There is one universal issue that all churches face: How do we find, grow and cultivate a team of volunteers who can lead effective Children’s Ministry?
We caught up with Children’s Ministry Consultant, Katy Eaglestone to get her tips for top teams. Read on to discover the three volunteer categories, and 9 ideas for keeping them motivated!
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Of course, every church has one or two people who recognise their important call to disciple the next generation, these people are often gifted, creative and energetic, and are largely happy to play an active role in Children’s Ministry.
If this is you, thank you! Thank you for pouring time, love and spiritual sustenance into our children and for faithfully serving, even at your own cost.
However, one or two gifted Children’s Workers in each church is never going to be enough leadership to see a Children’s Ministry thrive. This is for many reasons - the unique way children learn means we need to have separate groups for different aged children. We need to make sure we are keeping those children safe in the groups, so appropriate adult to child ratios need to be observed. And we need to protect our Children’s Leaders, which means not putting them on a rota every week, but instead giving them time to rest and grow spiritually with their peers.
So, the challenge is, who should be ‘running’ our Children’s Ministry if it needs more than just the gifted, called Children’s Leaders?
It seems that everyone within our church communities fall into one of three categories.
Firstly, those mentioned, the committed and called Children’s Leaders.
Secondly, parents - Mums and Dads who are trying to raise their children in a godly home, bringing them to church for fellowship and discipleship.
Thirdly, everyone else, the majority of the church body.
Parents as Primary Spiritual Leaders
Let’s take the second category – Parents. It has been argued that parents (especially parents of preschoolers) are with their children all the rest of the week and it should not fall upon them to be on the Children’s Ministry team, rather they should be free to enjoy an hour of spiritual input in an adult-only space. Having had four kids of my own, I have great sympathy for this argument, raising children is a long tireless journey with little respite, but this view is floored.
Actually, it should fall upon us, as parents, to be the primary spiritual leader of the children that God has entrusted to us. The biblical mandate is clear. Parenting is a divine responsibility and should be our first priority. As parents we shouldn’t delegate this privilege to Children’s Leaders.
To join in with the ministry that is being offered to our children means we are able to engage more deeply with our children’s spiritual journey. We should seek to walk alongside our children as they engage with their church friends, we should observe a wider spirituality modelled to our children by others and we should join with them in their worship and Bible readings.
I would advocate that parents should be regularly (not weekly, but perhaps every 4-6 weeks) on a Children’s Ministry team where they get to invest in the spiritual life of their children and their children’s friends. Whilst this might seem exhausting, I promise you this will not be something you regret in the long run.
One large city church struggled so much to find willing Children’s Leaders that they populated the rota entirely with parents. Whilst there was lots of grumbling at first, what began to happen was whole-life discipleship for the family. Take home sheets were read, memory verses remembered, children’s songs sung at home because the parents knew them from Sunday! This church raised up a generation of families who loved and served God together.
The Wider Church Community
Now, the third category. Everyone else! So often we hear that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, the church is our village and boy, do we need spiritual Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents to join in the godly pursuit of raising spiritually vibrant children!
Imagine a church community who so seriously took their responsibility to invest in the next generation that they all contributed to this ministry. Now, let me get this clear, I am not advocating for us to muster up the same calling or gifting of those in the first category. We can’t all be talented, up front Children’s Leaders, but we can come to this role with the unique gifts and assets that God has given each one of us.
Everyone Has A Part To Play
An asset-based approach to Children’s Ministry requires us all to look at the strengths and assets we have as individuals and as a community and to offer them to God. You may remember in John 6.9 when Jesus fed the 5000, it was the little boy who bought a seemingly an inadequate offering of loaves and fish. But God multiplied the gift and blessed the whole community with it.
Jesus has given you everything your church needs to operate. One church that grasped this concept was a smaller church in South Wales. Each person wrote down their gifts and something they could offer to the Children’s Ministry, and slowly they started to weave the gifts and time that people were offering into the Children’s Ministry programme. The children witnessed the humour, talent, leadership, wisdom of the older members of the congregation, and the old members found a joy and purpose as they served in this way.
