Suppose you are a recent hire at a small church with a very small children’s ministry. Fewer than one hundred people attend your church, but it is located in a good location where you expect solid growth over time, particularly if you can initiate and maintain a thriving children’s ministry. What do you do when you have a small children’s ministry? How can you maintain and build an effective children’s ministry?
Have a plan. If anyone else is on staff in children’s ministry, sit down with them and plan out how you will effectively reach children in your church. Take the time to train your volunteers well. Prepare teaching materials, including your curriculum and supplies. Coloring pages are no substitute for maximizing every moment volunteers will have with your children. Take advantage of the opportunity you have to build into the lives of these children and make a deep, lasting impact in their lives and their budding faith.
Have a Plan B. What happens when volunteers don’t show and you have to unexpectedly combine classes of diverse ages? What will you do if you have infants through preschoolers in the same room? What if you have more children than expected? What if you have five preschoolers, two infants, a teenager, and seven schoolchildren? Consider your church and make a backup plan so that you are better prepared. Sometimes, Plan A. is adjustable; other times, pull out Plan B when you face challenges which Plan A cannot overcome. Don’t attempt to wing Plan B. Prepare it, and train your volunteers to use it.
Put Relationships First. The good news about having a small children’s ministry is that you have a golden opportunity to invest in relationships with them. Have your volunteers take the time to speak with each child about the lesson, the Bible memory verses, and about their personal lives. We have a Savior who invested in building relationships—and who carried particularly about children.
Get the Children Engaged. Encourage them to dance with you, sing with you, and act out Bible stories with you. Engaged children are more willing to listen to what you have to teach them. You can even select one or two older children as helpers to “help teach” the lesson. Take the children outside and teach the lesson in the outdoors. Engage the kids in deeper dialogue to make certain they understand the lesson. Work with the church’s adult ministry and discuss ways the children can serve alongside the adults.
Laugh. Don’t let ministry curveballs rob you of your joy. Don’t show your frustration with the three children who show up because you wish all nine on your roster were present. Choose to rejoice in the wonder of the children God has entrusted to you. Delight in each child and encourage them to mirror your joy, to laugh with you.
Above all, don’t fall into the trap of measuring your effectiveness by counting your children. Instead, make your children count.