One of the most mis-understood, underfunded, and “after-thought” ministries of the Church is Children's Ministry. While there are some congregations that have completed shifted this paradigm to ensure that this viable Ministry is a priority, some still believe it is an option. Based on 16 plus years in ordained ministry specifically dedicated to children, youth, and mission work specifically, I can boldly say, “Children's Ministry is not an option, it’s essential to the growth and vitality of the Church.”
Recent research by Barna Group and OneHope reports that "58% of parents choose a church primarily based on its children's program. So how can WE the Church provide a meaningful and relevant space of spiritual formation and engagement for kids?
I offer these three suggestions for your consideration and contemplation.
Define, children's ministry in your context.
Children's Ministry is not cookie cutter. While we can glean and learn from the model of congregations with booming ministries to kids, we must also look within and see the gifts that are already stirring inside our own sacred spaces. In my consulting work, it always amazes me when I ask for the demographics of a congregation as it relates to the age, schools represented, and activities offered in the community for kids. The answers have ranged from puzzled looks. to statements of “they are in charge of 4th Sunday worship” and everything in between. While inclusion in worship is vital, we have to offer more.
We can’t just offer a one-time opportunity to for kids to serve; it must be an open invitation to be apart of the greater faith community everyday. In order to know what to offer, we have to be aware of the context and community in which we find ourselves. Gathering this type of data whether through hiring a consultant or even putting out a simple survey via social media can aid in defining the culture of a church’s kids ministry. Data gathering and research though time consuming, has proven to add depth and intentionality to thriving children's ministry programs.
Click the link below to see a sample questionnaire and also provide feedback for the future.
2. Discern the ways God is calling your local congregation/group
to serve not only in the Church, but in the community as well.
One of the most successful ministry programs I was able to create was birthed from a void in the community. In order to figure out what the void was I had to reach out and explore the community, the school system, and the needs of the kids we were trying to reach outside the walls of the church. God calls us to meet the need, and heal the hurt.
The chief need is to take the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ out into the world. We are called to meet practical needs by putting our faith in action (James 2:14-16). There is an eternal expectation that we will exercise our faith in Jesus Christ through meeting some of the practical needs of our neighbors.
3. Dedicate time, energy, and resources to develop
Why does any of this matter? What makes the Church (youth ministry) different than a nonprofit organization? The difference between the Church at- large and a nonprofit organization is that we are not just offering services, we are offering the Savior. We must keep discipleship at the forefront of our minds as we develop our ministries. As one of my favorite seminary professors said “We are called to pastor youth and not program them.”
Research is showing us that "the number 1 predictor of spiritual health in children is Biblical literacy." As people of the WORD, we have to not only share the WORD, but teach it!
There are a myriad of different ways to create meaningful learning environments in a digital environment for children to learn the WORD of God. The link below is just one example of various methods that kids can learn about the Bible.
Creating a thriving children's ministry is an on-going process to serve the present age. The process must be built on prayer, shaped by Scripture, and guided by the Holy Spirit. Ministry to kids is not a hot trend or a quick fix. It is a deliberate and intentional investment in the lives of young people on their spiritual journey. It is a sacred space that invites kids to not only “come as they are,” when needed, but to be invited everyday on their journey of faith.
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The. Reverend Dr. Christal L. Bell is the Christian Education Director of the Fourth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She currently also serves as a Hospital Chaplain in the Chicago-land area. Her expertise lies in the areas of Children and Youth ministry, domestic and international mission work, and pastoral care. Her upcoming book, Fostering a Spiritual Care Environment for Tweens in a Swipe Society
Within the Local Church", is scheduled for release in early 2022.