“Children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). While we know this to be true, too often, many struggling churches no longer experience the sound of crying babies during the service or children running down the church halls. They remember what it was like to see kids at VBS or at church events, but that is now only a memory. They miss the blessing of baby dedications of young families attending regularly and watching children grow into teenagers and young adults. These churches place a priority on seeing new spiritual births and likely have not seen a physical birth of any kind in years. Churches like these are in need of replanting.
A lack of children can be a sign that a church is unhealthy and in danger. If this fact is not apparent to the church, it makes it all the more urgent.
The church that I am now serving had experienced this. The Sunday that I preached in a view of a call, there was no one serving in the nursery. There was no need, and it had been quite some time since they needed nursery workers because most of the children were older. With my arrival, we immediately addressed the need for nursery workers. I have three children, and two needed to be in the nursery! During our view of a call, about about minutes before the service, I saw my wife walking out of the sanctuary with my children. After asking what was wrong, she told me that she was going to watch our kids… I knew I was in trouble! At this point, she was stressed, and I was stressed—even more stressed than I expected to be because she was so stressed! Eventually, we worked it out. Someone watched my girls, and I was able to convey this as a valuable lesson to the church: we must prayerfully expect God to bless our church with children and be prepared serve children!
In five months, our church has grown; we now need at least two nursery volunteers. Our midweek service has nearly doubled, and we are literally having to make changes on the fly, sometimes weekly, to figure out how to best serve the families and children who are now attending!
If you are going to replant a church, make plans for children! Here are a few things that I have learned over the past few years to help in replanting a children’s ministry.
1. Love and serve your workers.
Often, there are many people who are serving in the children’s ministry, and many of them have faithfully served their church for years—even through the lean years when there were not many children. Ask questions. Listen and get to know the history and their heart for ministering to children. Find out what challenges, struggles and victories they have experienced. Praise them publically, thank them privately, encourage others to thank them. Our church has several ladies who are constantly being challenged because our ministry is growing; but no matter what, they continue to amaze me at how they can “go with the flow” and do whatever is needed to bless our children (thanks Bridget, Joni, Laura, Rebecca, Laurie, and Misti)! Thank God for these people, and make sure they know they are important!
2. Communicate that children matter.
Take every available opportunity to clearly communicate how children are blessing to the church and also why the church should spend time, energy and resources to developing and nurturing them! Use your individual conversations to share with influential people how important children are and how you expect to grow the ministry!
3. Share the victories as much as possible.
When our children’s ministry started to grow, I told everyone I could in our church. I did not do this to brag; it was to make sure people knew what we were doing was effective. More than that, I did this to make sure everyone knew it was worth it! Include stories about the growing children’s ministry into your sermons; tell your deacons; make sure your leaders hear about it! The more you share these victories, the more people will support the ministry and get behind it!
4. Talk to the kids.
Pastor, talk to the children in your church. Do it before, during and after the service. Show your children that you value them as people! I try to peek my head in the children’s wing every time our church meets. They don’t always see me, but I always get to see them. Take time to get to know these children and develop a relationship with them; let them know that you are their pastor.
5. Make them welcome.
I don’t care how loud children get in the service! Seriously…I don’t. I have told many parents this. Babies crying in a church service is far more beautiful then the deafening echoes of silence from a sanctuary devoid of a heritage. We would much rather have coloring on our walls then cobwebs in the halls where children once ran. Help your people understanding that you welcome children (even crying babies) in the worship gathering.
I cannot tell you how good it is to see children in our church. To see people get excited about the new growth in our church is something that is infectious. Plan for children. Pray for children. God loves children, and so should we. But if we fail to make them welcome and a needed part of the life of a congregation, then we might just miss out on an incredible opportunity to see a great milestone in the life of a replant: a vibrant children’s ministry.
Published October 17, 2017