Our little church has hit crisis mode. Our elementary children’s department now has one regular attender. The preschool class is in the same shape. It’s become a vicious circle. Teachers are frustrated because there are no children and families with children don’t want to come because we have no program. To make us feel more despondent the experts tell us that children’s ministry is the heartbeat of any congregation. Without a children’s ministry, our church will die. Is there any hope for us?
Rick Chromey, in his book, “Energizing Children’s Ministry in the Small Church” gives some answers that greatly assure me. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
1. Small is good. Small churches who live in the shadow of mega-churches have often felt inferior, unimportant, and guilty. But, according to Chromey, small churches have some advantages. Teachers can relate to kids more because there aren’t so many children to keep track of. Small churches can be more innovative and sometimes impulsive. It’s easier to change a program if it isn’t working in a small church. The smaller church can get kids involved in leadership roles sooner, such as passing offering plates, playing an instrument in the praise band or taking attendance. So true! I got my start in music by playing the piano for junior church. I was playing for worship service by age fifteen. In our church, an awkward 17 year old boy, is the official attendance counter, a perfect job for him. Small can be good!
2. Small doesn’t mean traditional. There are many small churches out there that are dynamic, growing, ministering, caring for their community. Is your church small because it’s holding too tightly to traditions from the past? Or is it small because of community dynamics? A small church needs to change its way of thinking not because “that’s how mega-churches do things” but because our world is changing. If we’re going to reach our kids for Jesus, we need to present a program that is relevant to them, not stuck in the 1950’s.
3. It only takes a spark. Small churches often suffer from a defeatist syndrome. I’ve heard the rhetorical statement this week, “But what can we do?” Jesus turned the world upside down with 12 men. One Sunday School teacher had a tremendous impact on one student who led thousands to Christ – Dwight L. Moody. Jesus used the parable of the mustard seed to show the impact one little seed can have. Chromey uses the example of one spark from a car that can set dry underbrush ablaze and explode into a raging forest fire.
That’s what I’m trying to be right now. Just that one spark. God has given me a handful of teachers and a couple of students to whom I’m trying to be faithful in encouraging and teaching. One little spark. That’s all it takes.
What about you?