In many respects this post is a follow up to these previous posts––‘KidMin: When that which used to fly falters’ and ‘#KidMin: Faithweaver Friends, a renewed energy and some invaluable insights’––regarding Mount Union Wesleyan Church’s midweek children’s ministry. I write this post for few reasons:
- It keeps me honest by forcing me to evaluate whether we are achieving what we set out to do.
- It provides a space for others who are far more experienced than myself to weigh in and share the insights that they have gleaned through hard work, trial and error, success, failure, etc.
- The progression of posts allows me to see how the ministry has progressed from year to year––i.e., what’s changed and what has stayed the same.
- It serves as a much-needed, yearly reminder that when it comes to people and ministry there is no silver bullet that leads to success.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons for this post, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind and seem to be the most important for me at the present time.
Admittedly, we are only one week into our midweek children’s ministry at the present time. But while things kicked off last Wednesday, in reality there’s been a lot that has led up to week one and the weeks that follow. So while, only one week is officially completed, I feel that I can speak with a high degree of confidence regarding a handful of things that I would say are going exceptionally well.
Every August we have a staff meeting. At the meeting we debrief and unpack what worked and didn’t work during the previous year, while at the same time planning and making adjustments for the coming year. This year’s meeting was incredibly productive. It was productive in that there seemed to be a newfound freedom that allowed people to be honest.
A fantastic piece of feedback was that by 8pm the kids––especially those in second grade and younger––were exhausted. This meant that their behavior tended to deteriorate around 7:45pm, which mean the last half hour that we had with the kids was more crowd control than anything. One of the mothers who helps with the ministry suggested starting 15 minutes earlier, thus allowing us to wrap up at 8pm rather than 8:15pm. With a ten minute closing prior to dismissal, this means that the final ten minutes (when the kids were at their tiredest) could be spent reaffirming what was learned and allowing them to wind-down and debrief before sending them home. Last week proved that this was an excellent suggestion.
Another suggestion came in the form of having the kids come up with a way to act out their Bible point. This was something that I experimented with towards the end of last year. Instead of telling the kids, ‘Here are motions and/or sign language that goes along with your Bible point,’ I asked them to come up with their own. Sometimes what they came up with was funny. Often what they came up with made little sense to us as leaders. The kids, however, seemed to retain the Bible point better when motor skills were added into the equation. So last week, in the Surprise Station, the leader had each of the groups come up with their own motions pertaining to the Bible point. Each group’s motions were different, but they were motions that they remembered throughout the evening and motions that helped the kids to remember their Bible point. (Today––a full week later––as we took Quinton to school, we asked our children if they remembered their Bible point. Without hesitation, our three year old rattled it off!)
One of the resounding comments was that we were too pressed for time last year. The solution, everyone agreed, wasn’t to lengthen the amount of time that we spend with the kids; rather, it was to do fewer things. So one of the first things that we decided to do was to cut out two of the stations––Music and Memory and Projects with a Purpose (the craft). We agreed that these stations were profitable, but that in the end they were often a distraction for the kids. They were a distraction in the sense that we often had to rush through the meat of the lesson in these stations so that the kids could have time to complete the project. By eliminating these two stations, we were able to adjust times so that the kids could have five more minutes in each station, and ten more minutes in our opening (more about this in a moment).
By streamlining things, we now have fewer things to do over the same amount of time. This allows us to concentrate on doing those few things better.
A surprising consequence of all this has been that morale among our helpers has once again increased. While we have fewer helpers, the helpers that we do have are the committed ones. They’re passionate about these kids. They’re intent on loving these kids into a relationship with Jesus. And, now that we’re not asking them to do more things, in a shorter amount of time, they seem more relaxed which has translated into a more enjoyable experience for the kids.
By streamlining things, we also had the freedom of shuffling people around. Although we have fewer warm bodies, fewer stations, meant that we could assign people to stations that they are excited about. We have two women running our snack station who like food and are excited about feeding the kids. The guy who does the surprise station is really good with weird, wacky experiments and his excitement is infectious. The woman we have doing games is creative, so she adapts the games in subtle ways that make them more age-group specific.
Openings and Closings
While closings are a time to debrief and reaffirm what has been taught over the course of the night, one of the biggest and most important changes has come in the area of openings. Last year, I did the openings. I’d give some announcements; we’d collect the offering and sing a few songs; and I’d try to summarize the Bible point for the kids. Most weeks I was pressed for time and would try to hurry through as quickly as possible. (Cut me a break, I only had ten minutes to try and do all of that!)
This year, because we streamlined things, we now have 20 minutes for the opening. (And let me tell you, ten extra minutes makes a world of difference.)
More importantly, however, I was given the boot. While I still do announcements, the opening portion of the evening is under the watchful eye of a woman who is really good when it comes to music and drama. One of the most significant changes was that the story was acted out last week. It was acted out in a funny way, a way that the kids could understand. It wasn’t a quick summary, like last year. It wasn’t rushed. It was done really well.
In my mind, the ‘bad’ is confined to one main area: leadership. In particular, my leadership. Quite simply, despite all the changes for the better, I’m still the point person; the head honcho; the person who oversees the ministry.
Why is this bad?
It’s bad because I still oversee a lot of ministries at the church. In fact, I oversee most of the ministries. This means that I am unable to focus on this important ministry to the degree that: a) I would like to and, b) the ministry warrants.
Quite simply, I’m too distracted and/or busy. I have no doubt that Clubhouse could be significantly better if it was directed by someone whose sole ministry focus was this midweek children’s ministry.
One of the nagging concerns for both the Clubhouse staff and myself is our persistent inability to make vital connections with the parents, grandparents, and guardians of these kids. Over the years, we’ve tried a lot of things: Celebration services; special events; movie nights; etc. None of it has worked. Many of these things have bombed. We have a few things that we are going try this year, but in our minds this is a key area that we desperately need to improve upon.