The health of children’s ministry is generally poor or failing, and growth is stagnant or declining. So how is the health of children’s ministry restored and growth regenerated? Briefly stated (each point should be an article in itself), here’s how to renew children’s ministry:
Reimagine Bible engagement.
Connecting children intimately with God’s Word is essential for breathing new life into children’s ministry. Teach children the Scriptures, but most importantly, train them to personally receive, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word.
To birth and sustain the renewal of children’s ministry, prevail in prayer. Wait on the Lord before you work for the Lord. God knows what you need to do and how you’ll move to the next level, so ask Him and keep asking for His direction and guidance.
Reinstate the family.
Advocate for faith formation in the home. Equip and empower parents and grandparents to disciple their children and grandchildren. Do this by cultivating dialogue, training and resourcing families to center on Christ and His Word.
Children need to belong and be treated as full-image bearers of God. Help adults and children enter into shared-life relationships and do ministry together. Sunday worship services should include children and feel more like family dinners than formal banquets.
Share the Gospel message clearly and consistently by engaging in conversation more so than proclamation. When you invite children and parents to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Saviour (which you should do regularly), create spaces of belonging, not just welcoming.
Teaching or preaching isn’t discipleship. Nor is discipleship a program or course. Discipleship, while it requires information, is more about Christ-like transformation, and it happens when we connect and facilitate all age groups genuinely doing life and ministry together.
Release children to serve.
Children can and must serve. Cultivate children’s participation in the church’s mission by tapping into their interests, developing their skills, setting an example, inviting them to assist, inspiring them to help others, and maximizing the use of their gifts.
Prune your activities. To create space to try new things and give God more room to work, you must remove the programs, events, procedures or meetings that aren’t producing fruit (cf. John 15:1-17) or are hindering person-prioritized faith formation.
Reinvent the methodology.
Some systems and ways we do things in children’s ministry are outdated or ineffective. Be creative. A child’s faith formation should encompass their whole life. Implement practices and procedures that are more experiential, interactive and intergenerational.
Reengage in missions.
Send children out to speak about Jesus and do His will. Organize family mission trips. Make participation in missions tangible by connecting children with people they can visit, help, pray for, write to, serve, provide food, or sponsor.
Reorganize the curriculum.
You may need to write a curriculum to accomplish God’s plans and purposes for your ministry. Or you may need to search through various curriculum options for the content (and methodology) that better enables you to fulfill your ministry aims and objectives.
Redirect church leaders.
Grow the hearts of church leaders for children’s and family ministry by meeting regularly with them, contributing to the leadership conversations, sharing stories of transformation, asking questions, sharing ideas, and offering solutions.
Give time and space to reconsider what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Ask questions, investigate new ideas, weigh options, study the Scriptures, listen and lean into God, invite input from children and parents, pray for guidance, and develop a written plan.
You may need to lead up to get decisions made or empower people to make decisions. Boldly, yet sensitively, change or rearrange the supervision, administration or running of your children’s ministry to accommodate health and growth.
How we budget reveals what we value. A ministry budget should mirror, not determine, the vision. If children’s ministry is going to thrive and not just survive, churches must increase what they spend on training and resourcing parents to nurture their children’s faith formation.
Realign ministry partnerships.
Collaborating with agencies or organizations helps you reach, rescue, root and release children to love and live for Jesus more effectively. If an existing ministry partnership is maintaining but not multiplying ministry effectiveness, end it.
Bible colleges and seminaries should mandate children’s and family ministry courses for all pastors. Pastors must teach parents and grandparents how to teach their children, and their children after them, about the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 4:9)
Reboot church planting.
The Western church paradigm of bigger, better, more, and quicker isn’t the radical way of Jesus. New churches should be modelled on ministry strategies that elevate the roles and responsibilities of children, youth and families.
Reach out to others.
We’re better together. A communal ethos must be cultivated. To renew children’s ministry, we must begin together, keep together, and work together.
This last point should also be the first point. The mainspring of children’s ministry isn’t love for children; it’s love for Christ. Children’s ministry must major on Jesus. The ultimate aim of children’s ministry should be for every child and parent to fall head over heels in love with Jesus and live only and always for Him.
Make straight paths for your feet (cf. Proverbs 3:6). Naeem Callaway, CEO of Get Out the Box, says, “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take a step.” So, start with two or three of the points above that are easiest for you to do, and when they’re underway, continue with the next thing. Don’t let setbacks set you back. And “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” Proverbs 16:3.
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