When structuring a mid-week children’s outreach ministry service, there are a few things that should be considered. I would like to take this opportunity to walk you through the steps, as my husband and I have set up and volunteered in many mid-week outreach services, so we’ve learned a lot over the years and are eager to share. So let’s think first about our overall goal with an outreach service:
- To share the gospel with children who don’t regularly have the opportunity to hear it
While there are most certainly other goals included in a mid-week ministry, this would make the top of the list. Before going on, I don’t want to give the impression that I am leaving out the “regulars” or the children whose families are members of the church and attend on Sunday mornings too. However, if your mid-week ministry goal is outreach, then your service should reflect that as the highest priority. So, let’s think about our precious outreach children for a moment.
1. Contrary to popular belief, kids don’t come to a church for the Xbox systems and organized games. Children, especially outreach children, come for the relationships. They are searching for meaningful relationships with adults who can help guide them in the way that they should go. Relationships must be a number one priority in mid-week ministries. Every child needs one or more adults who connect with them each week. If a child can go an entire service without being spoken to individually by an adult, there is a big problem that must be addressed. I hope that this post helps!
2. Time is your most valuable asset. Weigh every activity against your time. Most churches schedule an hour to an hour and half for mid-week services. You are trying to give a child the WHOLE gospel in one hour a week! This is a crazy feat. Yet, instead of filling that time with meaningful instruction and fellowship, we tend to fill it with games and dead time. Every. Minute. Counts. Make the most of the time. Redeem the time that they have lost already.
3. Examples must be concrete. Books full of object lessons line every Christian Book Store shelf. And they are fun and usually fairly easy. But most kids never remember the objective you were trying to teach them. They will remember that you brought a paper bag full of items, but they will likely never remember the principle you were teaching them about God. A better way to add interest for multiple learning styles is to show a picture of Jesus or a cross when you’re talking about Jesus. Think of a story in your own life that clearly (not abstractly) illustrates the principle you’re sharing. Kids love to know more about you and what your life is like.
4. Teach the gospel. To kids who are mostly unchurched, if you tell them a story from the Old Testament without connecting it to the gospel, then sadly, it is no more than a fairy tale to them. Every story told must point them to Jesus because the whole Bible does point to Jesus. At every meeting, children should have the opportunity to hear the gospel. We need to teach them solid, foundational truths about God which will provide a scaffold for the “meat” of the Bible. (Example Topics: The Bible is True, Who is Jesus? Who is the Holy Spirit? Etc) In a later post, I’ll give you more information on evaluating curriculum and further down, I will share with you what we use on Wednesday nights.
5. Continual contact. Kids need to know that you don’t stop thinking about them and praying for them even after Wednesday night. Many of them have tough lives, and they need to have and feel the prayers of a grown-up. The ideal situation is for adults to contact children by phone or mail once every week or two, just to remind them that they care.
6. Memorize, memorize, memorize. Many of our outreach kids don’t own a Bible, and most don’t even have one in their home. If you give them one, that’s GREAT, but for many kids, it’s going to be a while before they can read it. Also, these kids many times, have hard lives that require quick recall of verses. If mom and dad are fighting, they can’t push the pause button while they go get their Bible to find a verse to comfort them. They need it in their heart. That’s why we place a heavy emphasis on memory. And not the kind that you memorize a verse for one night, get a sticker and move on. It needs to be repetitive, weekly, and creative.
7. Serve. It is good for all of us to serve others. No matter the situation of the kids we serve, we need to encourage them to serve others. Serving others has a way of making us humble, making us thankful, and helping us to depend on and look to the Lord through our need. At Lonoke, our goal is to have a service project for our kids once a quarter. Over the summer, our kids cleaned the kid’s building and washed the vans and wrote cards to people in the nursing homes who don’t get cards often. The kids LOVED it. You could tell that they felt useful and that they were making a difference. Everyone needs to feel that.
So now that we have gone over some general characteristics and rules of thumb for outreach services, let’s talk about what a good outreach service might look like. Here’s what we do at Lonoke Baptist Church here in Morrilton. We had tremendous fruit last semester, and we are all so looking forward to it again this year. Here’s a typical night.
6:00-6:30-Buses are running, children begin to arrive. We have a game room set up in a classroom and a movie in another room. Children can choose which room they’d like to visit, but must stay in the one they pick. By having the kids in rooms down the hallway, it frees up our registration area where it is less hectic and we can make immediate connections with kids. This also helps us give our sanctuary due respect.
6:30-6:45-We gather kids in the kid’s sanctuary. Kids sit on the floor with their age groups. We start with a quick welcome and begin singing. Remember how I said above that time is your most valuable asset in outreach ministry? Song time is a big part of this. I want to encourage you to think about what you are singing. Are your songs putting the Word of God into the kids’ hearts or are they just fun? Kids can get “fun” anywhere, but this could be their only opportunity this week for God’s Word. And, music is one of the BEST ways to memorize scripture. In our children’s services, we exclusively use Seeds Family Worship songs, and I can’t recommend them enough. We love Seeds. Their songs are straight from Bible verses, and they are cool too, not silly like a lot of children’s music. Sorry, but it’s true. J Check them out. They have worship videos available on YouTube or for purchase on their website. Don’t go on auto-pilot for songs…evaluate every song to make sure your songs are worthwhile. Click here to see more about Seeds Family Worship.
