Children’s Ministry: a bird’s eye view of our church

If you visit our church on the average Sunday morning, you will find that we have our own unique church culture. Part of it comes from living in a remote, small town. Part of it comes from the particular giftings and vision for ministry which God has given our body of believers. A peek into how we do things will help you understand the larger picture and context from which we are sharing at Discipling Children.

Calvary Chapels routinely have Sunday School and worship for children while the adults are in the Sunday morning service. The worship service has a singing portion and a sermon portion, which is a forty-five minute to one hour Bible study. Because of the length of the study, we feel that it is a more effective use of the children’s time to engage them in their own lessons during the Bible study. We handle it a bit differently in our church in that we include the children in the music of the adult service and then dismiss them to their own age-appropriate classes for the time remaining.

The typical family who comes to our church signs their children in at the classroom doors and then takes their children with them to the worship service. The children are able to sit with their parents during the singing. After the music, we invite people to greet each other and visit while parents take their children back to the classrooms. The children enjoy time in Sunday school while the parents enjoy a time of Bible study without distractions. After service, parents pick their kids up.

The sign-in process is simple. Kids who come regularly just need their parent to sign their name next to their child’s name. The same parent gets their child after service and signs their name in a second column. For visiting children, the parent or adult who brought them adds the child’s name to the bottom of the list, notes any allergies the child has, and signs their name. That same adult comes back to check the child out. This procedure allows parents to feel confident that their child will be safe and cared for until they return. Because this is done before service (mostly), the transition time during service is minimal. To make it even faster, our classrooms for young ones through second grade are near the sanctuary doors, and older children meet their teacher in the hallway and walk to their classes together.

We offer Sunday School for children through seventh grade. There is a mothers’ room where moms with babies can nurse or take care of other needs in privacy and listen to the service. Usually, at four to six months, babies transition into our nursery/preschool class. This class is in a suite of rooms and is set up for babies through five year olds. The next class is for children in kindergarten through second grade. All of these rooms are within just a few feet from bathrooms and a water cooler. Our first service usually has fewer than ten children in third through seventh grade, so we keep them all together in a classroom in an external trailer. During second service, we split this age group in two classes that meet in the trailer and in the house next to the church. (The Koinonia House contains the church offices and more classroom space.)

This is the basic structure of children’s ministry as it is currently. Things are never static with us. The needs of the children change, and so the way that we handle our resources and our approach must change to meet the needs. The one constant is our desire to bring the children to Jesus and help them to grow in their faith.

 

© Laurie Orr 2015

Children’s Ministry as Discipleship

What happens when children are dropped off by parents at the door of the Sunday School room? And what should happen?

Discipling children

Parents have expectations when they leave their child in the care of children’s workers. At the most basic level, they believe that their child will be tended to and cared for in theway a babysitter would. They assume that the worker is a Christian and will show love to their child. To meet these expectations, a caregiver must begin by reaching out with kindness to welcome the child in and make them comfortable. For a preschooler, it might mean helping them to find a toy that gives delight or a colorful book. For an older child, it means providing a comfortable place to sit with a friend, or at least someone who is friendly. The child should enjoy their time in the care of an adult who can relate to their age group and provide meaningful activities. The parents must know that their child is being looked after while they are away and are being kept safe.

But most parents are expecting a bit more. They are assuming that their children are learning something. And they are anticipating that in church, that something will be a Bible story or other Christian instruction. It is necessary that Children’s Workers be teachers. They need to be equipped to give information in a way that captures each child’s attention and helps them to understand and remember what they learn. This requires a little bit of knowledge about child development and the age group that the teacher is working with. It also means that the teacher has prepared the lesson and is ready to share it with those particular children. Loving care and good teaching are important parts of effective children’s ministry, but something more is essential.

A children’s ministry worker and teacher must have a heart to disciple the children in their class. And this means that they must be a disciple themselves. In addition to being a Christian, they must be someone who is purposefully following after, imitating, and serving Jesus. They should be living out their faith every day, spending time in personal prayer and Bible study, and being changed by the Holy Spirit. With this vibrant spiritual life being lived out day by day, they are able to lead the children into the same life. While spending time with their teacher, the students are able to see what it is to be a Christian, and the teacher is able to point them to Jesus and say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” In a class like this, children can learn to be disciples of Jesus.

It we make our goal anything less than helping children to be disciples of Jesus, we are missing the opportunity of our calling. We are called, not just to love and teach, but to disciple children.

© 2015 Laurie Orr