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On-Track Children's Church

Rick Chromey

If your children's church is just sputtering along or if it's simply derailed because disinterested kids are sitting in the regular church service, it's time to switch tracks. Hitch a ride on the children's church train!

Successful children's church programming lies not in a curriculum but in a commitment to these principles:

*Be personal. Don't borrow too much from other programs. What works in First Church may bomb in Second Church. So emphasize the strengths of your congregation within your children's church.

*Plan ahead. Nail down the purpose for your program. Why does your congregation need a children's church? Where do you want to go? What type of children's church will be offered? Will it be self-contained, extended sessions, or a snack 'n' game hour?

A stated purpose defines a program. Test all curriculum, methods, and materials against your overall objectives.

*Provide consistent leadership. Volunteer turnover will weaken even the best children's church. Therefore, avoid three types of volunteers: adults who consider children's church an opportunity to skip adult worship (especially prominent in self-contained programs), adults who desire control through personal agendas or doctrine (prevalent in smaller churches), and adults who think children's church is a ticket to be a kid again. Look for FAT volunteers: faithful, available and teachable.

*Make it active. Kids learn differently than adults. And they think differently. In kids' minds, the world is incredibly concrete, and experience is the best educator. Effective education is active and encourages children to participate through their five senses.

*Unleash kids' gifts. Let's erase a myth. Kids are the "church of tomorrow" and the "church of today." Showcase children's gifts. The maxim is simple: If an adult is doing it, teach a kid to become it. No matter the task or job. Today's bully may be tomorrow's Billy...Graham!

*Worship is a verb. Incorporate the worship traditions of your church. One aim of children's church is to prepare children for adult worship. Add creative touches to church traditions such as offerings and communion services.

Another aim is to make worship meaningful for children. Sing praise songs and popular children's songs, mixing contemporary and traditional. And involve kids in creative worship expressions-hand clapping and finger snapping, back rubs and handshakes, arm waves and leg marches.

*We are family. Most children today are looking for a place to belong. Children's church can be that place. Construct worship experiences to be a haven for children. Speak every child's name in a positive way. Use appropriate touch-whether a hug or "high five." Incorporate personal sharing into prayer times. Celebrate individuals and special abilities.

*Predictability kills. Tradition is a wonderful thing, but it can be deadly. And a children's church without variety is missing only a tombstone.

Naturally, variety exists within a framework; it doesn't suggest chaos. Children's church is similar to an undressed mannequin; it has a frame, but it needs different dresses. Avoid using the same method or learning activity twice in the same month, including videos. Rather, create new twists on old tricks.

*Disciple instead of discipline. Kids will act up. It's in their nature. The key is to view discipline as discipleship. Discipleship views the long term, not just the immediate irritation.

Ensure a successful children's church by instilling positive behavioral guidelines-ahead of time. Then involve problem children rather than separating them from the group. Build relationships with children beyond the church. Discipline by discipling.


Rick Chromey is a Bible college teacher in Idaho. He leads workshops on children's church.

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