A New Direction for Our Children’s Ministry
Written by Dave Keun, Assistant Minister, Norwest Anglican Church
What is the trajectory of your children’s ministry? What do you want your children’s ministry to look like? These are big questions that I hope all churches are thinking through. The following is the story of how we have worked through the process of shaping the direction of children’s ministry in a positive way. I am by no means an expert on all of this but I do hope the following story is helpful for some.
Back in 2008 we started to make some changes to our Sunday morning children’s ministry. The changes were put forward at a meeting for all those interested in ministry to children. Below are the broad areas we worked through:
1. RESOURCING LEADERS
Previously we had resourced the ministry to children from within our morning service with parents committed to being on for a term at a time. This was not ideal; parents were missing out on regular Bible teaching for a term a year and, as numbers dwindled, some parents volunteered for even more. This was an unhealthy direction for both the leaders volunteering and the 9.30 service as a whole. Some of the most ministry minded people with servant hearts were not regularly sitting under and corporately hearing the word of God taught.
It was clear, to me at least, as the pastor of the evening congregation, that there were people who could resource the children’s ministry. I began to formulate a list of potential people from the evening service to approach. But before I spoke to them I wrote down what my expectations of them would be and aligned it alongside that of the youth leaders, which was a high expectation of commitment. This has had the effect of helping to align the philosophy of ministry across children’s and youth ministry. The thinking behind this was to help ease transition times which are natural areas to lose families and kids.
We had been using the ‘Oasis’ program but the kids and leaders had become tired of it so it was time to rethink this vital aspect and have used a number of online resources over the last year. I also encouraged each team to strive to write new material for one of the four terms. This is a scary step for the leaders but a healthy trajectory because the people that know the kids are the leaders and can tailor a program that best suits the children in front of them.
With the volume, extent and direction of the changes proposed it was suggested to me that children’s ministry should move from having lay oversight to falling specifically to a staff member. Since I was proposing change it was an addition to my job description. The person running it for the last 8 years was also keen for a change so the timing was right.
Perhaps the most important direction was a move towards an established team ministry. I tried to have a structure that incorporated a team leader with a group of leaders working alongside them to make Sunday mornings an engaging and biblical experience. I specifically aimed for a higher ratio of leaders than we needed so we would be ready for growth and not playing catch up on structures and resources if and when it happened. I asked potential people for a one-year commitment to the ministry so that the kids and parents would know who would be there each and every Sunday. This would specifically help to achieve the goal of developing, nurturing and sharing the faith of the children.
Building a culture of team ministry has numerous benefits:
- There is great strength in numbers
- Reduces the chances of leader burn-out
- Different kids relate better with different leaders
- Relationships develop as leaders get to know kids and vice versa.
The staff were also strongly committed to training the leaders for the task. It was never going to be a ‘sink or swim’ situation. Training involved committing to a weekend away at the start of the year as well as six two-hour blocks on various Sunday afternoons throughout the year. We developed a two-year program working through the key areas to be trained in, outlined below.
- Equipping for ministry (shop front ministry; small group ministry; one-to-one discipleship; programming; how to write a kids talk, bible study)
- Understanding the gospel (what the gospel is; communicating the gospel)
- Leadership (biblical leadership; sacrificial servanthood)
- Church (the what, why and who; how to do and be)
- Biblical theology (we spent half an hour each session going through the key points of the unfolding narrative of the bible and relating it to Jesus).
But please don’t read this as we have arrived – there is still plenty of work to be done. What is our current path? Here are some areas we are currently working on:
- Resourcing leaders and a program for crèche (this is actually our largest section of children’s ministry and the most under-resourced and least thought-out area of ministry)
- Reworking our divisions to create an extra group on a Sunday morning to more effectively teach
- The possibility of a family service once a term (this is more than a child-friendly service but one that is actually child-centred)
- Ongoing thinking and recruiting of new leaders from the evening service
- A school holiday program for church members
- A kids club.
There is a lot to think through with ministry to children but I hope these four broad areas and what we have done has given either some food for thought or some encouragement to move forward. It has taken us two and a half years to build and move the culture of this ministry and we are excited about the direction it has taken. So what is the trajectory of your ministry in this area?