Thursday, June 23, 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. Today, I want to sum up my thoughts, clarify my points, and lay out some suggestions both on how to have a consistent teaching structure and how a rotation could possibly work in some circumstances.

As we’ve been discussing, the three drawbacks to a weekly rotation are Inconsistent Preparation, Inconsistent Presentation, and Inconsistent Participation. To phrase it in a more positive way, during our Sunday Morning Children’s Church hour, there should be an expectation of consistency. Let me illustrate: when my daughter was in middle school, she had the opportunity to go to Japan. While there, she went out to eat at McDonald’s. I asked her what kind of food they served at the Golden Arches in Japan and she replied matter-of-factly that they had the same food there as we do here. Sure, they also had some options that were specific to their country, but overall, the McDonald’s experience was the same. And that’s true wherever you see a McDonald’s: the food is going to taste pretty much the same (which may or may not be a good thing in your opinion). That’s because McDonald’s is big on consistency. I believe that the Children’s Church experience should be a consistent one each week. The children should come in knowing that they will have a certain type of music, a certain atmosphere, a certain connection with an adult or older teen that they know will be there each week.

Now consistency does not mean “boring.” I remember Ronnie Caldwell once saying that we need just enough variety in our service to avoid the “routine ruts.” Having the same presenter each week does not mean the presentation has to be the same thing for 52 weeks out of the year. Rearrange the chairs, introduce a new character, flip the order of service…there is variety available within a kind. What we want to avoid is the pitfall of having a high-impact, multi-media experience one week and faded flannelgraph and stale cookies the next week. That’s not variety, that’s quantum shock. That’s McDonald’s serving French fries one week and porridge the next.

Besides creating a consistent atmosphere for the kids, having a consistent presenter also helps with relationship building. A caring adult who comes in and ministers to the children week after week is in a better position to remember their needs, their prayer requests, their spiritual growth. The kids get accustomed to the personality of the teacher, instead of having to adjust to a different individual and way of doing things each week.

As strongly as I feel about consistency in children’s church, I am not 100% against all kinds of rotations. In fact, if you are in a church that has a rotational schedule, here are some ideas that will help make it more workable.

1. Make the rotations longer. Instead of weekly, try monthly. Some of your volunteers may enjoy teaching for four weeks straight, then having a few months off. This will also strengthen relationship building.

2. Establish an atmosphere in which all the teachers will present their lessons and make sure the teachers know it. The teachers may be pleased to know they don’t have to re-invent the proverbial wheel each week.

3. Raise the standard for teachers with well written job descriptions. Make sure each of your teachers knows what they should be doing. Spell out your policies for absences and work on instilling a level of commitment among the teachers.

4. Encourage your teachers with training opportunities. Become their biggest cheerleader. And if it becomes clear that some of your weekly rotation volunteers want to exit, find a graceful way to help them transition out.

As for those small to mid-size churches that have discovered the joy of a consistent presenter each week, here are some quick principles, observations, and tips:

1. Have a support team. While you are responsible for the overall hour, the more people you can gather around you to help with songs, crafts, games, and just plain crowd-control, the better.

2. Stay connected with your pastor’s messages. If you have multiple services, this is easy: teach the kids in one and attend the main service in the other. But if you are in a church with only one service, take advantage of any recordings that your church does on Sunday mornings. Find a time to listen to the message and take notes.

3. Link up with other fellowship opportunities at your church. Men’s and women’s groups, Bible studies, and so on provide you with small group contact with “big people.”

4. Have substitutes ready who are trained and able to maintain the expectation of consistency in the event that you are ill, traveling, or just need a Sunday off.

I will not pretend that this series is the final word on rotations. It is based on my experiences, which means (as the commercials say), "your mileage may vary." But I do welcome your insights and observations, as we learn together in this adventure known as Children's Ministry.

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