Tuesday, June 21, 2011


They say the secret to a business’ success is location, location, location. But there are also those who suggest, for the small or medium sized church, that in order to have someone present the lesson to children each week, the secret is rotation, rotation, rotation. In other words, get a bunch of volunteers, put them on the schedule to teach each week, and then no one person has to miss out on the “main service” all the time.

But as I stated in the introduction to this series, it is my humble opinion that such a weekly rotation is counterproductive to effective children’s ministry. I believe there are three reasons why this is true. Today, we present reason number one:


In many ways, Elaine is an ideal teacher. Before the teaching volunteer schedule is even typed, she has left three messages and an email wanting to know as soon as possible when her weeks are. She gets the teacher’s manual, makes copious notes, and does a careful verse-by-verse analysis of the Scripture that would make seminarian proud. She then turns her attention to crafting the lesson. Leaving nothing to chance, she rounds up her props, making sure they are functioning properly. She jots down notes on 3x5 index cards, which she will rarely refer to while teaching, as she has the lesson already committed to memory by the time her Sunday rolls around. And when that Sunday comes, Elaine is there an hour early, making sure the room is ready to go.

Back when we had teaching rotations for children’s church, I had a couple of Elaines. I wish I had had more Elaines, but actually, some of my teachers were like Doug. Doug is a likeable fellow and enjoys kids well enough. He was asked to be part of the rotation and readily agreed. He is especially grateful for the teacher’s manual, which lays out the entire lesson for him. On Wednesday, Doug looks at the schedule and sees that he is teaching on Sunday. He puts the teacher’s manual on his desk as a reminder to look it over. After showering on Saturday night (following a long day of ball games with his office league and yard work), Doug spots the manual right where he left it. Slapping himself on the forehead, he plops down on the couch, turns on the television, and begins reading over the lesson for tomorrow (“multi-tasking,” Doug calls it). Thirty minutes later, his wife finds him sleeping on the couch. The next morning, as Doug hurriedly dresses, he asks his wife to drive them to church so he can look over the lesson again.

Truth be told, most of the weekly rotation volunteers I had were somewhere between Elaine and Doug. And yes, there were some Dougs that really stepped up and made sure they were well prepared and some Elaines that slipped up and remembered their responsibility at the last minute. And while we’re at it, there are Sundays in which I am less prepared than I should be. But since children’s ministry is a week by week experience, there should be the expectation of consistency when it comes to preparation. Sadly, there isn’t. I realize good training and clearly spelled out job descriptions can alleviate some of this problem (and that’s a subject for a whole other blog), but in the small to medium church that is tied to curriculum, it becomes a challenge to convince folks who work hard all week and who “tend to the kids” once a quarter to invest even more time in study and preparation for their lesson. After all, it’s all spelled out in the teacher’s manual.

But if someone knows it is his or her responsibility to have a quality lesson ready each and every week, then it becomes “the thing to do.” Someone can dump an ill-prepared lesson on the kids once every three or four months and no one will necessarily remember. But one cannot go unprepared week after week, because then everyone will notice. Inconsistent preparation is one of the weaknesses of a weekly rotation. Having a consistent, primary teacher whose responsibility is to prepare the lesson each and every week goes a long way into building a quality children’s ministry.

As always I welcome your comments, observations, suggestions, or experiences as we learn from one another and build each other up.

Next time: Inconsistent Presentation.

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