I talked to a friend the other day who was really discouraged. When I inquired as to the source of her discouragement she said, “The truth is Esther, after all this time, we still aren’t back to normal. Our children’s ministry has been wiped out by this pandemic. Our numbers have dropped drastically and our volunteers are next to non-existent. I really don’t know what to do.” In that moment my heart went out to my friend and the many children’s ministry leaders just like her who are continuing to experience the impact of COVID-19 on their children’s ministry departments. There is no question that COVID-19 has brought with it some major challenges for the local church across the board. But what if instead of focusing on the challenges, we focused on the opportunities. What if instead of grieving and trying to preserve what is lost, we celebrate this fresh new opportunity to hit the reset button and breathe new life into the way we do children’s ministry.
Every week I commit myself to reading at least one book. This week I had the opportunity to read, The Post-Quarantine Church by Thom S. Rainer. If you would like to get your hands on a copy, click here.
As I read through his recommendations on how to become a church that thrives in a post-quarantine era, I found myself reading it through the eyes of a children’s ministry leader. As I read through his list of key changes that churches need to accept and embrace moving forward, I began to think about my friend. What vital changes could she not be embracing? What opportunities could she not be harnessing? What trends could she be missing that is causing her children’s ministry department to stay stuck?
The truth is everything has changed. We are living in a completely different day and age and as much as we want things to go back to “normal” which is code for “do things the way we’ve always done them and still stay effective,” it’s not going to happen. We are living in a post-modern society. The church is losing it’s influence. Millennials are leaving Christianity in droves and claiming no religious affiliation because they no longer deem the church as relevant. We have got to pay attention to these trends. Ignoring them won’t make them go away. We must wake up and shift our ministries accordingly. If our goal is truly to reach the next generation for Christ, there are some things that we as children’s ministry leaders need to do differently.
1. Get Serious About Digital Media Ministry - It is vital that children’s ministry leaders become more Digitally proficient or find someone who is to effectively disciple children and families on-line. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. Digital is not going away. Successful children’s ministries moving forward will invest just as much in their online ministries as they do in their in-person ones. For too long children’s ministries have treated their digital platforms as after thoughts or window dressing to the in-person service. Leaders must do their proper homework to understand digital platforms and how to disciple effectively on each. We must remember that there are REAL children and REAL families on the other side of those screens in need of a REAL Savior.
2. Change The Way You “Reach” The Community - Too often in children’s ministry, “Reaching the Community” is limited to hosting a VBS, Trunk-or-Treat, Easter egg Hunt, or some other large event, which require community members to come to us. Progressive children’s ministries moving forward must be more intentional in reaching out to them. The word reminds us to “go ye therefore,” not “come ye here for.” Yet even still, ministries are content with never leaving the 4 walls of a building. Children’s ministry leaders must make it their business to know the demographics of the children and families in their community to gain a better understanding of their needs. With numbers declining, the average church will no longer have the luxury of maintaining their social club status. It is time for us to leave the pew and be the hands and feet of Christ.
3. Focus on Quality Over Quantity in a New Era - It is of utmost importance that children’s ministry leaders not become obsessed with creating too many events but focus on doing a few things well both online and in-person. I promise your ministry will be healthier for it. Not overloading your ministry plate will make room to do the things that matter most. I will never forget visiting a friend’s church recently. After dropping off the kids in their simplistic children’s ministry, I was completely expecting moans and groans at pick-up. As a children’s ministry influencer, I thought I had exposed our kids to the best of what children’s ministry had to offer from top notch facilities, indoor playgrounds, and more. To my surprise their response was just the opposite. They couldn’t stop raving about all the fun they had and proceeded to tell us all they had learned in the Bible that day. You see, this ministry may not have had the resources to invest in all the bells and whistles but they had done one thing extremely right. They had trained their leaders to love well.
While the pandemic has wreaked havoc and disrupted the way we have historically done things, it’s not the end of the world. Children’s ministry leaders must seize this moment for the opportunity it is by leveraging digital media, being intentional about actively reaching their communities, and refocusing their efforts on doing a few things well. It’s time to hit the reset button. I’m praying for you.