Money isn’t everything, but support is! Here’s how to earn more support for your children’s ministry.
Unless your church supports your program enthusiastically, how will you support the spiritual lives of children?
You didn’t come to children’s ministry seeking fame and fortune. We know you’re not in it for the applause. But unless your church supports your program enthusiastically, how will you support the spiritual lives of children? Children’s ministry isn’t a one-man-show; success depends on your ability to draw others to active roles. For the most part, an atmosphere of support builds up over the long run. It’s an effect of earned trust and what one children’s minister describes as “one-on-one, side-by-side stuff.”
Want to pick up the pace a bit? Consider these ideas to coax your pastor, parents, and church members out from behind the scenes.
Senior pastors come in varying degrees of commitment and awareness when it comes to children’s ministry. Even supportive pastors may resist taking center stage to reinforce announcements, publicize needs, or put in an appearance. Your senior pastor’s philosophy may be “I have you on staff to do these things, and I expect you to do them.” Many pastors forget how much weight their words and presence can carry. What can encourage your pastor’s participation?
Linda Snyder, a director of children’s and youth ministries in Georgia, advises against expecting continual hands-on help from your pastor, who may already be pulled in a zillion different directions. “Help define clearly for him the times that his presence really is important and why it’s important,” says Snyder.
Be vocal about your pastor’s gifts. “If you’re having a difficult working relationship with a pastor, then you find something that’s good,” says Snyder, “that’s what you focus on, and that’s what you say to others.”
Be relentless in presenting your ministry’s accomplishments and needs. At a minimum, keep your pastor informed through a monthly report, either at staff meetings or in writing. Include prayer requests for people or situations you’re concerned about. Snyder gives her pastor a copy of every flier and letter she sends out. She lets him know when there’s a family in crisis, so he can reach out. Keeping your pastor informed also expresses your support-“If we know things he doesn’t know, then he gets caught with his foot in his mouth,” explains Snyder.
Judy Basye, a children’s minister in California, invites her pastor to open or close every major event. “I build him into every program I do, which has built a great rapport,” says Basye. “We had vacation Bible school, and every single pastor on staff did something. I just gave them jobs—Okay, you’re going to be David; you’re going to be Goliath…’ We’re part of a team, so let’s be a team! But then there’s the flip side—I also need to be a part of whatever they’re doing.”
Most children’s ministers #1 struggle isn’t with involving the senior pastor; it’s with getting enough volunteers. The greater the number of children in your church, the more volunteers you need. But you’re drawing from a pool of people who are already overworked and overtired.
Mary Beth Foye, a Christian education director in Texas, turned things around in her church with this script she wrote to attract Sunday school teachers:
Church members suggest people who possess the gifts and grace for teaching Sunday school. Foye and the education committee add to the list and decide who’d be the best teachers for each age level.
The education committee calls these people and invites them to visit personally about this ministry opportunity.
Foye tells nominees about the basic responsibilities and gives them a Sunday school handbook that includes a job description. She tells them what they can expect from the church and how they can expect to grow in their faith. She gives them lists of substitute Sunday school teachers and teacher enrichment workshops.
“We stress how important this ministry is and that we believe they possess the gifts to be good,” says Foye. “I’ve found that you have more success finding people to teach Sunday school this way, as opposed to just calling them over the phone and saying, Oh, by the way, will you teach Sunday school next year?’ ”
You need more than Sunday school teachers, of course, in your supporting cast. Creating a hit for children’s ministry takes a whole church effort. Build audience participation by keeping children and children’s ministry in the limelight. Besides bulletin boards, newsletters, and word-of-mouth, here are a few bright ideas to inspire you.
Have children join adults in greeting people and handing out bulletins. “By making children visible, you communicate to people that children are important to this church,” says Foye. “I think that means a lot to people; they’re more willing to give of their time and their gifts.”
Worship service players
Susan Flaws, a director of children’s ministry in Florida, recently had the children in her church dramatize the pastor’s Sunday sermon. The children dressed in biblical costumes and formed a living timeline across the front of the church.
Thomas Sanders, a minister of childhood education in Texas, stole the show during a Mother’s Day worship service by having three six-passenger strollers wheeled into church. The 18 babies on board played up the need for more volunteers. “We didn’t get everyone we needed,” says Sanders, “but we got a big start that Sunday.”
Publicizing kids’ service projects produces the most positive reviews for Snyder’s children’s ministry. Showing the children practicing servanthood changes perceptions. That’s why Snyder includes regular reports on the children’s visits in the column she writes for the church newsletter. “The congregation falls in love with the children,” says Snyder. “I think that’s the message that needs to be given to the congregation-that children’s ministry is fun, but it’s also vital.”
Make it easy for church members to get information about your ministry. To highlight her children’s ministry, Basye set up a “lemonade stand.” People stop by after church every Sunday to talk or pick up handouts-and sometimes there’s even lemonade!
It’s taken a while, but children’s ministry has become a front-row-ministry—not a hidden ministry—at Basye’s church, “I think it’s happened through my staff and me just being excited and reminding everyone that children’s ministry is no more or less important than any other ministry,” says Basye. “We accomplish the same goal, bringing children to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
Kathleen Dieterich is a former editorial technician for Children’s Ministry Magazine.