Going into my last children’s pastorate, I definitely had several red flags to consider. I was the 8th children’s pastor in 8 years. There were no where near enough volunteers to manage even the kids we had left. We had resistance, distrust and 7 different curriculums in use! Yet, in less than one year, the kid’s church attendance rocketed from around 300 per weekend to 600 per weekend. It happened rapidly. Many fantastic new volunteers came on board to join the loyal diehards that had stayed with us. Parent participation was at an all time high. And the question I got asked time after time by children’s leaders and lead pastors: “How did it happen? What was the ‘secret’ to growing kid’s church attendance?” The answer is that there is one thing that has helped kid’s church’s grow everywhere I have worked.

Amid the many changes we had to make that year (and the ones to follow), which change was most instrumental in fueling growth? Most leaders expect me to answer that we grew because of a trendy new curriculum, or a brand new cutting edge facility, adding or cutting programs or implementing a forced parent c0-op. And you may be expecting me to say “prayer” or “teaching Bible”- and yes those things are essential to any kids ministry. But I feel like saying “just pray and your church will grow” is a bit insulting, assuming that churches who are growing less just do not pray enough and that big churches must be praying more. Prayer and Scripture are crucial. But best practices sure help as well. And the one thing that grew our kid’s and family ministry the most?

TRAINING THE CHILDREN TO LEAD THEIR OWN SERVICE

What do I mean by that? We trained in children to run our sound/lighting boards, be in the kid’s worship team (which progressed into a live worship team), pray with others on our altar team, participate in puppetry, drama, dance team, greeters, new child buddies and more. We announced that the end goal of the kids and family ministry department was that every person have a living relationship with Jesus and to express that love for Jesus by using their gifts to serve others. We taught that each one of us is unique and treasured by God; we each have gifts to bring. The kids knew, this was THEIR service. They are the church NOW, not just in the future. Right away, kids were signing up to be on different teams. Then they started bringing their friends to see them do their skit, or sing etc. And soon the parents began coming in too, and signing up to serve, because they wanted their kids to be a part of something worthwhile. Kids WANT to be apart. They want to serve, right now.

This changed everything about how we did ministry. It meant a whole lot more work on our part- weekly rehearsals with the different teams of kids, recruiting talented adults to work with the kids in their area of gifting, reworking curriculums to allow the kids to be a part of it (adding a live skit, puppet song, dance number etc.). For me, it meant that I had to let go of the illusion of having the “perfect” kid’s church and being “in control.” I had to listen to the kids ideas and give them chances- even if it wasn’t ‘perfect’. I finally realized that if I did a great “Trisha show” and the kids were very quiet and all they took home was, “Trish was great” I had failed. If we had a not so perfect service, but the kids were participating and went home saying “Jesus is great”- we all won.

I am convinced that when children turn 18, they will continue to do what they have been doing all along in our churches. Do we want that to be adults who sit quietly and do nothing (we’ve got plenty of those already) or do we want adults who can’t wait to participate in THEIR service, use their gifts and bring their friends? It takes time to change the paradigm from “Adults talk- you kids sit and listen and don’t speak” to “We are all the church together. Let’s all serve God and others today!”

It’s a lot more complicated to put together a service that way, but it is so worth it, right now and into the future.

What about you? What is the number one thing you and your team have done to grow numerically and in “depth”?

Trishapic5

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