Every kids ministry leader can instantly rattle off the details and depth of the who, where, when, and how of their ministry programs. It is far more uncommon for a leader to be able to present a clean, clear and comprehensive explanation of the why behind their ministry. Everything you do in your kids ministry—every move you make and every step you take—hinges on your why. Do you know your why?
Your why is most often summarized as a mission, values, and vision statement. If you do not have one, you need one. This is crucially important in order to have clarity and consistency in the decisions you make. It influences which ideas and opportunities to which you will say ‘yes,’ and which you will not pursue. If an action, activity, or event does not support your why it is likely not worth your time, as it will not further your cause. Once you have hammered out your why statement, everything else you do should hang on it. Your why defines the culture of your ministry for you and your team, and for the parents, families, and kids that you serve. Your unique why also distinguishes the kids ministry at your church from every other church in town. If people ‘buy’ your ‘why,’ they will stick with you. If your why in undefined, unclear or just plain absent, you will have a hard time keeping people engaged.
A good why statement is missional, measurable and memorable. Missional means that it outlines a purpose of ministry that lets everyone involved know the goal. What is the reason that we keep bringing our kids here? For what reason do I continue to volunteer in this ministry? Measurable means that the statement should include enough details on the who, what, and how that people can recognize the fruits of your ministry when they see them. When we see these things happening, we can know that we are doing it right. Memorable means that the statement should be easy to recall. Every member of your team should be able to quickly articulate the purpose that undergirds their program. Keep it short. Keep it neat. Keep it catchy. Simplicity and clarity are equally important. Do not sacrifice detail simply to be quippy. You need this statement to be both. A good why statement should play equally well printed on a T-shirt, painted on a wall, plastered on a poster, or posted on social media.
A good place to begin crafting a strong why statement is by filling in this blank:
“We strive to ______ kids …”
What word would you put in that place? Teach? Reach? Encourage? Engage? Connect? Inspire? Train? Guide? Prepare? Direct? Disciple?
They are all valid. Many could be good. Ultimately, the words you choose as you write your why statement should be personal, meaningful, and accurately define kids ministry in the context of your church. The specific words you select will paint a picture of your church’s unique approach to ministry. For instance, a reaching church may be outwardly focussed; seeking to bring in neighborhood children who do not yet know Christ. A teaching church may have a different, but equally valid emphasis on biblical literacy for kids within the church. For the purpose of this example I will choose “connect” to fill in the blank and move on to a how section of our example statement.
“We strive to connect kids to God by cultivating a heart-transforming personal faith in Jesus Christ through biblically sound teaching and relational discipleship.”
The word “connect” describes a condition of relationship that we desire for kids to have with the Lord. If they are truly connected to God, their faith will be deep and strong. “Cultivating” acknowledges that we will function like farmers. Our ministry will plant, water, and nurture spiritual seeds. We will create an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth, and we will nurture our seedlings. “Heart transformation” is a key aspect of our example statement because we want to clarify that we are not focussed on getting a child to change outward behavior to “act” a certain way. We want our ministry to result in transformation from within, with hearts changed by Jesus. When God changes hearts, genuine behavioral change follows. Our statement clearly elevates Scripture as our standard for teaching (you may be surprised at how many churches do not elevate God’s Word as the only source for teaching). Lastly, we acknowledge to all involved that we understand that discipleship happens best in the context of relationship. This is an excellent clause for teachers and volunteers to understand their roles in ministry. Building relationships is very different than teaching for an hour. Relationships, by nature, require commitment and consistency.
Each word adds clarity to our mission, vision, and values. The statement we developed here is merely one example. You can take yours any number of directions and still accomplish the goal. Take time today to put words to your why. You will find that decisions get easier when you can view them through a clear lens of purpose.
Chuck Peters is Director of Operations for LifeWay Kids. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck has served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years.