Friday, May 11, 2012


Do you minister to kids or do you baby sit them?

At one time, many churches saw ministry to children as strictly a "watch the kids so the adults can enjoy the service without interruption" element.  Fortunately, an entire generation has begun to focus on the MINISTRY portion of "Children's Ministry". There is no end of resources, conferences, and networking opportunities that zero in on a kid focused model, in which discipleship and spiritual growth specifically for children is the goal.

Over the years, I have observed two main models or mind-sets in churches regarding their children's ministries.  One is the Ministry Model and the other is the Child Care Model.    The following are some contrasts (as I see them) between the two:

MINISTRY MODEL: Child (and by extension, family) focused
CHILD CARE MODEL: Grown up focused

MINISTRY MODEL: Primary motivation for kids church is to provide age appropriate opportunity for kids to worship and grow in their faith.
CHILD CARE MODEL: Primary motivation for kids church is to provide an outlet for kids so they don't get restless and distracting in the adult service

MINISTRY MODEL: Kids can and do make spiritual commitments
CHILD CARE MODEL: Kids don't really learn anything

MINISTRY MODEL: Having a lot of volunteers means being able to provide maximum relationship building
CHILD CARE MODEL: Having a lot of volunteers means not being stuck back there with the kids for too long.

MINISTRY MODEL: Even if the lesson is easy, it still takes time and discipline to prepare
CHILD CARE MODEL: Easy-prep lessons, baby!

MINISTRY MODEL: Scope and sequence is important for keeping curriculum balanced and on-track
CHILD CARE MODEL: What's "scope and sequence?"

MINISTRY MODEL: Long term growth of the children
CHILD CARE MODEL:  Short term supervision of the children

The above is obviously a simplified list and does not mean there can't be some overlap.  For example, even though our primary mind set for kids church is for kids to worship and grow, freeing the adults to worship without distractions is certainly a legitimate secondary benefit.  And in this increasingly busy age, "low-prep" curriculums can serve an important purpose.

But the key element here is the mind-set or bent of those in leadership toward children's ministries.  I once sat in a church service where a very nice lady was announcing the need for children's church volunteers.  She said, "...and if we get enough people on the schedule, you'll only be stuck with the kids once or twice a year."  I cringed.  Later, as I made a commitment to full-time (albeit unpaid) children's ministry, I had more than one leader in the church shake their head with deep pity and say, "poor Tim...we need to get you some help so you aren't trapped back there week after week."  Before long, I realized that it was a mind-set that regarded children's ministries as the "child care" arm of the church and not a full-fledged, legitimate ministry by iteself.  I purposed to help change the mind-set.

Where is your mind-set?  What model do you feel your church may embrace?