by Philip Biles
A successful Children’s Ministry is one that is constantly growing in every way. We want to make sure that God’s love is communicated in tangible ways while fostering an environment where kids and their families can become passionate followers of Jesus Christ. As we strive to make this happen in a safe way each week, we often get frustrated when we do not see the growth that we are expecting. At this point, we begin frantically searching for the “magic bullet” that will bring more kids to church, connect our families more efficiently and prove to our Senior Pastor that we should still be here next week! Over the past fifteen years of full-time Children and Family Ministry, I have yet to find that golden ticket, and I am almost positive you have not either. However, I would love to share with you three “bronze tickets” that have made a huge impact that helped catapult our ministry to the next level of growth. Before I begin, let me warn you that these specific tickets might not be the right ones for your ministry, yet it may be the ideas you need to develop your own list of three.
1. Rename the Redundant. While I was serving at a church in Durham, NC we were blessed to be in the thick of the Bible Belt, a place where kids attended every week, did their Scripture memory and could just about finish every Bible story taught each week. However, during VBS week, we saw the same 156 kids every year, who in turn hopped to the other seven weeks of VBS around town until the summer was over. We were merely teaching our 120 kids, plus the other thirty from other churches who were not on vacation that week. After some prayer, head-scratching and nail-biting before the deacons, we simply changed the name to Free Kids Camp. We kept everything the exact same – same format, same curriculum, same dates – we just renamed the redundant. The idea of a camp that was free resonated so much more to our community and we saw 327 kids that summer – our 156 plus another 171 that we had never met! Your redundant may not be VBS, but I am sure there is something you are doing in your ministry that you can rename to better capture the attention of your community.
2. Prep the Parents. At this point, most of us understand the extreme importance of including our parents in the ministry to be the spiritual leaders of their families. We know to follow Deuteronomy 6:7 in theory, yet we struggle how to do this practically. We buy the latest gadgets, cool take-home curriculum pieces and even snazzy up our weekly e-mails, all in an effort to get our parents more involved and to hopefully at least read what we send home with their kids! A bronze ticket for us was to let the kids prep their parents. Get a cool circle or star shaped label from Avery and simply put these words on the stickers, “Ask me what I learned today!” Kids of all ages love stickers and they want to show their stickers to Mom and Dad as soon as they are picked up. Now, Mom and Dad will simply start the spiritual training as they are leaving church – no lost, unread papers. Families began sharing with each other what they just learned in church, and kids looked forward to seeing the next week’s cool stickers!
3. Advertise in Advance, Again. Do not look too hard into this alliteration, I am not promoting a great travel resource, but we do know the three most important things of every ministry. Communication, communication, and communication. As a parent, I want to know well in advance my kids’ school assignments, game schedules and other appointments. I am a huge planner and can get kind of OCD with my Google calendar with at least seven different colored labels for our ministry and family. I am also smart enough to know that I am not the only one like this. We found it very helpful to lock in our summer camp week and VBS the same week every year. We begin to announce this summer ministry opportunities in early December. “Give Your Child Camp for Christmas” is a great idea for parents and grandparents. This is also the time the workplace requests vacation schedules for the following year. We know we will see an unbelievable amount of Christmas Christians, so we want to let them know of at least one other annual event their family can be a part of to hopefully experience God’s love for them. We advertise heavily through January, back off a bit in February, then hammer it hard again leading up to Easter. It seems that once Easter has finished, we only see the last minute, non-planning parents respond to summer announcements. The other win to this early sign-up is to give your ministry budget some early funds for your summer ministries and camp deposits. Advertise in advance, then advertise again!
Once again, these are just three practical ideas that helped us be more effective in helping families become passionate followers of Christ – and they were all mostly FREE! Have someone donate the Avery labels for you and then it can all be free! Whenever you identify your three bronze tickets, share the wealth. Soon, our ministries will be bronzed in the Children’s Ministry Hall of Fame and all those after us will never suffer or have any problems in ministry because of the trail we blazed together!
Philip Biles is married to Felicia, and father to Lydia and Corban. He is the Family and Children’s Pastor at Lake Hills Church in Austin, TX. In his spare time, Phiilp is an avid triathlete and impatiently waiting for the day he can trade in his minivan for an over-sized and fully-loaded pick-up truck!