What Children’s Ministry Can Teach Grown-up Church

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KidchurchAs they filed out of church, several adults slapped
the children’s minister on the back and said the same thing: “I got
more out of that children’s message than I did out of the rest of
the service.”

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Note to staff: They meant it.

The more I’m around children at church the more I believe
they have a lot to teach us grown-ups about worship. And learning.
And believing.

Last week as I observed children worship at a field test
for one of Group Publishing’s vacation Bible school experiences, I
noted five ways children’s ministry can inform and inspire
us.

1. Keep it simple. Effective
messages and lessons for children do not overcomplicate. They don’t
attempt to make multiple points. They make one point. And they make
it clearly–without flowery language or theological hair-splitting.
People of all ages crave God’s simple truth. They love a message
they can understand, sum up in a sentence–and remember long after
they leave the service.

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2. Make it visual.
Successful children’s messages frequently use props,
pictures, costumes and other visuals. Why? Because most
people–children and adults–are visual learners. They learn and
retain through what they see. Jesus, the master teacher, made
powerful use of visuals–with fish, bread, mud, water, wine, and
little children.

3. Welcome questions. As
kids process a captivating message, they naturally tend to
interact, and ask questions. Good children’s ministers take their
questions and involve them in the discovery process. Adults have
questions too. Accepting and interacting with questions helps to
clarify a message, clear up misunderstanding, and involve the
people in the process of learning and growing.

4. Make it brief. Effective
children’s messages and lessons are short, or divided up into short
chunks. Everybody knows kids’ attention spans are short. But not
everybody realizes that adult attention spans are also short.
Research continues to confirm that effective communication for
adults is best delivered in short (under 10-minute) chunks. A
30-minute talking head is mostly a waste of time, regardless of the
speaker’s charm.

5. Praise God. Not the band.
Kids thrive off the communal energy of singing and praising God
together. It’s a participatory thing, not a spectator thing. Last
week, whenever it was time to sing, the kids poured out of the pews
and rushed the front. There they sang and swayed in heartfelt
worship. Their spirit was contagious for the rest of us. Imagine if
that scene would be repeated in “big church,” with people of all
ages crowding the front of the sanctuary in song. The focus would
shift from watching hired music professionals to joining in
communal worship.

Maybe it’s time to hire a bunch of pint-sized consultants
to show us how to reclaim a Jesus-inspired expression of childlike
faith.

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About Author

Thom Schultz

Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today’s church.

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