The first question my kids asked when I told them about the new “smaller” church we would be trying was: Is there a children’s ministry? It was a good question, and one I didn’t have an answer to.
When we showed up on a Sunday evening of this new church plant, we stumbled into a room full of kids playing and interacting. The sweet lady managing the children’s ministry, who is now one of my favorite people, approached us and immediately made my children feel welcome, and even kissed me on the cheek.
I didn’t expect much from the children’s ministry, because, well, it’s a church plant. Everybody knows that a children’s ministry takes energy, time, effort, prayer, and most of all, volunteers. Most people planting a church are doing the best they can to just make the service run smoothly, much less be too concerned with the little ones.
Since that first meeting a few years ago, it is overwhelmingly apparent that when planting a church, children’s ministry must be much more significant than an afterthought. Parents in your church want something spiritually significant, fun, safe and welcoming for their children. And kids want it, too. If a church does not provide a ministry from the seed stages of the plant you risk several things.
1. Children come to church but maybe not Jesus. Even if the best preachers meet the most obedient children, church services often lack the ability to make sermons relevant to 7 year olds. We desire for our preaching to be relevant to adults, so we must also desire for relevancy in the way we teach our children.
2. Children won’t feel part of a community. Everyone coming into a new church want something to take ownership of. Each person, regardless of age desires to feel connected and part of something bigger than themselves. If our worship services were designed solely for kids, adults would never come back. And if there is nothing for children to feel like they are a part of, chances are they will kick and scream to come back, which just happens to bring me to my next point.
3. First time visitors not returning. The first question I asked my kids after our initial visit to our church plant was, “So what did you think of church?” Fortunately they loved it, but if they didn’t, you can pretty much guarantee I wouldn’t have gone back.
4. Losing vital believing families. Parents who believe in your church plant will grace you with some time as you build your church. But if there is no true vision and growth in your children’s ministry, they will most likely leave. As much as they are committed to your church, they are a million times more committed to the spiritual development and overall well-being of their children, as they should be. Parents today want to give their kids a “good church experience.” They want to be the creator of memories. So families vital to the foundation of your church will be apt to find someplace else to worship if the children’s ministry doesn’t strategically develop.
5. Disappointing Jesus. I know it’s a bold statement and I could argue theology all day with you. I’m not trying to guilt you either, I just wanted to get your attention. Jesus has a genuine concern and love for children. I think he delights in seeing churches place so much importance on the spiritual health of children. I believe He desires for us to show children they are genuinely loved and important enough for us to develop ministry just for them.
Developing ministry for kids simultaneously with adult ministry is imperative to building a strong foundation for healthy church growth. It shows your attendees that you value them because you value their families. There is too much at risk to let children’s ministry be an afterthought.