Turning It Around

Written by  Chris and Carla Armstrong -- New Jersey Tuesday, 17 February 2015 01:23

Turning It AroundSome of our young children don’t want to come to class? Only about 20 percent of the teachers were willing to come the teachers’ communion? Many teachers were unprepared and coming in very late, even after the children arrived? These were just a few of the problems that our Kingdom Kids ministry faced. In November 2013 we were asked to lead the New Jersey children’s ministry and we considered it to be an honor. Our children’s ministry was in serious disrepair. Many sincere, dedicated disciples were working hard to keep it running, but things were not changing. Here are some of the convictions that we had and have tried to instill in our congregation, especially in those who serve the children.

1. Kingdom Kids – a vital ministry of the church

Our children’s ministry has approximately 130 children and 50 teachers in nine classes from infants through fourth grade every Sunday. The size of this group is larger than several of the regions in the New York City Church. We want to do everything we can to help our children learn to love God and his people, and have a great time doing it. The children and their faith will inspire their teachers and parents. A dynamic and God-centered ministry will also attract visitors, as they see their children have fun and grow in their faith. We recently had a professor at a local university become a Christian. She came to visit once and was brought back by her son’s insistence – he wanted to come back to class! We have been fortunate to have the backing of our region leaders and eldership. The Stevensons, Craigs, and Taliaferros were completely supportive of us in making the necessary changes, and they gave us great advice.

2. Teamwork is essential!

Often the leaders of a children’s ministry take on too much responsibility and eventually get burnt out. There are so many facets to this role—leading, planning, screening & training teachers, organizing curriculum, working with parents, presentations, etc. To avoid burn out, we found three other couples to help us direct the children’s ministry: the Evans, the Isaacs and the Garrisons. Without them, none of the changes would have been possible. It takes a team. It takes a village. Also, we wanted a theme for the ministry and found a great example in the Bible of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. Just as Nehemiah did, we surveyed the situation and prayed to choose the right leaders to do the work.

3. Be shepherds, not hired hands.

John 10 describes the attitude of the hired hand versus the shepherd. We asked people to serve who we knew were passionate about children and God’s Kingdom. We spent the summer meeting every Sunday after church to lay out plans to rebuild our children’s ministry. Our concern was serious enough that the children’s classes were cancelled for the months of July and August to give us time to prepare. As a result of those meetings, we created the role of Teacher Coaches to be in charge of each age group. We asked people that we knew would have the attitudes of true shepherds—people who would take ownership of their age group. The people leading the classes would set the tone and standard for the classes, so it was crucial to get this right.

4. Inspire your congregation!

Our goal has been to inspire our members to volunteer to serve in Kingdom Kids. For instance on one Sunday, we built a wall on the stage with blocks representing each age group, to give the congregation a visual of the spiritual wall we were building around the children. We produced several videos. One featured children asking people to serve, and in another, people shared why they loved being with the children in Kingdom Kids. The church has been inspired by having a Family Sunday at the end of each quarter. We highlight the children’s ministry through performances and videos from classes. Nothing is as precious as seeing the children!

5. Make sure it looks and sounds great!

We invested in signs, banners, matching tablecloths, AV equipment, Bible Bucks, and other things to make the Kingdom Kids ministry the best it could be. We wanted to make a good impression for first time visitors. Also, we wanted the kids to feel like it’s a fun place to be! We changed the format to include a Kids Worship service with singing, prayers, videos and performances. Then the children go to their classes for Bible story and craft.

6. It is hard work, but it is worth it!

We, along with others, have put many hours into the children’s ministry. Taking care of all the details definitely takes time and effort. There have been many evenings and Saturdays devoted to this great work. However, the children and their smiles make it all worth it. As Jesus stated in Mark 9:37, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.

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