5 Strategies for Small Church Children’s Ministry
Children's ministry veteran Greg Baird gives great pointers for the smaller kids' program.
Small Church, BIG Challenge
What do you do when only two kids show up on Sunday, and they’re 4 & 12?
Start by thinking S.M.A.L.L.
Janice hurried through the building checking each of the three classrooms. She’d invested several hours already that week ensuring everything would be ready for the kids. Janice loved the kids of First Church of the Valley; she’d overseen the children’s ministry there for almost two years now and thoroughly enjoyed her part-time position. She had to admit, though, that sometimes she was frustrated, not knowing how many kids might show up or if they’d be preschoolers or preteens. She was often preoccupied by questions about her small children’s ministry: How do I prepare for the unknown? How do I make ministry relevant for just a few kids with such varied ages? And even more important: Is our ministry really effective with this unique group of kids?
Thousands of children’s ministry leaders face these same questions every week. They work incredibly hard to minister effectively to the kids who arrive at their doors. They face the challenging prospect of not knowing how many kids might show up (two or 25?), along with the even bigger challenge of meeting kids’ needs – when the kids are all over the age spectrum. So how do you keep a small church ministry effective and relevant?
You think S.M.A.L.L!
S: Start with a Plan
To create impact – in any size children’s ministry – you must begin with a plan. Plan how you’ll effectively reach kids in your children’s ministry. Recruit for the classes you’ll offer – even if those classes are occasionally empty – based on your average weekly attendance (track attendance for three months to get a close average). Do the necessary volunteer screening and training to prepare volunteers. Prepare teaching materials, including curriculum and supplies. Prepare your space and be ready.
Note: Being ready doesn’t mean having a healthy stack of word puzzles and coloring pages ready for kids. It means being prepared with a full lesson plan that maximizes every moment your volunteers have with kids.
It’s easier to lower your preparedness standards when you think there might be just a few kids. It’s easy to slip into the mindset of “winging it.” But remind yourself of this: Reality is just the opposite. With only a handful of kids, you have greater opportunity than ever to make a deep and lasting impact. Prepare for it! Regardless of who or how many might show up, start with a plan.
M: Move to Plan B
Your Plan A is in place: You’re prepared for your average attendance and ready to go. But if drastically fewer kids show up, or if kids’ age ranges are awkward (for instance, you have a 4 year old and a 12 year old sitting at the table staring blankly at you), then move to Plan B.
Plan B is your plan for what you’ll do if your number or ages vary dramatically from what you’d normally expect. Determine beforehand how you’ll handle such variances. Who’ll lead? How will you organize your volunteers? Will you dismiss some volunteers, or use them in other ways? How will you mix age groups so older kids interact with and mentor younger kids? Is your curriculum geared to engage all ages? Where will kids go? Think through all the troublesome scenarios you’ve experience in the past year: Too many kids, not enough kids, major age gaps, group imbalances (10 preschoolers and one teen, for instance). If it’s a possibility, plan for it. That doesn’t mean you need to create a new plan every week, but have a plan prepared for the major scenarios you face. Typically, you can simply adjust Plan A, but you need Plan B for the big obstacles.
Note: Plan B isn’t winging it. Making up Plan B as you go isn’t acceptable; have it ready and your volunteers trained to adapt in advance.