ministry to children.
(and their families)
As a former Children’s Ministry Director at a growing, young-family-centered church, I really appreciate when churches take seriously our call to minister to the children in our midst. It’s so hard to find good, quality, investment in children (and their families) these days, so when a church does something that stands out of the ordinary, I stand up and take notice. And I thank God that those congregations are investing in the lives of faith of even the babies.
In October we visited two churches on a Sunday while in Atlanta for a conference. The first was the church of a family member where we went through an elaborate sign-in process to leave our children in the care of the nursery staff and volunteers. It was time consuming and we had to have someone literally walk us through the computer program the church used, but upon completion I noticed that every single child, parent and caregiver had a name tag that shared with us their appropriate room for the day, to whom they are attached, and their reason for being in the nursery area at all (volunteer/staff/child, etc.). We walked from the nursery into worship sans children and felt very secure in knowing that our children were well cared for during worship.
The second church was a large mega-church that I’ve wanted to visit for some time, but working in a church you don’t get many Sundays off to do such things. At this church, parents with children in the childcare are escorted to particular up-front parking spaces, and then escorted into the building for sign-in. This church also uses an elaborate sign-in process, but we had done the “hard work” at home before, so they were able to pull up our information and print out the needed “proof of relationship” bands and guide us to the appropriate classrooms. This church had approximately 25 classrooms/nursery rooms for the children so that caregiver to child ratios were kept extremely low. Each room had a chalkboard by the door announcing the snack the children would be served in the room that day, and there were staff persons dedicated solely to walking us to and from classrooms to help us find our way around. Each child received a personalize wristband, as did the parents, for security reasons. [ Side note: We had the unique experience of picking up a child after the service with a wristband missing – not from the parents, either. Luke had pulled his off of his ankle while in the classroom, and since he didn’t have it we were not allowed to pick him up until a staff person identified us as his parents. Headache, yes. Piece of mind, yes.]
This second church took things a bit farther.
Luke came home with a worksheet of what he had done in class that day while we were in worship, and tips for us as parents to pray with and for him, as well as reinforce the lesson they learned while at home. Lilly came home with a card that included details of her time in the nursery (eating, sleeping, diapers, etc.) and a prayer for her on the reverse side of the card. Because of the detailed attention to Lilly in a smaller classroom, the nursery staff were able to to the unthinkable for her – got her to NAP in public!
Outside of the worship center, the church has a large “mother’s room” for moms to enjoy the service with their babies if they are not in childcare. This room included, couches, bouncers, changing tables stocked with diapers & wipes, a crib, toys, plush rugs on the carpet, rocking gliders, and more. The best part of this room, however, was the extremely large-screen television that broadcast the worship service for the moms utilizing the rooms.
And, to take things a step further, Luke received a birthday card from the children’s ministries at this church. We visited once. They took his information to register him for the childcare, but they sent him a birthday card with encouraging words about him and reminding him of something we parents tell him often – that God loves him. (I have a sneaking suspicion that Lilly will receive one of these on her birthday, too!)
There are an abundance of ways that churches can minister to even the smallest children and their families that preach through action the love that Christ showers upon each and every one of us. As a children’s ministry director I strove to achieve many of them. Now, as a parent, I appreciate ANY attempts to minister to my child and me, since I know first-hand just how hard it is to do it all by yourself. It really does take a village to raise a child.
It’s time for our churches to step up and be that village for us parents.
Show us God’s love through action, not just word.
Reach out to our children daily, not just when you want them to sing in your Christmas pageant.
Minister to mothers by allowing them to continue to worship near the congregation, but have privacy when it’s needed, rather than requiring them to place their children in the church’s childcare.
Send our kids birthday cards. They get them from friends & family. Why not from their church reminding them of God’s love for them?
Celebrate their births & baptisms & confirmations & graduations – milestones in their lives.
Care for their parents – when the baby is born, when the baby is sick, when the parent is just plain overwhelmed.
Encourage the creative sides of children during the worship service – remove pews for a children’s worship area, or give the kids a task to complete during the worship service that they will then share with the congregation at the end of the service.
In short, treat the children and their families the way you want to be treated, and the way that God has already treated you through Christ.
Ministry to our children and families is, to me, the single most important ministry a church will have.
And it makes my heart sing when I hear of churches are intentionally reaching out to families to share God’s love in unique ways.
this is day 14 in a new series: 30 days of gratitude