Adventure Pals Blogs
Restarting Your Children’s Ministry – Part 4
To restart a Children’s Ministry, you have to have children. The good news is, children draw in more children. Families draw in families. Surveys reveal that children and pre-teens are impacted most evangelistically by family members, others their own age and youth group/activities at church.
There are a couple things to keep in mind as we begin our search for the girls and boys to whom the Lord would have us minister. If you’re inviting them in, you’d better be ready for them – ready with teachers, facilities, and love. Be prepared for noise, messes, and wear and tear on the facility.
Also, you need to be prepared for heartbreak and rejection. Even if we are able to reach 100% of our neighborhood kids with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the sad reality is, not all will accept Him. Most likely, more parents and children will reject the message of Salvation in Jesus than accept it. Don’t be discouraged and don’t give up! Even though it feels like it, it is generally not personal. I think of God’s words to Samuel when the children of Israel wanted a king like all the nations around them, “for they have not rejected you (Samuel), but they have rejected me (God)” 1 Samuel 8:7.
While the methodology I’m about to suggest is simple, make no mistake about it, this is hard work. It requires prayer, perseverance, and a steadfast purpose.
While one person can certainly make a difference in the lives of boys and girls for eternity, the best results are achieved when a large portion of the congregation is working together to reach the children. This is going to take time and effort on everyone’s part. Convincing the congregation to participate may be one of the most difficult steps in the process because no one likes rejection.
So where do we find the children? Start with the obvious. If you have families with children, encourage them to invite their friends, classmates, and neighbors to church, Sunday School, and other ministry events. Equip them with flyers, postcards, and invitations to hand out. Such items help break the ice in extending an invitation. They are also useful in conveying the proper information to parents. Include the church’s contact information, website, and social media platforms where they can use to get more information.
Encourage those who attend to bring their friends and relatives. Make it a contest and give out prizes – not just a participation awards. Run several contests throughout the year so new kids who are coming can participate as well.
Don’t stop there; think extended family – not just children, but grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins. What about your neighbors? Do they have children? Can you bring them to and from Church?
Now it’s time to think bigger. Advertise! Well, perhaps not in the traditional sense. There are any number of ways to do this. If you’re starting over, I’d recommend starting with one or two-day events. Now please don’t just have events for the sake of having events.
Each event should be designed to cultivate relationships with the attendees. That means people talking to people. As strange as it sounds, this may require training the folks in your church on how to talk to people. This extends from welcoming people, conversation starters, and should include a basic lesson on leading someone to Christ.
Don’t try to duplicate what other churches are doing unless there is a specific need in the community. Try something different that may attract a different group. Don’t compete, coordinate. Reach out to the other churches and see if they will let you know what’s on their calendar. Find out when they have VBS scheduled, if they have any sports camps or other special events planned. Check with community groups as well. You don’t want to have your event scheduled for a day when everyone will be attending somewhere else.
If you’ve been having Vacation Bible School, don’t stop! This annual favorite still has appeal to many families and will get children to church for perhaps 5 days. And if you have the manpower for Awana or similar programs, that’s awesome! Keep it up.
Host a free Family Fun Day at your church. Set up simple games for the children to play. (The Internet is filled with ideas.) Give out prizes (I love the dollar store) – and hand out information on your newly restarted Children’s Ministry. Think outside the box. I know a church that rented a dunk tank and let the community people take turns dunking the pastor. Perhaps you’ll want to give away free hot dogs. Whatever brings people in. Now it’s true, you may never see these people again, but you won’t know until you try.
Remember, this is about making connections – people talking to people. While you have them, work at getting their contact information so you can follow up. A drawing for a free…something, anything, will generally get people to write down their name and address. If you’re concerned about the cost, see if one of the local merchants will donate a prize for the drawing, and make sure they get the credit for donating it.
Perhaps you could offer a free sports clinic. Choose a sport that’s popular in your area – soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, or hockey. If you don’t have anyone in the church who can teach it, get help. Reach out to Athletes in Action, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or a local Christian sports figure. If you don’t have facilities at your church, find a place nearby you can use.
Again, make sure you get their contact information. One way to do this, especially with sports camps, is to have emergency contact and medical release forms signed by the parent. This is even a good idea for Vacation Bible School and any other programs outside your normal church schedule. It would be helpful to include a sentence authorizing use of photos and video of the child for promotional purposes in the release statement.
Other events might include a drama clinic where children put on a play at the end of the day, weekend, or week. Could you host a music clinic for either vocal or instrumental? If you have a big enough kitchen you could host a cooking clinic. Maybe the local firehouse could use your parking lot to have this year’s Fire Prevention program. Look around at what resources you have available. Think outside the box.
During these events, assign one, or several, to take pictures and video of the children participating and having fun. This is easily done with smart phones. Have someone put together a quick video presentation for viewing at the end or after the event. This is not only fun for the kids, it is encouraging for members of your congregation, especially those who were not there, to see children participating at a church-sponsored activity. A word of caution, before you post any photos or video of children online, if you don’t already have a release form, make sure you have permission, preferably written, from their parents.
All these events should have a “message” component from God’s Word as well as an “invitation” component – and invitation to accept Jesus as Savior AND an invitation to attend Sunday School, Youth Group, and Church services.
Events are wonderful, but they cost money. You might consider hosting a pre-event fundraiser – the purpose of which is not just to make a few dollars, but primarily to promote the upcoming event. A church rummage sale with items provided by the congregation draws people in who wouldn’t normally stop at the church. Try different things like a bake sale, car wash, or concert. This is about promoting the event and making connections – people talking to people. Tell EVERYONE who comes WHY you’re doing this fundraiser. Be prepared to hand EVERYONE literature describing the upcoming event and how they can get involved. Create a buzz in the neighborhood even before it happens.
Another avenue of outreach is to partner with other ministries already active in your area. Contact the local CEF missionary and see if they have 5-day Clubs or After School clubs operating close to you. They may have students in their programs that need a church home.
Above all, talk to people in your community and convey to them your desire to restart/promote your church’s Children’s Ministry. Ask them if they know anyone who might be interested. (Invite them to church too.) Have some sort of information you can give them – even if it’s just a business card you have printed at the local office supply store with the church’s information on one side and an invitation to check out our “Newly Restarted Children’s Ministry” on the other. And when I say community, that’s anyone the members of your congregation comes in contact with – the server at the local restaurant, the postman, the tellers at the bank, the person at the checkout counter, the person that pumps your gas, the meter reader, the UPS driver. You want to know where the children are? Then ask!
Allow me a quick illustration. On a recent Monday morning I was having breakfast in a diner about 45 minutes from home. Coincidentally, I was working on writing a section of Restarting Your Children’s Ministry.
A spontaneous conversation began when by server asked me what I was working on. After a very brief overview, I asked her a few questions which revealed several things. She doesn’t go to church. She used to attend an evangelical youth group (4 – 8 years ago) which a friend invited her to. As a result, she accepted Jesus as her Savior. Now she works on Sundays serving people meals after church. I was able to recommend a church in the area that has a Sunday evening service she could attend. That’s when I learned she has younger siblings – 10 and 8-years-old – that she would like to bring along with her. I pray they will attend and that the church will be receptive to them.
The children are out there and they are eager to learn about God. Let’s go find them!
Again, you will most likely reach out to many before you have a few attend. But once you have a few children attending, they will attract more. In the meantime, keep reaching out with more contests and events. Again, you should not have events for the sake of having events. They should be designed to cultivate relationships with the attendees. Always get their contact information. Engage your prayer warriors in the church to pray regularly for them. Invite those who attended the Family Fun Day and the Sports Camp to come to church for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or just because.