Use these 17 steps that’ll make families want to return to your church. You’ll make your ministry sticky for kids and their families — so they’ll keep coming back!
When it comes to ministry, we all want kids to stick around so we can lead them to faith in Jesus. So how do we do it—especially when it’s a challenge to keep kids coming back so we have the opportunity to minister to them?
The answer isn’t as tricky as it might seem. In fact, it’s not tricky—it’s sticky. The key is to create a Sunday-morning “glue” that pulls kids—and their families—back week after week by strategically adding adhesive to every part of your Sunday schedule. Get ready to make your ministry sticky with these 17 ideas!
1. Pick a Name With Punch!
First impressions go a long way in how sticky your ministry is. Consider what your ministry’s name says about your ministry. Do you simply call it “Sunday School”? Let’s face it: Most kids aren’t attracted by something that has “school” in the its name. (And even if you have a catchy name, they’re not going to want to come if it feels like school, either.) Consider selecting a name that reflects the a fun, active learning kids will experience on a Sunday morning at your church.
Consider these names: Kidz Club, HighCalling, Journey With Jesus, Power Hour, Spiritual Kidz Adventures, Bible Adventure, Great Adventures, Kids of the Kingdom, Faith Exploration, Sunday Morning Live, The Vineyard Playhouse, or Kidventure
2. Sweeten Your Brand
If your ministry doesn’t already have a logo or tag line, work with your key leaders to develop one. Just like Toyota or McDonald’s, you need to send a clear, consistent message that the your children’s ministry is “moving forward” and that you’re “lovin’ it.”
Once you’ve established a simple, memorable tag line, consider how you can get the word out about the benefits of your ministry. If you distribute fliers or do a community mailing, make sure to bullet point all your ministry’s benefits.
3. Get a Mascot
Sports teams have mascots, why can’t you? Take a trip to your local fabric toy store and look for oversized, stuffed-animal candidate. Dream about your Kids’ Club Koala or Great Adventures Superhero, or go as far as having a handy volunteer sew a mascot costume and recruit another volunteer to play the part. Now your ministry mascot is ready to welcome kids on Sunday, visit them in the hospital, and spice up church picnics. Mascots help brand your ministry and create a sense of belonging, kid-friendliness, and humor. It’s a great job for an outgoing teenager!
4. Send Invitations
It’s pretty simple: New kids won’t visit your ministry if they don’t feel invited. So send them invitations! Here are three easy ideas, all available for free download.
- Come Grow With Us Hand-deliver these with a flower, such as a pansy, to invite kids from your church neighborhood.
- Easy Invites Let kids personalize these invitations to invite their friends.
- Sweet & Simple Just add a lollipop to make a sweet— and— sticky invitation!
5. Show the Way
From the moment new families pull into your parking lot, you can welcome them. Reserve visitor guest parking close to the children’s area and main entrance. Hang signs outside your building to help newbies navigate. Have gregarious greeters out in the parking lot to direct visitors guests to the appropriate entrance, where children’s ministry greeters can take over to personally guide the visitors to register and to the correct children’s ministry classroom.
6. Put New Parents at Ease
Newer parents especially may find it especially hard difficult to leave their children in the strangers’ care of strangers. Post pictures of your children’s ministry staff and lead volunteers in a central area, along with their names and brief biographies. Encourage your team to be available to greet and chat with arriving and departing parents. Parents will feel more comfortable when they can put a name with a face and know a little bit about those who’s caring for their kids.
7. Provide Goody Bags
Kids will love getting a special welcome gift. As parents complete registration cards or forms, let kids choose a goody from a basket of toys. Or pre-assemble goody bags with some nut-free candy, stickers, and other fun items. Get your regular kids involved by inviting them to donate gently used toys to the cause.
You can have all the friendly, adult greeters in the world, but visiting kids won’t feel truly welcome until they make friends their own age. Teach your regular kids to reach out to guests. Consider hand-selecting the most outgoing, invested kids in your ministry and training them to be a “welcome wagon.” They won’t be the ones standing at the door greeting, but they’ll look for kids who look new or lonely and befriending them. Equip your kids with these easy conversation-starters.
Use these great conversation starters
- “Welcome to Bible Adventure! My name is…”
- “Hi! I’m… What school do you go to?”
- “Want to come meet my friends?…”
- “Would you like to sit by me?.”
- “What kind of things do you enjoy?”
- “Tell me about your family.”
- “Would you like to be my partner for this activity?”
- “Will you play this game with me?”
- “I hope I get to see you next week!”
9. Pray With Guests—If They Want
Parents especially will appreciate someone praying for their family as they come to your church. Don’t force it, though. Your first priority is to make families feel welcome and comfortable. Then offer prayer, saying something like, “Would you like me to pray with your family?” It may be out of the comfort zone for some people, and the last thing you want to do is scare them off! Consider having a few volunteers just to be “prayer greeters” who can pray not just with visitors, but with any family who’d like it. That way, visitors won’t feel singled out.
