Church planting is full of cautionary tales, particularly when it comes to church planting and children’s ministry. One church planter told a story of what he thought was the beginning of the end of his church plant. Their church began as a rapidly growing ministry to hip, young, single folks in a major American city. However, things started to shift when people started getting married and having children. Perhaps their church attendance declined as new parents experienced sleepless nights and new responsibilities, or maybe their staff did not have the time or expertise to lead or develop children’s ministries. Whatever the case, this church planter ended up making the outrageous claim, “Kids killed our church plant.”
Apart from the fact that Jesus was quite clear about God’s love for kids (Matthew 19:14 immediately comes to mind) and this church planter’s inability to navigate unplanned (and positive!) changes, he did express a struggle that many church planters face: how to meaningfully incorporate church planting and children’s ministry.
Many church planters are already stretched thin—trying to hold down multiple jobs while wearing multiple ministry hats doesn’t leave much room for adding “Children’s Pastor” to their business cards. However, Scripture is clear that kids matter to God! Learning to bring together church planting and children’s ministry is the best kind of problem we should hope to face.
Below, please find several fantastic resources to help kickstart your thinking about church planting and children’s ministry.
10 Best Church Planting and Children’s Ministry Resources
As a new church plant we are blazing new trails in many areas, not the least of which is our children’s ministry. We’ve been meeting publicly each Sunday now for seven months. Up until now, our ministry for children has run on good intentions, but over the last month we’ve taken things up several notches—professionalizing and standardizing what we do for our littlest attendees.
We who serve as pastors often think about ministering to adults, but we don’t spend enough time thinking about how we can minister to the children in our congregation.
Often, groups that call themselves missional communities are primarily Bible studies or book studies, where members sit in a circle and discuss a given topic or passage. I agree, it is very hard to incorporate children into a Bible study or book study meeting time. But you may have noticed that doing a group study like this is conspicuously absent from the rhythms I’ve described.
“The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday. If the sun shines out and their friends are going to the beach, do you decide to skip church and go to the beach? In which case, you send signals to your children that it is not important.” (Carl Trueman)
It is overwhelmingly apparent that when planting a church, children’s ministry must be much more significant than an afterthought. Parents in your church want something spiritually significant, fun, safe and welcoming for their children. And kids want it, too. If a church does not provide a ministry from the seed stages of the plant, you risk several things.
Yesterday I mentioned to the boys that someone was coming for dinner. As a church planting wife (and now more of a pastor’s wife), we have people in our home quite often for dinners, community group, leadership gatherings or celebrations, so my kids didn’t think this announcement was anything unusual.
In fact, my oldest, after a moment of silence, said, “Mom, our house is special.” Something like joy stirred in me, knowing exactly what he meant, but I asked anyway. “Why is it special, Will?”
“Because so many people come into it.”
The stats show that the biggest percentage of the unchurched are families with kids. I believe the key to reaching the biggest majority of unchurched families is by reaching their kids. I have personally seen it happen again and again. God can use a child to bring their parents to Christ.
As you look across the country, you will find that churches that are growing and reaching people have dynamic children’s ministries.
As parents we must discern when to defend our vulnerable pastor’s kids from unreasonable attack, and when to agree with their critics, endorsing due discipline. We must make it clear to the church that we will protect our children appropriately; that they are not fair game for mean-spirited cranks.
As much as we talk about missional communities being a place for the extended family, we also recognize that the experience of family that most of us have daily interaction with is our own nuclear families. Indeed, missional communities that function as extended families are mainly made up of nuclear families. So we wanted to spend a few weeks exploring some practical tips on parenting, raising kids and leading our nuclear families in a missional way.
Why are young people leaving the church? If I had a dollar for every time I heard this question, I would have a lot of dollars. And I get it. The rate at which young people are leaving the church is alarming. Everyone has experienced a young person throwing aside their faith, either directly or indirectly. It’s devastating.
So, how does the church need to change? While this question needs to be addressed, I don’t think it provides an answer to the problem.