Since that time, the Sunday school program has expanded a couple of times and continues to attract and involve more and more children and volunteers. So what happened. How should smaller churches attempt to start or relaunch their children's ministry? I would recommend the following main points:
- Leadership Team - The first essential task is to put together a quality and invested leadership team. This team should be a combination of parents and others with both a vested interest in the spiritual lives of children, but also some skills to offer as they lend a hand. You will need folks that can teach, as well as people to offer organizational skills to manage the overall ministry.
- Assess Age Groups - Any ministry that is done in a congregation should have at its core not only the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but an understanding of how to connect the Gospel to the people the ministry aims to serve. Children's ministry planning should include an assessment to who the children are that are in your congregation and surrounding community. This way you are able to organize your children's ministry to reflect the demographic shape of the children you intend to teach and minister to.
- Select a Format - Based on the your assessment above, you should now attempt to determine how you will structure your ministry. If you are talking about a Sunday morning ministry, you may need to determine if you are able to launch a traditional grade level Sunday school, or whether a large group/small group format would be more appropriate. You may wish to employ a kids church model in order to teach worship to children less familiar with corporate worship, especially if the trend in your church pushes against families in church (a topic for another post).
- Select Curriculum - As you evaluate and select curriculum you will need to determine how potential matches work with both your church theology as well as the format you selected. For Lutheran's you would be looking at the centrality of Christ in salvation and the way in which law and gospel are used.
- Establish Safety Guidelines - This can be emotional and difficult in the small family based church. We don't like to think about the potential for abuse, but we would be negligent if we did not. You need to establish a policy on how volunteers are to be screened. Additionally you should consider how you will respond to emergencies on a Sunday morning (considering how children are signed in and out as well as emergency evacuation procedures for your campus) as well as the reporting of inappropriate behavior if allegations are made. Having a policy helps take the guess work out to these emotional moments and protects volunteer and staff leaders along, while more importantly protecting the children. For more check out protectmyministry.com/lcms/.
- Recruit & Train Volunteers - Now is the time to cast your vision for children's ministry with folks that you would like to have join the team you already have in place. As a team spend time talking to specific people, as well as letting the general congregation know about the need for help. Once you have the larger team ready, walk them step by step through each of their roles. Do this as much as you can with all volunteers together, so that they all get a sense of what the whole picture of the ministry looks like. You can drill down with specific volunteers on their roles individually. This is also where you make sure they have background checks done and know the safety guidelines.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - You are now nearing the time you will launch and you need to get the word out. Make sure that you get every piece of information out, in a variety of ways, at least 7 times. Use all the usual ways your church communicates: bulletin, announcements, social media, website, e-mail blasts, etc. Make sure the church office staff or volunteers are clear in their answers to potential parent questions, including safety procedures. Make sure to have the most complete information on your church website.
- Launch then Evaluate Regularly - When the day comes to launch or relaunch your children's ministry, do it big! Celebrate! Involve senior church leaders so they celebrate and elevate the ministry with you! Then establish a solid pattern of evaluation so you know what works and what needs improvement as you move forward.