I’ve been coaching pastors for over ten years. I used to be a pastor but I retired after twenty-eight years and became a pastoral coach. All I do now is coach pastors, to be more specific, pastors of small churches. By “small” I mean under two hundred, and usually under one hundred. Of those churches that are at or under one hundred, half of them are around fifty. That’s pretty small.
Pastor: My church is small.
Me: How small is it?
Pastor: My church is so small that our Children’s Ministry consists of my spouse and our two children.
Me: That’s small.
It’s a real challenge to have an effective and healthy Children’s Ministry when you only have a handful of children and, as is so often the case, even fewer volunteers. But there is hope. You can have an effective and healthy Children’s Ministry, and here’s how:
1. Work with what you have, not with what you don’t have.
In smaller churches, doing ministry with limited resources (money, time, volunteers, etc.) is always a challenge. Children’s Ministry is no exception. Begin by asking, “What resources do I have today that I could start with?” You may only have a budget of one hundred dollars and two volunteers. Start there. Don’t get bogged down with what you don’t have. You have to start somewhere. Start with what you have.
2. Do a few things well.
This is similar to the above. It would be better to do only three things well than five things half-baked. You probably can’t duplicate the Children’s Ministry that is offered at that big church down the street. Don’t try to.
3. Cast a compelling vision for Children’s Ministry.
Children are important to God. If Children’s Ministry is important to you and your church, then you will need to cast a compelling vision for it. If you don’t make Children’s Ministry a ‘big deal’ in your church, it will never be a big deal in your church.
4. Recruit, recruit, recruit.
Sorry, but you can never stop recruiting. Even if you are fortunate to have enough, you don’t have enough. Eventually, someone will leave. Someone will want to take a break. You will always need more, and it’s always better to be proactive towards the need that is coming rather than always being reactive when people’s commitments shift.
5. Don’t sacrifice someone on the altar of Children’s Ministry.
It’s commendable that your spouse or some other person in your church is willing to work with children every week, but it’s not advisable. It might take a while, but eventually, they are going to burn-out. Again, be ahead of that and protect people who might be giving too much.
6. Sometimes all you can offer is glorified babysitting.
If that is all you can do, do it well.
7. Don’t apologize.
Be honest with families that visit your church. Don’t apologize because you don’t currently have much in the way of Children’s Ministry. Reassure them that you truly value children. They can always go down the street to that mega-church and find something great for their kids. But ask them to stay and help you build something.
8. Accept that some will leave and some will stay.
Every once in a while I was able to convince a family to stay and help develop a Children’s Ministry. And, the other times…they left for that other church. It happens. Accept it.
9. Cast a compelling vision for Children’s Ministry.
Wait, you’re thinking, “Dave, you already said this.” You’re right, I did, and I’m repeating it. Similar to recruiting, you can never stop casting vision for Children’s Ministry.
Pray. Organize prayer for Children’s Ministry. Ask God for volunteers. Ask God to give you a compelling vision for Children’s Ministry. Ask God to bring families to your church what will be willing to partner with you in building a great ministry to children.
I know I don’t have to convince you that children are important to God. Some say they are important because they are the future church. I say they are important because they are the church…right now, just as they are, even if there is only a few of them. If this is true, and I believe it is, our Father wants to help you have the healthiest and most effective Children’s Ministry possible. And it is possible. Keep encouraged. Don’t give up, and don’t give in to those voices that say you can’t have a great ministry to children because you are a smaller church. You can. And with God’s help and the right focus, you will.