Dr. Lawson Murray published a blogpost entitled, “Developing a New Plan for Children’s Ministry” last November addressing many of the hot topics in today’s local church regarding ministry with families. Children’s ministry people rarely get seats at the tables where decisions are made about these hot topics yet they will respond with excellence. So we set a table especially for those who serve in ministry with children and families with in-person and online seats to chat about several of the hot topics mentioned in Lawson’s blogpost.
With great thanks to our host Tambryn Freund at Dunwoody UMC, a ten-minute limit to each topic, and the great note-taking skills of Vic Harmon of Alpharetta First UMC, the following amazing insights from the kidmin champions who took a seat at the table will be guiding my planning in 2022.
Hot Topic Table Notes: Remember We Are BETTER TOGETHER!
#1 Children’s Ministry is NOT a priority
• If the church leadership focus is on 40s, 50s, 60s-year-olds, that is the perfect demographic for Grandparents since the average age of a first-time grandparent is 47 years old. We can focus on providing ministry to Grandparents and their grandchildren.
• First time grandparents are seeing the value in spiritual development for their adult children and grandchildren.
#2 No Collaboration in faith formation
• Pre-pandemic some schools allowed a Bible Club before school
o Find a Christian teacher/PTO parent who is willing to head it up and find a way into the schools.
• Misconception of collaboration: programming for adults and programming for the kids doesn’t equal collaboration
• Get your local school calendar and find out about school events to piggyback or creatively support
o We need to know what’s in the rhythm of our community, so find out what the local school is doing, and pick a different lane.
o Example: If the schools are doing a “Santa Shop” then we don’t need to also do one.
• During events, take time to pause and create space for adults and their kids to chat. Model what faith-based conversations can be like, and show them it isn’t as scary, difficult, or time consuming as they thought.
• Make your presence known in the community
o Support teachers, families, etc.…
#3 Program Driven vs. Relationship Driven
• People say they want it to be the way it was, but do they really? Parents are exhausted with change, so even though we keep wanting to change things for the better, there has been some push back to just go back to the way it was.
• During the last couple of years, parents have put themselves on the backburner, so what if we do something to encourage lingering time and community building for parents.
o Like once a month offer coffee/hot chocolate outside the kid’s area, to invite parents to hang out for a little bit, while some of our volunteers work the room to connect with parents.
#4 Resources and Tools are not flexible!
• Sundays are no longer sacred, because extracurriculars and jobs are done all the time now.
• How can we meet families outside of Sunday Morning? And is it worth it?
o Focus on building community with adults
o Once a month, take parents to lunch, while the kids are in school and talk about everyday things, focus on building connections. This also works for dinners if parents work during the day.
• Very short-term Bible studies (3 weeks)
o Keep it short, 1-1 ½ hours.
o Set the boundary that if you want time to chat come 30min early, because once it’s time to start we have to start.
o Example: 5 Love Languages of kids
§ Week #1: What are the 5 Love languages of Kids?
§ Week #2: How to know your child’s love language?
§ Week #3: How to keep it going at home?
#5 Parents are not taking a lead role in faith formation
• GIVE GRACE to parents because teaching faith formation was not modeled for them
• GIVE GRACE to yourself because how to equip parents for faith formation was not modeled for us
• Partner with the Associate Pastor or Adult Leaders and work together to model faith formation.
• Family Events! Share the responsibility of faith formation within family events with other areas of the church.
• Get Grandparents to share the lessons they learned in parenting to new or younger parents.
• Keep trying! If we model this now, we will see the fruit in this next generation.
#6 Intergenerational Ministries are limited
• When children participate in worship services all people know is children singing. We now have to reteach what it means to have children in service.
• Invite 50s, 60s, and 70-year-olds to volunteer while parents are with their kids
o Example: Advent Craft event, parents want to be/need to be with their children while doing crafts, so invite the 50s, 60s, 70s, to volunteer to lead the stations, so that parents can have that time learning alongside their child.
• Incentives for kids to take notes in worship
o Coins and treasure
o Blackout Bingo of words to listen for in the worship service
#7 Nursery (this topic has been the hottest since last fall as all churches are struggling to staff church nurseries)
• How do we get people to work? How much do we need to pay?
• Safe Sanctuaries doesn’t say they have to be paid, just trained
• The salaries most churches pay nursery workers is a social justice issue; we must respond with great generosity and it’s true value as a ministry, not just a support.
• Partner paid staff with volunteers
o Paid staff does the diaper change, disciple, check in, feeding, etc. while the volunteer plays with and/or interacts the kids and parents/grandparents
• Short-term commitments
o Asking, “Can you serve 3 times in the next 3 months?”
• Appreciation as we would a volunteer with such valuables as gas gift cards to offer additional financial support if unable to increase per-hour pay
• Paid Compensation to specialized skills such as Nursery Hospitality
o Not paid hourly, rather paid a stipend
o Show up 30min before and stay 30min after, plus 2 hours during the week to follow up with families and to check in and see how they are doing with monthly hospitality coaching.
• Go to Sunday School classes and ask them to sponsor Volunteer Appreciation, then follow up with Sunday School class about who it went to.
o Always give credit to who sponsors, tag them on social posts. Or if they don’t have social media, print the picture and give it to their Sunday School class
o Example: if a Sunday School class sponsored a lunch for your volunteers, have a sign that said, Lunch is Provided by _______Sunday School Class, and have attendees take a photo with it, and that’s what goes on social media.
• Find people in the church who have specialized skills like beautiful handwriting and invite them to participate in a way that fits their skills.
o Example: Give them a list of families with addresses in October that your ministry is sending Christmas cards to and ask them to hand-address each envelope. Then each family receives a handwritten card from your ministry at Christmas.
Children’s Ministry champions are the most creative and adaptable disciple-makers on the planet. They are active in the trenches with the families we serve as well as the families we seek to serve. They are knowledgeable and wise. The next table for hot topics will be set on the west side of the North Georgia Conference in February. I can’t wait!