Let’s Make a Big Deal Out of Kids’ Ministry!
by Geni Brooks

When you were growing up, what was a big deal in your home? What was most important? What messages were emphasized, repeated and harped on These may not be what your parents really believed were most important in life, but it’s what they talked about the most, or what they celebrated, or what they argued most about, or what got someone in trouble. Now that you’re grown, do you think those things really are the most important things in life?

I wonder if I asked my own three kids, “What is most important in life?” what they would say?  And, what would the kids at our church say?

We have the children in our ministry for maybe one or two hours a week, or every other week, and so we have a very limited opportunity to teach them what we believe really is important. To insure that they learn what really matters in life, we’ve got to make a big deal about the right stuff!

Our kids will learn what’s most important by what we tell them is most important! During each GraceKids service, we do lots of fun stuff—including choosing a VIP who gets his name on the screen, gets interviewed on stage, and then sits in the VIP booth where he and his pals have snacks served to them. It would be easy for kids to think that’s what’s most important at church—being the VIP.  So, we tell them every week what really is most important at church:  the time when kids get to ask Jesus into their hearts (the altar call). Right before we begin the altar call, we preface it with, “Now we are at the most important part of our GraceKids service. Who knows what we get to do right now?” Then we call on a volunteer to tell us. Almost always the answer is: “see if kids want to ask Jesus in their hearts.” I want kids to know that the most important thing that can happen at church, or in life is asking Jesus into our hearts.

The kids are going to figure out what’s important by what we as children’s ministers notice, reward, and celebrate. Do we mostly reward kids for being quiet and still? Are quietness and stillness our top virtues and kids learn that those are what’s most important in our children’s ministry? What do kids get prizes for? What do we celebrate? When does a kid get his name up in lights? Do we reward kids for godly behavior, for witnessing, for learning scriptures? Do we brag about them in front of their peers? Do we take time to brag on them to their parents? Do we write notes to them when they do something important and grand?

Do we think evangelism is important? Do we think it’s a big deal when a child brings a friend to church? If so, we show them how big a deal it is. Do we think it’s a big deal when they tell their friend about Jesus? Let’s celebrate them. Call them up in front to share their testimony. Put their name up in lights–on the screen!  Publish the news in a children’s church newsletter or email.

Kids are going to figure out what’s important by what we let the kids do! Who gets to do the most in your children’s service: adults or kids? This has been the biggest change we’ve made throughout our 26 years of children’s ministry here at Grace. We started adult-driven, and spent hours preparing adult skits, songs, dances, hot dog choreographed dances, water gun dances, etc.  We were very entertaining—and I thought we had an awesome ministry! Then one adult said, “But I noticed that the kids didn’t get to do anything. They just watched. Kids learn by doing.” That was an eye opener to me. Of course I was having a blast doing kids’ ministry: because I was getting to do everything—all the fun stuff—and I was learning the most! I taught, led the worship, presented the puppet skit, offered the object lesson, danced the dance, made the posters, etc.

So our kids ministry took on a new direction, and we are still working on becoming more and more kid-driven. Sometimes this is painful, because it’s easier to do some things ourselves, rather than train children how to do it. Or sometimes we think we’re better at it—such as leading worship. Sometimes we are better, but that’s not the point. If our goal is to provide the best academy award-winning entertainment or polished presentations, then we don’t want to hand it over to the kids. But if our goal is to equip them for ministry—and to show them that we believe in them, that God can and will use them in ministry, then we let kids do as much as possible! Do we want to raise up kids who are worshippers and worship leaders, or kids who just watch worship? If it’s a big deal that kids learn how to do certain things, then we need to let them practice in the service.

Do we think it’s a big deal for kids to bring and use the Bible? Then let’s find a time for them to use their Bibles during the service, or there is no reason for them to bring their Bibles.

If we want kids to grow up to be servants, we want to train them and let them serve now:  as greeters, as worship leaders, as actors in the skits, as student teachers. If we think it’s a big deal for kids to learn how to get along with each other, and live the Golden Rule, and develop godly friendships, then we have to give them time to meet each other, talk, and play in safe, protected environment.

Let’s make a big deal about stuff that really is a big deal in kids ministry—and I think Jesus will be pleased to see who these kids grow up to be!

Geni Brooks is the children’s pastor at Grace Outreach Center in Plano, Texas. She has the best job in the world: loving and teaching kids! Geni writes children’s church curriculum and evangelistic tools that are being used across the world. For more information go to www.growingothers.com.