10. Send in the Spies
Find a few willing friends in your community who don’t attend your church and ask them to visit your church. Enlist them to visit your ministry one Sunday and offer you feedback on how welcomed they felt. Click here for a free downloadable assessment you can give your friendly spies.
11. Have Special Sundays
Consider having a special program one Sunday each quarter that encourages kids to invite their friends. Special events are great, but ones those that can fit into your normal Sunday programming help encourage kids to want to come back during that time slot. Here are a few Sticky Special Sunday program ideas.
- Wild Day Challenge —Rent inflatables such as bounce houses and slides, provide a special snack, and have carnival-style games set up. Have the sole intention that your kids have a blast!
- Friendship Sunday —Celebrate friendship! Let kids know in advance they’ll want to bring friends for a special celebration to share with them. On Friendship Sunday, have kids make friendship pins to exchange by stringing tiny beads on safety pins. Explore friends in the Bible, play friendship-building games, and talk about what it means to be Jesus’ friend.
- Double Day —Challenge each child to bring just one friend and dress like twins for Double Day. If every child in your ministry brings a friend, you’ll double your ministry. Serve doubly delicious treats such as DoubleStuf Oreo cookies and share about great duos in history (Ethel and Lucy , Batman and Robin). Then talk about what it mean, “when two or more are gathered” and other doubly interesting Bible points!
12. Guide Them Out
After church, have greeters available to help visitors find their way out. Most churches do a good job welcoming guests, but it’s equally important to offer personal contact as guests leave, too. Train your team of greeters to be just as friendly, conversational, and helpful to guests at the end of the service times as they are at the beginning.
13. Follow Up With Families
Your congregation probably includes people who’d never feel comfortable leading a group of kids—but they’d love to reach out to families during the week. Tap into those talents! Your regular Sunday volunteers probably have enough on their plate. By recruiting a team just for follow-up, you can bring new energy and dedication to connecting with kids. This team can handwrite invitations for guests to return, or call or visit the families to thank them for coming and let them know about great events your church has coming up.
Share these tips with your follow-up team for successful visits.
- Just be your friendly self and follow these tips.
- Call ahead to ensure that you’re visiting at a good time for the family.
- Never go alone when visiting a child’s home. Include another adult or two or three children from your ministry.
- Keep it brief (no more than five or 10 minutes) and fun when you make a home visit.
- Don’t assume people want you to come inside. In fact, keep the pressure off the family by letting them know you won’t stay long or come inside.
- Don’t arrive empty-handed. Bring a pre-wrapped snack to share, a ball for a quick game on the front lawn, and brochures or fliers about your ministry and upcoming events.
- Thank the family for letting you stop by and invite them to come back to church the following weekend.
- Make a point to greet and chat with the family whenever you see them back at church or in the community.
14. Use Snail Mail Effectively—It Still Works
Have your kids create and mail personalized postcards to guests the week following their visit. Simply purchase blank postcards at an office supply store and keep them in your ministry. Whenever a guest attends your ministry, ask a regular attender (maybe from your Welcome Wagon group) to illustrate a postcard and then write a personalized note inviting the child to return soon, and sign his or her first name. Complete and mail the postcard within one week of the child’s visit.
15. Connect Kids
Make your follow-up more personal by strategically connecting kids who may know each other.
- School Connection: Have children already involved in your ministry who attend the same school be the ones who extend an invitation to children to return to your church.
- Extracurricular Connection: Ask regularly attending families if they recognize guests’ names as kids who are involved in sports, music, or a club they’re also involved in. Use this connection to encourage families to connect with these kids and their families as they wait during practice or at a related competition or event.
- Neighborhood Connection: Ask church families who live near your guests to make follow-up visits. Find families willing to invite the guests to drop by their home if they want information about the church or would like their family to attend a service with them together on the weekend.
16. Welcome Feedback
Ask parents for their input—even parents who are first-time guests. Consider a printed or online survey asking parents to give feedback from their first experience. When completed, parents can return the survey for a free gift—ideally, something with your church logo printed on it— on their next visit. This idea will help you continuously improve guests’ experiences at your church and opens the door to call and connect with families about their visit.
17. Use Social Networking
Start a Facebook page for your children’s ministry parents. Post the name of your Facebook page on a brochure for visitors, encouraging them to “like” it. When they do, you’ll have an easy way to follow-up and connect them with other parents from your church. Building relationships online is a great way to establish a connection with guests in a non-threatening, easy way.
Ali Thompson is a preteen ministry volunteer at her church and an editor for Group. She’s the author of the popular Wildly Creative Puzzles With a Point.
Looking for more ideas for families? Check out these articles!