6:45-7:00-Pastor Tim gives a short message. We are currently using the book, Devotions for the Children’s Hour by Kenneth Taylor. This is a book that focuses on foundational doctrine. I will say that it is an older book, and some of the stories it uses as an illustration are a little outdated, but we mostly use this book as a guide. Tim usually comes up with his own illustrations and visuals to introduce the idea.
7:00-7:25-We split up into small groups. Small groups are no larger than 5 kids to one adult. We give each leader a sheet of discussion questions and they also have ring-bound index cards with Bible verses on them. During small group, they will work on memorizing a new verse, reviewing previous verses, and they will discuss what Pastor Tim taught on using the discussion questions we provide. This is where meaningful relationships are built. This is everyone’s favorite time. At Lonoke, if you walk in to the kid’s building during small group time, your heart will swell to twice its size, because all over the place, in every corner, you’ll see little clusters of kiddos gathered around a smiling adult who has a Bible open, encouraging the kids to talk about God’s Word. This is such a sweet time on Wednesday nights, and each night, the leaders are always so excited about what went on. They talk about the questions the kids had, and the light bulbs they saw turn on in their minds.
7:25-7:30-We gather back in the sanctuary, and Pastor Tim asks the kids what they learned tonight. They get the chance to tell the group all about it, and even say a verse from memory. The kids are dismissed to buses and then the remaining kids get with their parents.
Q & A
Why small groups? Time and time again, studies prove that small groups are where children do the best learning. Small groups are where relationships are built. They provide a contact point for each child on Wednesday nights. The smaller the group, the better. At Lonoke, we have lots of volunteers and that works great, because sometimes, we can even have one adult with one to two kids. Now, at first that seems like a waste, but think about it…you have a child who may rarely get attention from an adult, much less attention from a Christian adult. Now, they have an hour of one-on-one time with that person. They talk and fellowship. That adult is in a position to forever influence that child.
Is it difficult to get volunteers? NO! Not at all. Most of the time, it’s difficult to get volunteers because the volunteers are overwhelmed with kids. But, when you can tell them that they will be responsible for no more than 5 kids, it becomes easier to handle. You wouldn’t believe the volunteers I’ve had tell me that working with the kids has been a blessing TO THEM. Because it is. When we serve, we are fulfilled by that too! Many times, we lose volunteers because they don’t feel important or useful. With small groups, they feel very useful because they are the backbone of the whole night!
What if I’m not confident teaching children? Then this is perfect for you. This is not about teaching. It’s about discipleship. It’s about talking to kids about God. It’s about fulfilling Deuteronomy 6:4-6. All you have to do is talk about God and how you have seen Him at work in your life, and listen to them as their minds work through the gospel.
What about discipline? When kids are engaged, there are far less discipline problems to begin with, so we never have trouble at small group time. The only time that we find that having positive reinforcement in place is helpful is during whole group settings when there are more opportunities for kids to become idle. To help with this, last semester, we used four glass jars, one for each grade level, and we used the craft pom-poms (lovingly referred to as “Warm Fuzzies”) to fill up the glass jars. When the jar filled up, that grade level got a reward night. This was usually popcorn or ice cream to munch on during their small groups (we try to never sacrifice small group time-we always try to integrate the reward into our learning). We always keep it simple, and it’s not really that competitive since groups are basically competing against themselves instead of each other. That worked great last year, and of course, the internet is FULL of ideas for positive reinforcement.
Do the kids like it? YES! The kids love it, and we have lots of outreach kids become regular Wednesday night-ers. They love the relationships they have built with adults in our church. Last semester, it was such a blessing to see so many of our kids come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Of course, we are always aware that it is not because of what we did, but because of the Holy Spirit using us, along with many others to work in their hearts, but we are always so thankful to be a small (or big!) part of the process.
What about the scripture memory? At our church, we give our small group volunteers a jump ring with about 15 verses on index cards. They keep these all semester and work on the verses at their own pace within their small group. Sometimes, we try to give them ideas on their discussion pages to help with memory, but many of our small group leaders are super creative and have come up with puzzles and songs and hand motions all on their own that the kids EAT UP! In one semester, our Lonoke kids overwhelmingly learned THIRTEEN verses and passages of scripture by heart. And I mean, they could recite them to you perfectly. THAT is hiding God’s Word in your heart! Oh, one benefit of that is that us grown-ups learn a lot of scripture too! J
What about space? Small groups are one of the easiest ways to utilize space. If there is a corner or a hallway, you have a spot for a small group. Several small groups can share a space too as long as they are not too loud and there is adequate space between them.
I would love to take this opportunity to invite you to Lonoke Baptist Church in Morrilton, Arkansas. My family has found a home with these people who love God with all their hearts. They care about us and our kids, and they are a beacon of light to our community. However, even more than that, we want THE church to thrive instead of dwindle. We want the statistics to stop saying that kids turn from their faith in their college years. So, if you can use this model, please do! It has worked well for us, and it has worked well in previous churches where we have served. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this post and I’ll share with you everything that I know to share! Please feel free to share this post with others. It would bring us no greater joy than to know that we have helped other churches’ children’s ministries.
*Just so you know that we aren’t random people telling you random things…My husband, Tim and I both have degrees in Early Childhood Education. We have a combined 5 years of experience teaching in public schools and a combined 30 years experience working in Children’s Ministries. My husband is currently the part time Children’s Pastor at Lonoke Baptist Church in Morrilton, AR. I have spent the last three years homeschooling our three children. 🙂