Making Children's Ministry the Flagship

April 2nd, 2012
Image from the Deep Blue Kids Bible, available September 2012. Find out more at © Common English Bible

Children are often the entry point for families in joining a church—churches that recognize this are on their way to vitality and growth. But, it's also a fact that children are one of the most demanding audiences in the church. This audience comes in all sizes, colors, shapes, and personalities. As unpredictable as they can be, these children must be kept safe, but given freedom. They have to be entertained, but taught well. Wiggling or still, crying or laughing, loud or quiet, they need to be loved in a big way. Judy Comstock gives practical how-to information for laypeople—and professionals— involved in this special ministry. She has developed ways to bring children in, ways to bring in their families, and ways to bring in their friends. It's good, practical advice. - Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor, Church of the Resurrection

Each summer a sailing adventure called the Tall Ships Challenge alternates between the Atlantic, the Great Lakes, and the Pacific coasts of North America. On each ship, volunteers sign up with experienced paid crew members to form a remarkable team. This impressive race draws thousands of spectators. The shape of the ships, the rigging, and the wooden details are notable on these grand sailing vessels. Even more notable is the significant impact the tall ships had on history.

Churches that raise the value of Children's Ministry are making an impact, as well. Even adults with no direct connection as parents or volunteers recognize the importance of our work and routinely bring their friends through the children's area to describe the exciting things that are happening. Sadly, the churches who do not consider younger members of the family will crash into the rocks. Statistician George Barna, author of Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions (Regal Books, 2003), confirms the importance of the work done by Children's Ministry leaders. Barna's message rings clear that the emerging generation is impacting the emerging church.

Growing up in a culture with few absolutes has not eliminated opinions and interests in spiritual things for today's children. The economic sway they have is described in James McNeal's book Kids as Customers (Lexington Books, 1992). In the article "How well marketing works on kids, what the numbers say" (Curriculum Review, no. 42, September 2002), McNeal discusses the fact that children ages two to fourteen directly influence over $188 billion in spending. Kristen Harmeling, a marketing expert on the consumer habits of children, reports that "Before, kids had a say in food; now, they have a say in everything." They have a voice in everything from selecting the family car to deciding the site for the family vacation, she says (Yankelovich Youth Monitor, "Taking Marketing Productivity Higher, "2005).

By assessing our programs and facilities through the eyes of a family with children, we can determine our strengths and discover where adjustments are needed. A family's first impression of Children's Ministries may be the deciding factor for repeat visits. Does the atmosphere indicate that kids count? Providing a safe, clean setting is important to parents. Kids value relationships and the fun factor.

First Impressions... All Hands on Deck

Starting at the front door of the church building, let's take an imaginary tour through the eyes of that visiting family.

As we step inside, who will answer their questions about the children's classroom locations? The programs?

Post greeters at every entrance. These "first friendly faces" should acknowledge the children and direct or escort the family to the children's area.

Recruit a Children's Ministry Hospitality Team. The welcoming team members will be ready to answer questions about Children's Ministry. Staffing a Children's Information Booth can connect families to your ministry.

Where are the nursery and Sunday school classrooms? As with real estate, location is important. Assess your floor plans through the eyes of parents with young children. In doing so, one church decided to rearrange the room assignments to move the nursery nearer the sanctuary. The benefit of this change was noted.

How will I be contacted if my child needs me? Ask parents to leave their cell phone number on the class roster. Encourage parents to set their cell phones on vibrate. Cell phones provide a simple paging solution. Another method is an usher card on which the parents provide their names. The usher will note their pew location and some identifiable indicator, such as the color of the dad's shirt. The usher can use the card to locate the parent in case of an emergency.

How do I enroll my child? Provide a registration form requesting the child's name, birthdate, address, phone number, a description of the child's unique needs, and parental information. A computer savvy volunteer can add a Children's Ministry page to your church's website. Information on programs and upcoming events may be routinely posted. Keeping the information current is important. Consider adding the convenient option of preregistering children for events and programs on the website. Whether visitor information is noted in your church's computer database or a card file, keeping a record on prospects and members for follow-up and future contact is wise.

What measures are taken so my child is not released to the wrong person? A claim-check approach is an effective security measure. At check-in, the parent is given a numbered tag and the matching numbered tag is pinned to the child's clothing. Laminate the colored card stock tags to extend the use. Parents present the tag at the close of the class time when calling for their child.

How will you know about my child's allergy? Encourage parents to record their child's unique needs on the registration form. Ask them to place a colored sticker dot on the child's nametag or "claim-check" tag to alert the teachers. Colored wristbands made from tyvek® can serve the same purpose. Parents should indicate their child's specific need or allergy on the band, then place it on their child's wrist.


Excerpted from Children's Ministy by Judy Comstock. This book is included in the Ministry Matters Premium Subscription, or you can purchase the print book below.

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