Calendaring for the next 18-24 months calls for a level of fearlessness when facing the following seven big BUTS of Children’s Ministry:
BUT IT’S NOT THE WAY WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT – Refreshing and editing ministry must be a constant if we intend on being relevant. 20% of each year’s programming should be as a result of an update, an edit, something new, or delayed/postponed. Informally debrief after every event and after each special Sunday so energy and excitement builds and remains. Rename it. Change the season/date. Start small to get the kinks out so that people know you are hearing them.
BUT FAMILIES ARE SO BUSY – Learn the rhythm of your community, not just your local church. With the exception of Sunday (Sunday is Game Day!), clear your schedule for your volunteers and families the first few weeks and the last six weeks of the school year. Families are trying to get accustomed to new normals, schedules, and filling out all that paperwork that is required at the beginning of the year. May has become more congested for families than December. Reach out in prayer and encouragement, but give your families easy wins. When you calendar, choose what is best. Consider what you used to do annually to offering every other year. Remember that Sunday programming is your bread and butter. Treat it with even greater planning and preparation as you would a special event.
BUT IT’S NOT ON THE CALENDAR – Just because others in your church don’t calendar 18-24 months in advance, doesn’t mean you can’t. Call a calendaring meeting and see who comes. Set your working calendar in pencil and get your stuff on the calendar first with the plan that if something else comes up, you respond with grace and a spirit of collaboration. Calendaring is partnering.
BUT WE’RE A SMALL CHURCH – Churches that are growing deeper are the ones with greater intentionality of forming circles and not just rows as they share life, share interests, and share a heart for others in inter-generational service as a result of Bible reading and study. Relationships grow more quickly and deeper in small groups, so take advantage of these small moments with great fruit. Let go of the thought that everything needs to be a Broadway production and make the faith-formation experiences more personal, more participatory, and more thoughtful.
BUT WE DON’T HAVE THE BUDGET NOR THE SPACE – Think what Jesus used: his feet, his words, his posse, and what he had on hand. Whatever you have, invite other local churches’ kidmin to join your kids for a different experience. Whatever the other local churches’ kidmin is doing, call and ask if you can bring a group of kids for a shared experience once or twice each year. When the bottom fell out of the stock market just a few months after I was brought on to start a family ministry at a church financed primarily by retired college professors, I prayed and got creative with what was available and in my hands. Bands and sports camps came on campus each week. Each night I sold hot Little Caesar’s pizza out the back of my car along with ice-cold waters and Gatorades for three entire summers to finance for three years the ministry God had called me to lead. Sunday through Thursday from 10pm-1am. Fruitful ministry and oh the relationships and connections. Use what you have and let the Lord do the multiplying.
BUT WE DON’T HAVE THE VOLUNTEERS – Who do you have? Then raise up and train folks to be the volunteers. I’d sit in the sanctuary during services and ask the Lord to show me who to invite. Stay off the struggle-bus of negativity and wishing for what you don’t have. Give the volunteers you do have the joy and wonder of using the spiritual gifts handed to each one by their Creator. I make a way for 4th & 5th graders (the oldest in my lane of influence) to be taught and experience the joy of serving our Lord in their home church. I’m looking down the road to train up servant-leaders for this and their future local churches. Think of yourself like a general contractor enlisting the help and gifts of sub-contractors to build His house.
BUT NO ONE COMES TO SUNDAY SCHOOL ANYMORE – Thinking of the local church becoming more decentralized, we must offer Christian Education on Sunday morning and beyond. I do love Sunday school because it builds sticky faith and sticky relationships, so I schedule the really special things to take place during the Sunday school hour. Edit what you are doing maybe with a name change. Try new arrangements in discipleship. We are not event-planners. We provide environments where we ‘make disciples and teach.’ We ‘make disciples’ in teaching and letting little people and their families practice what they learn so they become more like Jesus. The first thing Jesus did when he called his disciples was to ‘teach them.’ Sunday morning is our bread and butter, but it can look differently and be called something different to build energy, build buzz, build relationships, and fulfill the vision of the church and the Great Commission. Keeping my focus on deep relationships with Jesus and with one another, God and our children’s ministry leadership can figure it out. We have more resources available today than any other time in history. Let’s use them!
There has never been a more exciting time to edit, make new, and update what it takes to point littles and their bigs to Jesus in the local church. The kids you are leading will be the leadership and the innovators in the local church today and tomorrow. Let’s model prayerful editing, innovation, and accept the tension of BUTS with creativity and joyful obedience. I imagine you deal with your own set of BUTS. How are you overcoming your BIG BUTS in ministry with children and families?
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, BUT WITH GOD all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26
(This blog was originally posted in May 2019, but I needed to hear it again. Maybe you did, too.)