It’s pretty normal to hear kidmin leaders says this: “Hey kids, after your parents get out of big church, you will…” It’s so common that my wife and I say it almost every week to the first graders we teach. There’s nothing wrong with it. But it does imply something…
Are we in “little” church? I guess it might simply be that there are “big” people in that other service. Maybe it’s just that the room is bigger… or grander… or more important.
If you think about it, even though it’s not improper to say “big church,” it might plant the subtle idea in our kid’s heads that they have not arrived. That there is another place they will get to go one day that has a little more significance than the place they are now. That there is something happening elsewhere that is bigger than what they are doing now.
As you know, nothing could be further from the truth. If we know that 80% of all decisions to follow Jesus happen before age 12, that is, in our kid’s ministries, aren’t WE doing “big church?” We want our children to feel like the church is a place they can go and have fun and feel safe, but we also need to consider that church is the place where they are engaged and challenged to walk with Jesus NOW, not when they become adults. Children’s ministry is not a holding cell for maturing Christians, it’s the launching pad.
So, here are five things you can try in order to reverse this potential mindset in kids, leaders, and parents:
- Before kids are picked up from your ministry, flip the terms. You could say, when your parents pick you up today from big church.
- Encourage your children to initiate the conversation that parents rarely do. We tell our kids that, as soon as they get into the car after church, to ask their parents, “What did you learn in church today?”
- Do things in your corporate worship experience for kids that you do in the services that are held, primarily, for adults. For example, are there songs done in student or adult services that are also done in kids? I’m not suggesting that they all be the same, but there are some great songs out there that could be done in multiple environments, even Preschool. Do you pray collectively? Do they participate in offering? Do they see baptisms and testimonies? Are these things reserved only for adults?
- Challenge kids in their faith, using different contexts, in areas that adults are challenged. To serve, be generous, grow closer to Jesus, deal with life issues, disciple others, and to outreach.
- Find ways to lead your church in its perception of kids ministry. As long as adults think that what happens in big church is more important, it will be. But it’s not. It’s ALL big church.
Perhaps if we do this, the senior pastors of the next generation won’t struggle to get their adults to attend, worship, grow, give, serve, share, etc. because the believers in their congregations never had to graduate from “little church” to “big church.”
Jeffrey Reed serves on the leadership team for LifeWay Kids. He came to LifeWay with a wide variety of ministry experiences including worship leader, director of children’s ministry, and executive leadership in several growing congregations. He, his wife Katherine, and their four kids attend Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, TN.