To run an effective Children’s Ministry we are going to need everyone to bring their gifts and to use them. Do you have the gift of administration? Then help draw up the rota! Are you good at praying? Then show the children how to pray and hear from God? Are you a gifted musician? Then please share your gifts with the children, not just the adults. Do you go to a dance class, or love painting? Then join a team and enjoy relating to the children through the arts? Do you have a gentle heart and can’t think about doing anything upfront? Then sit with the shy child and listen to them. Are you good at DIY, then offer to mend any broken equipment? Do you have the gift of evangelism? Then teach the children how to share their faith? Are you a manager at work? Then use these skills to lead the children in their games time? Do you have arms that could hold a crying baby and share with them God’s peace? Then you are already equipped to bring your small offering and ask God to multiply it.
RaiseUp Faith allows us to have quality control over the material that is being presented yet gives enormous freedom to the teams who lead. We can introduce circus skills and baking, football sessions, Russian language lessons and reading corners dependant on who is willing to come and share their time.
When we all see ourselves as the body of Christ, playing our part, taking seriously our mandate to ‘tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord’ (Psalm 145.4) then our Children’s Ministry will thrive.
The one caveat to this, is for us to be thorough in our vetting process. Please don’t be naïve when it comes to Child Protection and appropriate checks. There will be some people in your church community who should not ever be working with children, and they should be given the appropriate support to ensure this remains the case.
One significant shift adults need to make, is from thinking that God can only be found in the refined, serious place of Bible teaching and worship where the adults dwell. If we readjust our thinking into understanding that God is joyful and life-giving, and sensory and raw, then we approach Children’s Ministry with wonder and excitement that He can meet us in these new experiences. Jesus in Matthew 18.3 explains that unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God! Maybe our time within the Children’s Ministry will enable us to learn from them, not just the other way around!
1. Create a Space.
Create a space for everyone to bring their assets. Don’t compare yourself with others, but ask God what can you offer that he can multiply to bless the Children’s Ministry.
2. Have clear rules.
This really helps the adults know that they can manage both the children and the time. If there are no boundaries; if leaders don’t know what is expected of them; if children are running wild; if the adult service goes on 10 minutes too long, no-one will want to join you. Set clear rules and keep to them week in week out! *This might mean having a conversation with the preacher or even the parents to remind them that honouring the finishing time is actually honouring the leader who has been with them for the past hour or two.
3. Find joy in your involvement.
On average adults laugh under 20 times a day, and children laugh 300 times a day. Let the joy of the Lord fill you up!
4. Cultivate a team dynamic.
Even if you have a different group of leaders each week, draw them together, maybe get some donuts or croissants to share, pray for each other, have fun together! This sense of teamwork will help adults feel part of what is going on rather than daunted by the challenge.
5. Value the contribution each leader makes.
You could send regular thank-you cards, give little gifts at Christmas or the end of the school year, send weekly emails of thanks. So often Children’s Ministry is unseen, and therefore under-appreciated. Let’s rectify that by valuing each person’s involvement.
6. Celebrate together!
Our culture is not great at celebrating, but we ought to be! Learn to celebrate the wins - the answered prayers, the new children who join you, the testimonies or even seasons through the year. Encourage your teams to celebrate well all that God is doing in the lives of the children in your church.
7. Offer regular training sessions.
Share tips and tricks of how leaders and teams can be more effective in Children’s Ministry.
8. Pray for the children.
Prayer is our greatest tool and will bless God, the children and ultimately shift our hearts towards God’s desires for Children’s Ministry.
9. Have an expectation that everyone will grow!
Don’t underestimate how much God wants to move in the children and the team.
So there you have it, hopefully now you feel better equipped to know where to discover new leaders, and how to encourage them to contribute their gifts. We pray that you and your community continue to discover God together, and that everyone finds their own place to participate.
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