Alone, uncertain but persevering

This post is for the heroes of church children’s ministry.For those who feel under-qualified and under-resourced but keep going anyway because you love Jesus Christ and you love your church’s children. Your church loves you and I admire your determination. I want to help.

A year ago I moved from a city-centre church with a big staff team and an army of volunteers to a far more normal church. The children’s ministry is run by a couple of volunteers who have been fitting it around full-time jobs and family responsibilities for many years. They can’t do everything that a full time children’s minister could do – so this year I’ve been wondering what small things they can tweak that will make their valuable ministry even better.

I am sure that you are already praying for your children, keeping them safe while they are with you, teaching them a Bible story and giving them a fun morning. I’m also sure that you think you could and should be much better at all of those. Well done, you have high standards. The Lord delights in your efforts, because he sees that your heart’s greatest desire is to glorify him. You are doing the main things well and serving your children and families. I know that you can’t add a lot more to your week. I think there are three changes you could choose to make. I think that these three ideas will significantly increase the effectiveness of what you are already doing.

Once a week – think about why you are teaching this story

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his Kingdom, I give you this charge: preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. [2 Tim 41,2]
Wouldn’t it be great if children grew up not just knowing that David killed Goliath and Jesus fed 5,000, but knowing why they should know it? Imagine if they left every Sunday morning not just knowing another story but knowing God, the gospel of Jesus Christ and themselves better because of the story.
Each week, could you take 20 minutes to think about what difference this part of the Bible makes to your life? If you already have regular time for Bible reading, maybe this could replace it for a day or two. You could read a commentary (this or this are good series for starters) or listen to a sermon on it.
And then each Sunday morning, could you take 5 minutes in the lesson to discuss this with the children? Maybe over a craft or activity, or playing a game where every time they answer a question they get another ball to throw, or in a circle where they can only talk if they’re holding the teddy. How will knowing that Jesus is their hero change their week? Because Jesus Christ is always the hero and his Spirit will always change their week when he is explained clearly.

One a month – invite yourself to a child’s house for Sunday lunch

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. [1 Thess 28]
I know, it’s not very British. But most parents would be thrilled to hear: “I love spending time with Jonny on a Sunday morning. I’d love to have some time to get to know him better so that we can make the lessons even more useful and enjoyable for him.”
There are so many upsides. The children will respond better to you as they know that you love them and have taken the time to visit them and play with them. You’ll understand them better as you see them in their “natural habitat” so you can sharpen your teaching. There will be chances to encourage the parents in their calling to see their children grow up in Christ. And you get lunch out of it!

Once a term – get your team together

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. [Hebrews 10 24,25]
Invite anyone who volunteers in the children’s ministry together for a meal. You don’t need to cook – everyone likes takeaway! And if you asked a couple of parents they’d probably jump at the chance to make a cake to express their appreciation for the work that you all do. Time together, away from children, over food, will be great time together for your team.
Perhaps you could invite your minister to come and explain from the Bible why your team’s contribution is so amazingly important. Perhaps you could take a praise and a prayer point from each leader about their children’s ministry and spend some time praying together. Perhaps you could kick off a discussion on:

  • One of the two ideas above (why we teach what we teach, or how to get to know the children better).
  • A book. You could all read part of a book during the term and discuss it together. Show Them Jesus is one of my favourites recently – we all know how easy it is to just make children’s ministry about telling children what to do (eg “dare to be a Daniel!”) and this book helps us to wow the children with Jesus instead.
  • Discipline. What are the challenges on a Sunday? What policy will you have for children who are stopping others engaging with the lesson? If there is a school teacher in your church, perhaps they could come in and discuss this with you.
  • Anything that feels pressing to your team / children at the moment.

In a big church or a small church, we rely on one another. Get the team together for encouragement, prayer and discussion – you might be pleasantly surprised how much better you work together for the rest of the term.

Right now – think it through

Is there space in your life for these three ideas? Or for one of them? Don’t do them for the sake of it, but if they would have a big impact on your children’s ministry for the sake of a relatively small investment of time – why not have a go?

Guest Blog from Richard Criddle, previously the Children’s Minister at Christchurch Mayfair and now studying at Oak Hill Theological College