We have recently made some dramatic changes to our Children’s Ministry at Faith Baptist Church. Throughout these changes there have been many misconceptions, misunderstandings and miscommunication that have caused a great deal of stress and worry on the very people we are here to serve.
It is my hope to clearly communicate how and why we came to the decisions that we have made regarding Children’s Ministry.
The first thing I want to say is that we are a church that deeply cares about ministering to our children. Ever since I first arrived as a Pastor here we have been in discussions on how to best reach our children. When I first arrived there was only one Sunday School class taught for all children under 6th grade. This class usually had less than 3 students in it a Sunday. We spent much of my first year discussing ways that we can improve our Sunday School attendance to reach more kids.
Then, in January of 2016, we added four extra Sunday school classes. Three of these classes were for Children, so that we now had separate classes for Nursery, preschool, and two more for elementary age kids. The fourth new class was designed for young adults (ideally the parents of the children who would be occupying the new classes). Before we even made it to the summer months we were back down to only having one class and a nursery because children were not coming.
In addition to the lack of children in Sunday school, we saw a major problem in our Jr. Church Ministries. The model that we had set up was not sustainable. We had attempted to set up these ministries so that people would only teach or assist in one of these classes once a month, leaving them free to attend the worship service the other three Sundays. Unfortunately, we could never reach enough volunteers for this to work. As a result, there were several people who were serving in these classes two to three times a month while rarely being able to be a part of the service.
Furthermore, these classes are not designed in a way to provide a sufficient teaching time for our children. Much of the time for these classes was spent as crowd control and not Bible teaching. To continue in this method was becoming extremely stressful for those who were trying to keep this ineffectual ministry afloat.
At the beginning of the summer last year, Pastor Jim and I came together to discuss what could be done to best reach our children. I saw two options available to us. One option was to abandon children’s Sunday school altogether and focus solely on a Children’s Worship hour. This is a common option in large churches with multiple services. If we were to go this route, instead of having children leave mid-service, after we have finished singing, we would have a separate, hour long, service specifically for the children.
The second was to do the opposite. To place our emphasis on a Sunday school ministry and abandon the Jr. Church classes. This is also a relatively common practice among churches.
The second option is the one I proposed, but with a new wrinkle. We saw that simply offering classes in the old Sunday School model was ineffective. Even when we offered age specific classes, most of them remained empty. So instead of this old model, I proposed a family ministry class to Pastor Jim.
After much discussion and research, we arrived at the family ministry structure that we have used the past two Sunday’s during our Sunday School hour. Families come to this class together. We have games, we have snacks, we have a bible lesson. But the unique thing about this model is that it fosters spiritual discussions as a family. The most important time during this hour is when we break up into small groups (1 family = 1 small group) and have a time of devotions and prayer together.
Pastor Jim and I discussed these plans and ideas all summer before presenting the idea to the deacon board in September. The deacons were supportive of the ideas and so I began to make plans to put our design into action. I believe this this is an important piece of information that does not seem to have been communicated. This new plan was proposed by myself and Pastor Jim, and supported by the deacons, not the other way around.
There were several factors contributing to why we decided to go this route. The first, and most obvious, was that we were already struggling to staff our Jr. Church classes. If we were not able to adequately staff a ministry where people had to miss half of the service, it would be unwise to think we could staff a ministry where we needed people to miss the entire service.
Additionally, I believe it would be a tremendous loss to the nature of our church to completely remove children from our worship service. This service on Sunday Morning is a time for the body of Christ, of all ages, to come together for a single purpose – to praise, worship and give glory and honor to God. It is a significant loss not only to our children, but also to our church, to remove these young souls from among us as we come before the Lord in praise and worship.
Finally, we made this decision because we believe that ultimately it is best for our children to be with their family in church. I believe that it is a mistake to underestimate the influence that Sunday after Sunday of coming to church and worshiping God together as a family can have on a child. This is when a child learns what church is about. Seeing a parent pour out their heart to God in song leaves a lasting impact. Watching a parent diligently search the scriptures as the Pastor preaches lets a child know the immense value of scripture.
We believe that this new model that we are using will ultimately be more effective in not only teaching our children the Bible, but also what coming to church is about.
Making the Transition:
When this decision was made, we were aware that there would be a transition period for not only our children, but for our parents and for our church as a whole. We are making every effort we can to make this go smoothly. We have busy bags for all of our children. These bags are designed to help children when they get a little fidgety during the sermon. Each bag contains a quiet toy or two and crayons.
We also have notebooks for each child to write their name on and keep at the church. An excellent way to use these notebooks is to encourage your child to draw a picture relating to the sermon being preached or a song we sang.
The last thing we provide to every child who wants one is a children’s bulletin. These bulletins contain sermon notes, just like the adult bulletin, for children to fill in the blanks that are on the screen. They also contain a coloring sheet or activity that will tie into the sermon. The last feature the bulletin has is Family discussion questions on the back. These questions are for parents to ask their children questions about the sermon sometime Sunday afternoon. These are designed to give parents an opportunity to reinforce the biblical truths taught during the sermon.
Even with all of these things, there will still be some rocky times as children learn to sit in the service. It is during these times that our church body will be given the opportunity to show parents grace and kindness as they are teaching their children. It will also provide an opportunity for our church to serve families. One of the biggest strengths of our church is that we love one another. We truly are a family at Faith Baptist Church and families support one another. We are willing to do whatever we can to support our families as we are going through this transition.
I know there are still many parents out there who are worried and anxious about this change and I urge you to come and talk to either Pastor Jim or me. When we announced these changes back in December, you were invited to attend a deacon meeting to talk and ask questions. These meetings are open for people to come and voice their concerns, but I would encourage you to come and talk with Pastor Jim or me first since that is where this plan originated.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We love and care for each of you and hope that you will remain flexible as we transition into this new ministry model.
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