Thursday, March 27, 2014

Training Kids for Leadership

Many people think of Children's Ministry as a glorified free day care, a place where they can send their child to be entertained so they can focus on the Bible study or sermon.  I have always viewed my role as a children's minister very seriously.  When I stand before God I know He is going to ask me how diligently I prepared myself to share His Word with the little ones left in my care, how did I prepare them to carry on the work of His kingdom?   I frequently evaluate the needs of my young congregation and recently felt that there was a trend among their adult counterparts that was disturbing.  Although I think it has always been difficult to recruit enough volunteers to fully staff the needs of a growing children's ministry, lately it has become increasingly difficult to find enough volunteers for any ministry.  I think this is due in part to the fact that both parents have demanding careers which drain their energy so that they have little left over for extras but also I think we have in part actually "trained" people to be consumer minded in today's church.  As I was thinking about this one day the thought came to me that this "training" actually begins in our children's ministry.  Our children come to church and watch us tell stories, give lessons, puppet shows, magic tricks, etc while they absorb (or not) the message we are trying to convey.  If they don't "absorb" the message we are intending to convey they do absorb the message that church is all about them watching what we do. 
My goal is to equip the children to grow spiritually and to take their place in the church and community giving back what was given to them.  If I am going to be successful I must begin training them to give back before I no longer have influence over their training.  Most young people are more than eager to volunteer to serve in the church.  It seemed logical for me to try to inspire these eager helpers so that they find joy not only in getting to do something new but seeing the eternal value of it as well. 

I developed a program which we call Kidz in Leadership.  In this program children who are grades 3-6 can sign up to be selected to serve as a junior deacon. A junior deacon keeps order by watching our younger members, helping them to  stay focused on the lesson.   They accompany children to the restroom, assist the leader with games and crafts and help with clean up. Some have felt that the title "Junior Deacon" is pretentious but I would like to remind my readers that a deacon in the truest sense of the word only means "servant".  I am hoping to train these children so that when they are old enough to be selected to be deacons in adult church they may actually know what they are selected to do...serve. Children who are old enough to read can sign up to serve on our hospitality team.  We call our adult holpitality team the "Red Dot team" so for kidz church we call it "Blue Dot team".  These children assist parents with signing in their child  and assist new comers with finding their seat.  They also assist with keeping order and receiving the offering.  Children of any age can sign up to serve on our worship team.  They meet every week for practice and have assigned times where they help lead worship for our kidz ministry.  We have even trained some of our older children as worship leaders.  This takes a huge load off of our adult staff and I have found that my junior helpers are usually better at what they are required to do than most teens or adults.  As the children get older and are above the age to attend kidz church some have returned to serve as leaders and teachers.  We hold 4 training seminars per year to help them do their job more effectively.  This training includes role play, dialog and of course food.  We ask them to share with us better ways to communicate and to tell us what type of games, crafts and songs they enjoy.  We are careful to  implement at least one of these suggestions each time.  For older children who wish to be trained as lead teachers they can sign up to serve as a teacher in training.  They are placed with a master teacher for 13 weeks and given various responsibilities to help them build skills.

This program is only a few years old in our church but I have already begun to see a positive return.  Children have a greater enthusiasm for church because it is "their" church.  
Training future leaders is our goal and not just any leaders but leaders with a heart to really share the love of Christ with children giving them a boost for future kingdom living.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Wanda for sharing this. I liked where you said that children's ministry is not just a place to drop off children for baby sitting. It is a real ministry and the children need to hear about Jesus.

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    1. I firmly believe this. We have had the great joy of raising up our own leaders in our Kidz church. It has given us a fresh boost of energy.

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