Should we revamp our Sunday schools? Change our methodology of teaching? Would remodeling with bright colors make a difference? Or should we simply stop offering Sunday school altogether? Experts can be found on all sides of the issue and they can back up their opinions with every kind of research imaginable. The concerns are valid, but maybe we need to back away from the facts, figures, and predictions about the future just a bit and concentrate on supporting our churches’ Sunday schools and children’s ministries right now.
Remember baptismal vow
Sue Jacobs, Education Specialist with the Christian Education Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America, reminds us that the spiritual formation of our children is the responsibility of not only parents and teachers, but of the entire church. In an essay on her organization’s website, she reminds us about our promise during infant baptism. “The congregation must consider the vow taken at covenant baptisms as seriously as the parents do,” she says. “If you do not know and serve them [children in your church] in some capacity, you need to search your heart before taking the baptismal vow again.”
In an online article on how to retain Sunday school teachers, the Center for Excellence in Christian Education says you don’t have to teach to support your children ministry’s efforts. The article states, “In one sense, everyone in the church can be a part of a children’s ministry regardless of the gifts, skills, time, and energy they can give. We need people to pray for this ministry, the teachers and the families we serve.”
Dr. S. Joseph Kidder, Professor of Biblical Spirituality at Andrews University (Berrien Springs, Michigan) agrees. “Tremendous amounts of pressure on children and their families exist today,” he says. “Our families certainly need a prayer covering, and so do the children’s workers who are trying to reach them.”
He suggests that one way to encourage your congregation to take ownership in your children ministry is to ask if they would commit to praying for a particular child once a week for a certain length of time. Put the name and a short description of each child onto individual cards, and then hand the cards out to those who make the promise to pray. “Such a ministry helps build bridges between the generations and automatically increases adult interest and support,” he explains. “This may also increase your base of volunteers.”
Gestures of gratitude
Recognizing volunteers is another way to support your children’s ministry. Organize a team of members to write thank you notes to your Sunday school teachers. Take photos of your teachers enjoying an activity with their class and post it on your website. Make sure they know you want to hear their ideas and encourage them to think creatively. Present them with a small bouquet of flowers from your church’s garden. Think about how even small gestures of gratitude make you feel, and do something for your volunteers. No facts and figures needed.
8 Ways to Beat Discouragement
If you work in the children’s ministry as either a church staff member or as a volunteer, you’re going to occasionally feel discouraged. It happens to all of us, so take heart. And follow this advice from Tony Kummer, founder of ministry-to-children.com, on how he makes it through a bout of discouragement. (Used with permission.)
1. Focus on the long-term vision
Short-term setbacks can really kill my morale. I get discouraged when my teaching falls flat or when I lose a busy volunteer. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish in the lives of these children twenty years from now?” Stay faithful to the vision and do the little things well. Then trust God to work things out in the long term.
2. Be thankful for past success
Take the time to step back and see how much has been accomplished this year. Write down five ways that God has touched lives through your children’s ministry. Give thanks to God and trust him to continue his work next year.
Nothing energized me for ministry like getting close to God. Very few real gains have ever come without prayer. Fight discouragement by seeking direct support from your Heavenly Father.
4. Remember that kids matter to Jesus
When God was calling me to work in children’s ministry I was amazed to discover all the Bible verses that spell out God’s love for children. Always remember that his passion to reach the little ones will always exceed your own. All you have to do is get in line with his purpose.
5. Encourage others
One of the best ways to get over discouragement is to become an encouragement to someone else. Look a Sunday school teacher in the eyes and say, “Your work matters to God and is making a difference.” Do this every week.
6. Spend more time with hurting children
Sometimes I forget the pain that many of these children are facing in their own lives. Take time to connect with a child who is suffering from a rocky home life.
7. Visit unchurched families
Few things energize me for ministry like getting into the “rough” homes of some of our kids. Remember, only the Gospel can break the cycles of sin that destroy so many families.
8. Love the unlovable
Identify the child that causes you the most stress, the one that you may have written off as a troublemaker. Then make it your personal project to love that child and become the presence of Christ in their lives. If you succeed, you will never forget it.
It’s your turn.
Share some of your “right now” ideas for supporting your children’s ministry and Sunday school volunteers. We can’t wait to see your comments!