What is the one ministry shift you can make to more effectively reach children? It isn’t super fun or glamorous but it makes all the difference in the choices you make as a leader. It affects how you spend your budget, how you prioritize your time, how you train your leaders, how you use your ministry spaces, and what you communicate to parents and the church as a whole. Ready for it?
See, I told you it wasn’t glamorous and it certainly isn’t an easy fix. But reflection on your view of children and how your ministry practices stack up to what you actually believe about how to reach children for Christ is where you begin to see inconsistencies between theory and practice. Between what we know to be true about how people develop spiritually and our teaching and programming.
So what should you reflect about you may be asking?
Effective Children’s Ministry begins with understanding God’s design for children. It’s pretty subtle, but there is a big difference between valuing children’s ministry and actually valuing children– You probably already know that intuitively, but the process of thinking through how children should be treated, what opportunities for learning they should be given, what role they play in the life of church, etc…etc… will totally reshape the why’s and how’s of what you do to disciple children whether you are a children’s ministry professional or a parent or lay leader.
There is a difference between valuing children’s ministry and actually valuing children.
Related: Reflective Children’s Ministry
Unfortunately those of us who work in children’s ministry aren’t always able to articulate how and why children should be valued in the church to church leadership, parents, and even those who serve in our ministries. Without proper reflection, we may just continue to do things the way they’ve always been done, or just copy something that has worked for another church, or jump on the next trendy thing that comes along that makes big promises.
We get distracted by the details of managing children and replace effective spiritual development practices with effective child management.
It can be easy to get distracted by the details of managing children and Children’s programming and replace effective spiritual development practices with effective child management.
If asked, most people who work with children would emphatically agree that they value children. But we must take the time to evaluate our ministry spaces and programming to make sure that our value of children is clearly communicated through how we treat children and the opportunities they are provided to learn and grow. We need to work hard to ensure that our practice lines up with our view of the child and that our view of the child lines up with how God created children to learn, grow, and develop.
To more effectively reach children for Christ, we need to make what we do in our children’s ministry practice communicate that we value children, not just value providing a whiz bang awesome children’s program that draws more families with young children to our churches. We need to focus more on what children need to grow spiritually and not just on what we feel like kids and families want. (though these things don’t have to be in conflict)
Take a some time to consider the following questions in light of your church’s children’s ministry. There are not perfect answers to these questions (or even right or wrong answers) and these are questions to be revisited often as our understanding deepens over time.
- How does God view children?
- How do children reflect God’s image? Is it different than adults?
- What is childhood? What is its purpose?
- How do children learn?
- What is the role of the teacher in children’s learning?
- What do children need to develop a personal relationship with God?
- How do people grow spiritually? Is this different for children in any way?
- What do you believe about how faith is passed down from one generation to the next?
- What is the role of the church in children’s lives?
- What is the role of the child in the life of the church?
- What is the role of family in children’s lives?
- What is the relationship between church and family?
The super nerd in me just got excited about answering these questions. Any other super nerds out there? Look for more of my thoughts in some future posts. Reaching kids more effectively requires we thoughtfully evaluate our view of the child and adjust our practices to better line up with what we know children need to thrive in their relationship with Christ.
Here’s my challenge to you….
Get out an actual piece of paper and a pen and write out some thoughts in answer to the questions above. Don’t worry about being eloquent or answering them perfectly. Instead, pray about it and ask God to give you direction as you answer. You can revisit these questions again and again.
Once you have jotted down some initial thoughts in answer to the questions above, walk around your ministry areas with new eyes, observe your ministry in action, look at your ministry calendar and the events and programs that fill it. Are there any obvious discrepancies?
For example, if you said inter-generational relationships are important to children’s spiritual development, but children are consistently separated from the church as a whole, then you would think about ways to include more inter-generational opportunities for your children.
If you said, children are creative and learn best when they can make decisions about how they respond to what they are taught, but all your lesson activities and applications are pre-decided by a curriculum or your teachers and leaders then you may need to think about how to give children more autonomy in how they respond to what they are being taught.
If you said, children learn by doing and participating in a meaningful way, but they are excluded from participating or doing ministry in age appropriate ways, what can you do to include them in better ways?
If you said you want children to know they are welcome in the church and this is their space, but none of your bathrooms have stools that make it easy for children to wash their hands and use the bathroom independently, then you should go buy stools for the bathrooms. Obviously, not all fixes are as easy as buying new stools, but if there are steps you can take to move practice closer to appropriately valuing children….well go for it!
You may also be interested in….The Reggio Approach and Children’s Ministry
Let’s review your challenge:
Step 1: Write out your initial answers to the questions above…like actually write down some good stuff.
Step 2: Evaluate your ministry space and regular programming to see if there are any obvious inconsistencies.
Go for it friends! Let’s go ahead and be thinking Christians.
What other questions do you think are important in developing our view of the child?
How did you answer some of the questions posed in this post? I would love to hear your thoughts!