If you only had one day. Picture of boy looking thoughtful.
Paradigms

If You Only Had One Day

What would you do if you only had one day in the year to do children’s ministry? What would you prioritize? Who would help? How would you do it?

If you only had one day in the year to disciple a child, would you continue doing what you’re doing? Would you take your annual curriculum and try to cram it all into one day? Would you continue the programs and activities you’re doing, yet try to do them all in twenty-four hours? Or would you rethink and replan everything?

One day. It’s not much. Anyone who knows anything about children’s faith formation would agree that it’s impossible to establish a child’s confidence or trust in God in only one day.

Yet most local churches persist (usually unknowingly) in trying to do it!

Yes, you read the last sentence correctly.

According to research by The Unstuck Group, ChurchLeaders, and the Barna Group, the average Christian child attends church 1.7 times a month. That’s 24 times a year!

The average Christian child attends church 1.7 times a month. That's 24 times a year! Click To Tweet

Stated slightly differently: If a child attends a one-hour Sunday School or Kid’s Church event twenty-four times a year, then the local church has one day to connect the child with Jesus and His Word. Maybe less. Larry Fowler, the founder of the Legacy Coalition, says, “In most churches, they have a child under their teaching for fifteen to eighteen hours per year … the average eight-year-old gets as much media time in two days as they get in church in one year.”

Implications

With only one day in the year to do children’s ministry, the considerations and consequences are HUGE!

Now that we know we only have one day a year, failure to recognize or acknowledge this reality would be a disaster. Accepting the status quo isn’t an option. We must renew children’s ministry – urgently! Our legacy demands it. But more importantly, God wants it. I don’t say that lightly. Every child matters to God. He doesn’t want a single person “to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.

Of course, nothing much will happen if, like ostriches, we stick our heads in the sand. We must be brutally honest. We can’t kid ourselves that what we’re doing is good enough. McDonald’s makes hamburgers, Nestle makes chocolate, and what do Sunday Schools make? Well, they don’t make disciples! Twenty-four hours a year of games, singing, crafts, teaching, praying, and other activities is simply not enough time to cultivate resilient faith in a child.

Twenty-four hours a year of games, singing, crafts, teaching, praying, and other activities don't cultivate resilient faith in a child. Click To Tweet

So, what do we need to do, and how do we do it?

Next steps

Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Here then, are three simple next steps:

1. Teach parents and grandparents how to nurture children’s faith formation. Children’s ministry should be BIG on family ministry. The average parent has 3,000 hours a year with their children. The potential of three thousand hours versus twenty-four hours is staggering. So without a micro-second of hesitation, we should agree that a significant component of children’s ministry is to equip and encourage parents and grandparents (or legal guardians) to nurture children’s faith formation.

2. Bring all generations together to worship, learn, share and serve. Children’s faith formation is significantly enhanced when they live out being the body of Christ with each other and the entire congregation. All age groups mutually committed to the church’s mission shouldn’t be the exception; it should be the norm. Intergenerational ministry should, therefore, be the dominant approach in the core activities of a local church.

Children's faith formation is significantly enhanced when they live out being the body of Christ with each other and the entire congregation. Click To Tweet

3. Discuss the issues. Family Time trainer and advocate Kirk Weaver says, “There is an alignment problem between God’s plan for passing the faith to our children and how the institutional church seeks to pass the faith to children.” Don’t let children’s ministry shortcomings be the elephant in the room. Talk about the challenges. If you read this article and do nothing, you perpetuate the problem. Children need the Lord. We (teachers, pastors, parents, and volunteers) must deliberate and discern how to improve the efficiency and long-term impact of children’s ministry. So, review existing methodologies and approaches. Reconsider everything. And if you’re not doing it, formulate a new plan to do intergenerational ministry and teach parents how to nurture their children’s faith formation.

Do it!

When I asked ChatGPT to suggest titles for this article, it suggested the following:

  • “Maximizing One Day: Rethinking Children’s Ministry for Lasting Impact”
  • “From 24 Hours to Eternal Impact: Revolutionizing Children’s Ministry”
  • “Unleashing Potential: A New Vision for Children’s Discipleship”
  • “One Day, One Purpose: Reframing Children’s Ministry for Lasting Faith”
  • “A Day of Impact: Revolutionizing Children’s Ministry for the Future”

Artificial intelligence seems to get it! It recognizes the need for rethinking, reframing and revolutionizing children’s ministry. But do we get it? With only twenty-four hours a year available for in-person interactions with a child, will we revise and restructure how we do children’s ministry? Will churches shift their ministry emphasis to training parents and grandparents to disciple children? They should. Parents and grandparents, regardless of their capacity or confidence, usually want to be better parents and grandparents.

What happens @home is more significant than what happens @church. On another note, what happens @church significantly impacts what happens @home. So, let’s focus on resourcing and inspiring parents and grandparents to nurture children’s faith. For the greatest potential to adequately disciple children is best realized in families.

Related Articles

Developing a New Plan for Children’s Ministry

Becoming Intergenerational

Two-Minute Training Video

How can we help families grow in faith?

© Scripture Union, 2023

2 Corinthians 4:5

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