Starting a children's ministry is an excellent way to attract young families to your church, and to keep them coming back for more. Taking the time to begin it properly will ensure a thriving ministry and excellent growth potential for the church. Here are the steps to take to start:
- Form a team. The team should be made up of several members of the congregation from a varied age range. Include, for example, a mom of a preschooler, a dad of a middle schooler, and parents of elementary and high schoolers. Include grandparents, educators, and Sunday School teachers from the congregation. Also, it is advisable to include the Senior Pastor.
- Start with a vision statement. A vision statement is a theme for the future, an image of success, and a goal to bring the group together with one purpose. It should be realistic and believable, easy to understand, and should focus the group's energies. It should be challenging and inspirational. One church began a children's ministry based on the following vision statement: "Our vision is to make sure the children of the church are encouraged to be, and recognized as, a functioning part of the Christian family, that they get the best possible teaching, and are surrounded by God's love. In summary: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)." This vision statement, accompanied by scripture, can be changed to suit your ministry's needs and purposes.
- Evaluate your current children's activities (if any). Analyze each age group to determine what is working and what isn't. Are these programs/activities fitting in with your newly formed vision statement? Are activities developmentally appropriate? Are they promoting spiritual growth? If they are, they can be built upon; if not, they must be re-formatted to fit into the vision statement. Activities for children at church should be informative, but fun and entertaining for children. For example, you could have a chlidren's bible study that's adapted from the adult bible lessons.
- Investigate other children's ministries. Contact other churches in the area to see what works and what doesn't work for them. Visit churches on Sunday mornings to get a first hand view of their ministry. Look online for programming ideas, curriculum, and other resources for beginning your own. Remember, you don't need to know how to re-invent the wheel. Try to find some ideas that work already. Personalize them or build upon them for your own project.
- Develop a plan. Brainstorm ideas of what you would like your ministry to contain. What did you like or dislike about the churches you visited? What would work for your group?
Remember to consider these aspects in your planning:
- Budget - Do we have enough money for our activities? If not, do we cut some things or raise money? Can we appeal to the congregation for giving specifically to the ministry?
- Availability of teachers - Are there teachers gifted to work with children that we can recruit? How can we prepare and train them so that they are in accordance with our ministry's goals and vision?
- Calendar - When is the best time to schedule activities and programs? What times should be avoided due to vacations or holidays?
- Publicity - How will we keep the church and community informed of our activities and calendar? Who can we ask to pray for the ministry?
- Set specific goals. Each age group should have different goals to achieve, depending on their developmental capabilities. When brainstorming a lesson, consider the following: What does God want the children in your ministry to learn? Goals need to be specific, measurable, Biblical, and attainable. Goals should be reviewed periodically to evaluate whether they are being met and what needs to change in order to achieve them. Remember that not every age group will achieve every goal, but the ministry as a whole should be meeting its goals regularly.
- Pray. Continually pray for the program, committee members, children, teachers, and congregation's support.
Following these steps and researching different resources will put your church on track to begin a successful, God-pleasing children's ministry!