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One Size Doesn't Fit All

RaNae Street and Christine McKee

What place do bike clubs, karaoke, and hiking have in children's ministry? Front and center at Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio! Find out what this dynamic ministry is doing to tailor-make ministry that interests kids.

How many mornings do you look in your closet and can't decide what to wear? You stand there with the door open, looking at all your choices, but you still can't decide what to put on. You're sick of the clothes you own. Maybe they're faded, fit a little too snug for comfort, or they're "all the rage" -- from three years ago.

When was the last time you looked at your ministry the same way you often look at your closet? Even though my closet has three racks full of clothes in all colors, shapes, and sizes, I still have difficulty deciding what to wear most mornings.

I often wonder if that's how kids feel when they come to church. Kids come with varying interests, talents, and abilities. Do they often look at our closet of program choices and have a hard time deciding what to attend? Are we asking children in our churches to try on or wear programs that no longer fit or are outdated?

One size just doesn't fit all. As children's ministers, we've discovered these ways to stay current with the latest trends so we can tailor ministry opportunities that perfectly target the interests and needs of kids.

CREATE INTENTIONAL MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES
Creating intentional ministry opportunities is just like selecting an appropriate outfit to suit the occasion. Kids need choices -- lots of choices -- so expand their closet of options.

Our culture has saturated children with clubs, activities, practices, and camps. Kids' weekly schedules are packed after school, in the evenings, and on weekends. Why would kids add one more event to their overloaded calendars or choose a church activity instead?

Kids will come to different classes and programs if they find one that fits and is relevant to their interests. Getting to know kids' needs and interests is vital to a ministry's success.

To accomplish this in our church, we're avid kid watchers. We spend time hanging out with small groups of kids, playing video games, listening to music, and window shopping where kids spend their money. Most important, we ask kids what they like, allowing us to better provide the children in our church and community with classes, events, and ongoing ministry programs that fit their specific interests and needs. We're not competing with the community and school organizations but instead being intentional in expanding ministry opportunities and maximizing our resources.

Targeting interests isn't enough in designing ministry. You must also learn to anticipate and react to the felt needs of the kids and their families. "I needed clothes and you clothed me," Jesus said in Matthew 25:36. Many times children in your church community will become aware of a need before you do. Ask kids to actively participate in designing ministry by expressing concerns they or their peers may have. Ministry will always be relevant if you're in touch with the needs of the kids in your community. How are you researching your kids' interests and targeting their needs?

BUILD MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS
From the day infants are born, they possess the deep need to connect with those who love them. This desire to connect doesn't change as they outgrow their clothes. In fact, children need relationships with their peers, with adults, and most important, with God. It's through the incredible power of relationships that children develop self-esteem, friendships, leadership skills, and the foundation for spiritual growth.

Relationships take time to develop, but the rewards are worth every minute spent. While planning ministry opportunities, we design safe, comfortable environments and activities that encourage kids to risk sharing their struggles, concerns, and joys. Such experiences further develop a child's self-worth, problem solving, and support network of friends. We want kids to find the right outfit or group and benefit from meaningful relationships.

Relational ministries depend on committed and accessible leaders who live their faith and are willing to invest in kids long term. Additionally, leaders must assist in facilitating small groups and guiding children to find the right fit. We require all our leaders to get to know each child by name and be able to lead children into a personal relationship with Jesus. John 10:3 emphasizes this principle: "The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."

Is your ministry providing carefully constructed activities that encourage the development of meaningful relationships?

ACCESSORIZE
No outfit is ever complete without a splash of color and the right accessories. Make sure your ministry is kid-friendly. Offering experiences that are active and interactive, messy, loud, and energetic leaves kids wanting more. When kids learn to expect the unexpected at church events, they're motivated to invite their friends to experience the excitement. Many children's organizations have recognized the power of incorporating games, themes, costumes, music, and drama. Adding these elements to your ministry will enhance biblical teaching and ensure that all children and leaders are actively engaged and participating.

How are you accessorizing your ministry so kids want to return again and again?

GROW THROUGH DISCIPLESHIP
Romans 13:14 says to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ." Discipleship is the most important piece of your programming and one that no secular organization or entity can provide.

Kids grow in their faith when they experience a personal relationship with Jesus. Not only should your programming mirror Jesus but the children attending should also be a reflection of Jesus so their peers will see what it means to be a follower of Christ. Discipleship opportunities are incorporated in everything our ministry offers. Prayer, reading Scripture, and sharing faith stories are essential components of every program. Keeping a balance between biblical teaching and opportunities for kids to practice their faith through real-life scenarios develops skills for daily living. Are you balancing biblical teaching with life application skills in your ministry?

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