“How do I get kids and families back in the church building?” This is a question heard frequently as restrictions are being lifted and in-person meetings are more broadly permitted. Churches everywhere are working to get back to pre-pandemic numbers.
Children’s ministry teams may be struggling to figure out what they can do to help families and volunteers feel comfortable returning to church.
But are we asking the wrong question? Instead of asking how to get them back in the building, what if we asked, “How do we reach more kids, no matter where they are?”
We know the church is not about the building, so now it’s time to show that we believe it. Jesus’ instruction to us in Matthew 28, often called The Great Commission, is to “…go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Nowhere does it say these things must be done in a church building.
I believe that the work and community strengthening that happens inside the church building is critically important. I also believe that we have huge opportunities outside of the building with families who simply aren’t comfortable coming to a church building yet.
The Greatest Resource
Okay so maybe you agree that there are opportunities outside the building to reach more kids, but you’re overwhelmed with the work required to make Sunday services happen each week. With limited time and resources, how do we do it? The greatest resource of any kids’ ministry is the people.
Right now, we have volunteers who may not be ready to come back in the building but are still passionate about reaching and discipling kids. Other servants may not even be on your radar. Consider people who have never felt that weekend kids’ ministry is their thing but would love to serve in a different capacity.
Reaching Kids and Families
We want to reach kids and families outside our walls, but how? How do we mobilize volunteers and families to expand the kingdom, reaching people outside the church walls? Here are a few ideas:
Get out the fun stationery and colored gel pens and write some notes. Kids love getting mail. At our church, we mobilized a lot of volunteers to send notes to our kids. We gave volunteers the freedom to send greetings in their preferred method. Some included paper airplanes, stickers, or balloons. Others drew pictures and included paper and a stamped envelope so the kid could send their own creation back to the volunteer. (Remember pen pals?)
Pick Up the Phone
A phone can be used for something other than texting and scrolling social media! If you haven’t seen a family for a while, check in on them. The point of the call is not to get them back in the building. Instead, find out what’s going well and where they may be struggling. Is there anything the church can do for them? Close by asking if you can pray for them. It’s amazing how offering to pray will deepen the conversation. If they accept, pray for them. After the call, make a note in your calendar and follow up with a text, email, or another phone call in a few days.
Limit the Stuff You Send Home
I’ve talked to many children’s ministry leaders who are frustrated that parents aren’t utilizing the amazing activities they so lovingly prepared and delivered right to family’s homes. Parents can be overwhelmed, and another activity that they have to supervise might not feel attainable. Instead, consider activities kids can do with no supervision. Sidewalk chalk or markers and coloring sheets with a personalized note are tangible ways to show you care—without adding another thing to a parent to-do list.
Instead of trying to get everyone together at your church, recruit a few families to host a picnic at a local park or their backyard. Families can bring their own lunches or snacks and the host can provide group games to help everyone get to know one another. Keep in mind that everyone has different risk tolerances, so follow social distancing guidelines for your area. This is also a great way to invite families not interested in coming into a church building but who might be interested in expanding their community and introducing their kids to new friends. These small gatherings often open doors to share the gospel while building relationships.
Porch Drop Offs
In our current culture, fewer people feel comfortable dropping by someone’s home. However, we have found simple deliveries to be a great way to really connect with kids and their families. Take a small item (sidewalk chalk, coloring book, etc.) and deliver, or ask volunteers to deliver, directly to a family’s porch or home with a personalized card or note. It’s been amazing how many families we’ve run into while doing this.
As our ministries grow, it’s often more difficult to connect in deep and personal ways. Choose to do for one what you wish you could do for all. For example, when you find that a parent is particularly stressed or overwhelmed, drop off something that shows they are known and loved. We’ve found the biggest hits have been games and food that help families connect with each other. One particularly creative team dropped off break and bake cookies with icing and sprinkles to an overwhelmed mom. This provided a much-needed fun activity for the whole family.
Small Acts of Kindness
The church has been presented with new opportunities and challenges. Many have said that everything is magnified during this difficult time, including small acts of kindness. So, spread the joy, involve volunteers in spreading the love as you care for your kids and families inside and outside of your building. Jesus did most of His ministry outside of the church walls and—with some creativity and mobilization of our volunteer teams—we can too.