Monday, September 08, 2008

Small Church Children's Ministry

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?


Rick Chromey said...

Thanks for the plug of my new book, Karen, on smaller church children's ministry. I pray your work and ministry to equip teachers is blessed.



Karen Wingate said...

Thanks Rick. It's a needed book and I pray many small church children's ministries will be blessed by it.

Tony Burgess said...


Your post is encouraging and very true. My church is struggling with getting kids to stick and stay with regularity. Small churches can be a safe and nurturing place where they can know God loves them. Thank you for the encouragement.

Laura Burgess said...

Yes, your article was very encouraging. Now I want to read Rick's book!

JoeFerrucci said...

Good article. I'm a grad student at Liberty University and in a paper I wrote one of the facts that I uncovered is that the Church in the U.S. is ministering to people from WWII not 2009. Do you know of a children's church curriculum for 1 worker?

Karen Wingate said...

I'm not sure I agree with the statistic you quoted, Joe. Statistics that make generalizations are always suspect. While there are some churches that are still caught in a post WW2 mentality, there are other churches, many churches that do seek to meet the needs of the 21st century seeker. Rick Chromey's book shows that small churches are indeed working to meet the needs of contemporary children.

Also, I'd be glad to help you with curriculum but I don't understand what you mean by curriculum for one worker. Since my article for which you posted a comment was about teaching one child, do you mean curriculum for one child?

Thank you so much for responding.

Lindsey said...

It seems too often that the majority of children's ministry information is geared towards already established ministries trying to improve and grow. There's not much for the "starter ministry". I agree with your post though, small sometimes is better because it is much more personal. Our ministry is slow but surely growing and sometimes when there are more than 25 kids, I feel like all I do is shuttle them from one station to the next to keep the night in order. I can't listen to their stories from home or school or else we would "get nothing done". Sometimes I wonder where the greater impact is -- reaching many or reaching a few . meaningfully. It's hard to say