It was about a year ago when the staff team at my church began to have conversations that often included the words, “That may have worked in the past, but I’m not sure it will anymore” and, “I think we need to try something new.” We were beginning to accept the new realities around us.
While we felt a mix of excitement and discomfort, we were not quite sure where to start. But reflecting on the new trends that have emerged over the past few years can lead to more effective discipleship in our ministries.
Begin to Reflect
A great way to start reflecting is to ask the question, “If I think about a Sunday morning in my ministry today, what has changed from a Sunday morning three or four years ago?” You may note that you see new families and volunteers, curriculum changes, or varied needs in your community.
As you begin to reflect, you may begin to feel a tension that is common when we anticipate change. It will most likely feel safer to carry on in the same way you have been in your leadership. It can feel overwhelming to lead kids in a culture that has experienced so much change in so little time.
And while this may be the path you’re most inclined to choose, I challenge you to seek to meet kids where they are as they worship and grow.
This season of leading kids’ ministry is exciting and full of opportunity. This season provides the chance to wake up to new realities around us and trust God as we walk into what is unknown. Before we jump in deeper, let’s acknowledge that while this will not be quick or easy work, but it is an act of love for the kids we lead.
Let’s walk through three areas where new trends have risen and consider their impact on our ministries.
Many families have begun attending new churches or begun attending church for the first time as a family unit. The past few years have led many of us to re-evaluate what we value and where we spend our time and energy.
This is a finite period of opportunity for us to connect with those who are new to our churches, searching for community, and excited to grow in their walk with Jesus.
Maybe you’ve seen this in your church. You may see fewer familiar faces as you look into the congregation on a Sunday morning. Your volunteer team may have experienced a large turnover in long-standing volunteers and a wave of new volunteers coming in.
In my own experience, it has been both fun and so encouraging to see the fresh perspective and openness that new families bring to a community. Welcoming them and seeing them find what they have been searching for fuels the fire of my volunteers and me!
The importance of nurturing the family unit has emerged out of the increased time spent in our homes during the past few years. This time has reminded us that discipleship happens in the everyday moments of our lives—not just once a week on Sunday mornings.
As ministry leaders, we have the opportunity to partner with parents in creating consistent rhythms of following Jesus with their kids during the week.
A barrier we will face in this partnership is busyness—schedules already filled to the brim with activities. It may be helpful to challenge parents to create space in their days for what matters most.
This work in family ministry may include casting vision to parents, creating practical resources for families to use, or creating accountability (perhaps in the form of a reward or ongoing project) for consistent church attendance.
Many parents have this desire, and some are already living it out. Intentionally identifying those parents and asking them to join you in leading the charge through action, encouraging other parents, and prayer is a great place to start!
Children’s ministry curriculum is developing in exciting ways. First, a growing focus on partnering with families has affected trends we see in the curriculum. Many curricula now include an “at home” component for families to dive deeper following weekend services. This is a helpful development for those of us who long to resource parents well.
In addition, the importance of media in our culture has impacted curriculum. Many curricula include major media components, including social media images to engage families through the platforms they’re already using.
A caution to this trend is to be aware of how reliant your volunteers are on media used in your environments. We want to ensure that, even with the use of media, there is no negotiating time spent in God’s Word and talking through the lesson.
Lastly, we have seen a shift to focusing on the spiritual development of children. Many current curricula do not seek to fill a child’s head with knowledge, but to create environments where they can be introduced to God and experience worship.
This is a beautiful way for us to meet children where they are with a variety of learning styles, interests, and ways they can connect with others and with God.
The Result—A New Vision
As we think about these 3 areas in our ministry and the new opportunities that exist within them, there is space and freedom for a new vision for our ministries.
In my church, we have seen God burden our hearts for families to be following Jesus during the week. This has created a vision shift. Our Sunday program doesn’t just seek to create a great Sunday experience but to lay the groundwork for families in the coming week.
As you reflect on what your ministry looks like in this current season, I invite you to do so with a grateful heart. God has called you to lead these families and volunteers on purpose, for a purpose.
May all of the relationships, programs, strategies, and tasks that we invest in be fueled by a desire for kids to be introduced to Jesus so that they can love and follow Him.