Recently the CEO of Awana, Valerie Bell, asked a pastor, “Pastor, in 30 years from now, will the children in your church thank you for preparing them to walk into an unknown future?” That question punched me right in the gut. As I pondered my response in my head and heart, I tried to envision the face of a child from the church I attend. I came up with the face of Emma. Would Emma thank our church in 30 years for launching her forward with a rock solid foundation as a disciple of Christ? Or would she say that our church failed in preparing her?
I’ve been sitting down and working with pastors and church leaders to help them with their children’s ministry for over 10 years now. I’m convinced that churches who are experiencing authentic gospel growth, are the churches who include discipling children as a key part of their church mission. If you want to change the future of your church, invest heavily in reaching kids with the gospel and engaging them in lifelong disciple-making.
You may be thinking to yourself, “But we already have a children’s ministry program. What are we missing?”
Our research has shown that many KidMin Leaders (Kid’s Ministry) are keenly aware of significant changes that need to happen in the church to more effectively reach and equip kids and families, but they feel like they don’t have a voice in shaping the direction of the church because they “just work with the kiddos.”
Think about that. The leaders whom you’ve entrusted to shape the future of your church may have something really important they want to share with you that could impact the future of your church, but they may feel disempowered to do anything about it.
Pastor, you can change this. Here are two quick suggestions you can implement immediately to begin to turn the tide in this critical area:
- Create an environment where those who work with kids have some access to you and can share their thoughts openly with you (even if what they have to say is difficult to hear). Ask them lots of questions. Seek the facts. Facts are your friends. Facts define your reality. Listen to what they have to say. By listening to their thoughts you can pray for wisdom and discern a better direction to reach and disciple kids. Your involvement in making this one area of your church more effective will likely be the most fruitful work of your year!
- Ask your Kids Pastor, “If there is one thing I could do to help you reach and disciple kids more effectively, what would that be?” You just don’t know what that response may be! But your involvement may be a tipping point to help your children’s ministry be more effective in reaching kids. With your horsepower and weight behind the children’s ministry, the impact on your church could be massive. When we more effectively engage and minister to kids, we are investing in the future of the church on a much systemic level . . . deepening the roots of faith for the next generation.
Consider elevating this conversation with your children’s ministry leaders today. She or he may have something very important to discuss with you that could lead to more effective ministry to kids and parents. This conversation may lead to the best decision you make this year.
Matt Markins serves as President and COO of Awana Clubs International. Prior to joining Awana, Matt served in leadership roles with Thomas Nelson Publishers and Randall House Publishers, and co-founded the D6 conference, a discipleship and family ministry conference. Matt has volunteered in children’s ministry for more than 20 years. His book, Leading KidMin: How to Drive Real Change in Children’s Ministry, co-authored by Pat Cimo, a veteran children’s ministry leader at Willow Creek Community Church, is available in bookstores on August 1.