities. There are cultural realities that can hinder us from long-term effectiveness. And there are common myths about midweek ministry that can hold kids, parents, and leaders back from becoming a healthy church family.
Fact: The days of midweek church services are in the rearview mirror for many. Yet midweek ministry in various forms is happening all around in innovative and impactful ways. Kid-influencers need inspiring ideas to build upon those “in-between” moments outside their Sunday-only ministry models. To increase the number of outreach and discipleship touch points with kids and families, something needs to change Monday through Saturday.
If you’re up for a paradigm shift, you can take steps today to maximize midweek ministry in your setting.
1. Let Go of the Myths
People commonly assume that midweek ministry requires a highly structured program held in a church facility on Wednesday nights. From this starting point, there’s no guarantee that midweek ministry won’t burden your building (if you have one), your budget (if there’s any left), and your children’s ministry staff (whether paid or volunteer). Strategically it’s lose-lose from the word “go.” Beyond the myth that midweek ministry must be church building-based, here are four more myths that may be keeping you from maximizing “in between” opportunities.
It’s old school.
The outreach and Bible club movements that started in the 1950s have run their course. Times have changed. It’s time to move on.
Everyone’s too busy.
“We just don’t have time.” Kids, parents, and leaders seem content with once-per-week church activities with little margin in weekly schedules.
We can’t afford it.
Investing money and time is costly. Asking more people to step up to serve is too challenging. For midweek ministry to be worth it, we’d have to pay premium prices to plan and pull off high-quality experiences for kids and families.
It’s not a needed priority: “Where is everyone?”
Families vote with their feet and where they park their seats. If they really needed midweek ministry, they’d sign up, show up, and support it.
To counteract these myths, step back to see the entire picture. Maybe current or past approaches fell short of real desires and needs. Maybe the lack of compelling vision and committed leadership dragged effectiveness down. You need perspective on what will most honor God while serving kids and families best.
Stepping away from voices that speak these common myths is the simplest (and often hardest) step you can take to truly discern, “How does God want our ministry to reach kids and families in becoming lifelong disciples of Jesus? If time, money, or other obstacles were non-issues, what would we pursue for the sake of this and future generations’ faith?” Prayerfully asking this question with your Bible and journal in hand is step number one, even if God doesn’t call you to launch midweek ministry in some way.
2. Align Your Vision and Motivation
Whether moving forward with some form of midweek ministry is crystal clear or still in question, it’s important to land answers to questions such as “Is God calling us to commit to this? If so, why and how?” There are myriad outcomes and reasons for midweek ministry; just don’t add something simply because it’s the latest church trend. Stay true to your heart and the heartbeat of your ministry.
You may want your kids and families more deeply rooted in their faith. Increasing touch points with God’s Word and his people from one to two or three times per week can be life-changing. Maybe you value intergenerational interactions between kids and adults. Build relational bridges through simple means such as weekly community potlucks, family-led Bible studies in homes, or meet-ups at local events. Cultivating a heart for serving others is another great rationale for midweek ministry. Helping free children and families from competing priorities to relate, grow, serve, and worship requires strong vision and leadership. Before kicking off creative midweek ministry, you and those in your church and children’s ministry must get on the same strategic page for the eternal sake of kids and families.
Real “In-Between” Ideas to Impact Kids and Families
Open up your church to host art shows, music concerts, jam sessions, pottery classes, book clubs, and more. Piggyback on community-sponsored events to build relationships between kids and families in your ministry. Encourage families to regularly meet up for play dates or group bike rides at local parks. Partner with schools to provide tutoring and child care to serve families who don’t otherwise attend church functions. Challenge kids, parents, and leaders to show up for the extracurricular activities of one another, grab meals, or serve together.
3. Evaluate Your Context, Needs, Resources, and Options
Every church and ministry is unique. This includes where it’s located, who’s involved, what moves people’s hearts, and how it’s called by God to be in the world on his behalf. You could search the Internet or choose something off the shelf that sounds great, doesn’t cost too much, and that promises energetic leaders in abundance and families who love it. Or having looked for silver bullets before, you could assess your surrounding community and church family to discover distinct ways your midweek ministry might work best.
Context narrows the playing field of options. For example, starting a family surfing club isn’t a priority for churches in Wyoming. But a hunting and fishing ministry might be just the right idea! Remaining mindful of your location and passion areas as a ministry will highlight new possibilities for building upon “in-between” moments with kids and families. How important are the arts, drama, or music in your community? How could you come alongside schools or serve sports programs? The opportunities are endless, so consider the prevailing needs in your church and community in light of your available resources and viable options.
4. Start Somewhere
Effective midweek ministry is about doing children’s ministry differently, not doing more or doing it alone. It doesn’t have to eat up everyone’s time, cost lots of money, or make a mess of the church property. Once you’ve let go of myths, aligned your vision and motivation, and evaluated your context, needs, resources, and options, it’s time to start somewhere.
Imagine this scenario: There’s a church in a town with a playground. The playground is enjoyed by kids of all ages, and there are benches and grassy areas nearby. You discover that two crosstown families from church and one neighbor family meet there most Tuesday evenings. Sometimes they bring a picnic-style meal; other times they chip in to order pizza. Each week they talk about life, discuss a Bible passage, and pray for one another. While the adults keep talking, the older children play with the younger kids until it gets dark. Everyone packs up, heads home, and looks forward to seeing one another on Sunday and again the following Tuesday.
Are these local families just hanging out—or is it something more? This scenario has the makings of midweek ministry. And there’s no leader in charge, no volunteer scheduling, no budget to manage, no set up or teardown—and lots of meaningful touch points. This semi-impromptu gathering can spark more “in-between” moments to build upon. Let the church family be your hub for midweek ministry without the church staff or facility being the host. What popular hobbies and activities might bring together common interests? Where are families spending time weekly anyway? Can you meet there instead of at your church? Keep your heart toward heaven, your eyes open, and your ear to the ground. As God guides, take strategic steps to maximize midweek ministry.
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Dan Lovaglia is the director of leadership development at Awana. He is the co-author of The Gospel Truth About Children’s Ministry (Awana, July 2015) and Relational Children’s Ministry: Turning Kid-Influencers Into Lifelong Disciple Makers (Zondervan, Spring 2016).