Children’s Ministry Programs: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Published: July 8, 2020
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 Are we asking children in our churches to try on or wear programs that no longer fit or are outdated?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 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 small groups and guide 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: “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?
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?
Design Ministry That Fits
Assess your wardrobe. Begin the redesign process by evaluating your current programs, classes, and events. Are you recycling the old and faded programs to fit today’s kids? It just may be time to clean out your closet and discard the programs that once fit or have become outdated. It’s okay to pack up programs that were once very successful and purposeful if they don’t fit your kids anymore.
Remember the spiritual garment tip from Jesus in Mark 2:21: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
Think outside your closet.
Try new ideas by moving beyond traditional Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and midweek programming. Ideas are endless and change constantly — just like the kids you serve. Make whatever you offer unique to your church and you’ll set your ministry apart from others.
Mix and match your wardrobe.
Try new styles, colors, and sizes. Offer programming different nights of the week or different times of the day. Create a new room arrangement, or move the event off your church campus. Consider recruiting new leaders or rearranging your leadership to work with different age groups.
Involve kids in the planning.
Ownership in a class, program, or event proves it’ll be successful. Kids know what they like and what will and won’t work with their peers. Trust and value their input.
Shop for bargains.
Research your community’s resources. Local businesses or other nonprofit organizations may be willing to share or provide materials, talents, and ideas.
Publicize your ministry.
Bulletins and newsletters aren’t your only source for informing families about a new opportunity. Consider using newspaper press releases, live radio spots, personal invitations, walking billboards, phone trees, and the Internet. Business owners within our congregation are willing to post information on their store windows and employee bulletin boards. The most effective marketing strategy is to encourage kids to invite their friends.
Iron out the wrinkles.
If a program is worth hosting, it’s worth executing with excellence. Prepare your leadership team with a detailed ministry plan. Ask the important questions and allow enough time to turn the idea into a reality. After the event, evaluate it honestly so you’ll know what to adjust next time.
Closely examining your ministry’s closet of opportunities allows you to see what fits and what needs to be replaced or added. Research what your kids enjoy, and invite them to plan events and activities with your leadership team. Being mindful of the kids you serve and your community’s needs will further enhance and expand the outreach of your ministry and allow you to have something for everyone to wear.
Ideas of Interest
Try these ideas for a ministry update.
Karaoke Night at the Snack Shack
Host a hangout where kids can eat their favorite snacks such as hot dogs, nachos, snow cones, or pizza. Provide a stage, lighting, and a sound system for kids to sing praise and worship songs with their friends.
Outdoor Bike-In Movie Theater
Some activities are timeless and never lose their appeal. Invite the community to share the fun of outdoor movie theaters. Encourage families to bring blankets to sit on; sell popcorn and soft drinks as you show the movie on the side of your church building or on four white sheets sewn together and hung between trees.
Collectors Road Show
Set up booths or tables where kids can showcase and discuss their favorite collections. Kids collect all sorts of things such as stamps, cards, cars, and dolls to name just a few.
This ministry allows kids to express their creativity through art projects. Consider setting up a store to sell the crafts and earn money to support another ministry. Tithe the profits.
Special Interest Groups
Photography, writing and book publication, pet parades, reading circles, and bike clubs are just a few activities kids will love.
Web Design and Multimedia Classes
Our kids are part of the Web generation and possess technical skills far beyond those of many adults. Encourage leaders to develop a Web and media ministry with basic classes that support your church’s children’s ministry online.
Kids need safe places to express their feelings and learn how to deal with life situations. Some groups you may consider are Kids of Divorce, Dealing with Emotions, Peer Pressure, New Kid on the Block, Conflict Resolution, or Grief and Illness.
Kids are looking for ways to become active in missions, and when on mission children can change the world around them. Include several levels of involvement so everyone can participate. Look for service projects within your church, community, and state.
Encourage families to spend time together and spotlight your ministry by bringing in special guest musicians, comedians, or illusionists. Invite the community for these fun-filled events.
Drama, clowning, music, puppetry, drawing, painting, and pottery are all ministries kids enjoy. Allow kids the creative freedom to express their feelings, explore biblical concepts, and apply truth to their lives.
Individual and team sports offer kids physical fitness, strength, and endurance as they grow spiritually fit. Skills camps, recreation leagues, and intramural games are some of the regulars. Expand and hold your own Olympics, open a skate park, or design an on-site miniature golf course.
RaNae Street and Christine McKee are former directors of children’s ministry at Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio.
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