Lately I’ve visited the children’s ministry in some small churches. These are exactly the kind of under-funded ministries our website exists to serve.
A common theme is clear — in all the scramble to do ministry they often lack clear goals and vision for their programs. My observation — we need a map to know if we’re on the right path or losing our way.
I don’t say this to be critical. The situation is 100% understandable and and you’ll find no judgement from me.
Many children’s church volunteers are busy parents, they jump into service only to “get stuck for life.” They are under pressure from parents, pastors, rowdy children, and their own self-expectations. Finding time to reflect on the bigger picture is difficult.
In this post, I want to give space to some important questions about ministry purpose. They come as a list of negative outcomes when we fail to have clear goals. My hope is to spark a conversation about why we’re doing kids ministry, what exactly we want to accomplish, and why some expectations actually hinder these efforts. In a future article, we can refine those vision and goals for your specific ministry context.
9 Bad Things That Happen Without Vision
- Volunteers get frustrated and eventually burn out. This was my own example, after 10 years in full-time ministry I was nearly ruined by my own misguided dedication. Only a time away has helped me to see the whole forest again, having been lost among the trees.
- Kids are confused about the purpose of church gatherings. Every church is different and the implied goals of children’s ministries can vary widely. What lessons do children actually take into their teen years about the meaning of church? Is this only a time for fun and games? Is church only high pressure salvation sales pitch? If the leaders can’t articulate the point, how will the kids move beyond confusion?
- Resources are wasted, which could be better deployed. All those crafts and snack supplies add up. Do they serve the purpose of the ministry or simply fill the time until the parents arrive? Without a vision it’s hard to know if that question even matters. How can you count the cost without knowing what you’re building.
- Curriculum doesn’t match the mission. Most major publishers market their material for specific types of ministries. Some focus on creating a positive experience, others on full scale child evangelism. One popular program even champion’s deep theological training for preschoolers! Knowing what to buy starts with knowing what you are trying to do.
- Parents assume they’ve “done their part” by leading kids to church. Many churches are focusing on so-called family ministry to combat this very idea. However, does that message carry across the occasional church visitor? What lessons are parents (and grandparents) taking home from your programs?
- Thousands of minutes are lost, which could have been advancing the kingdom. Time is short and childhood gets shorter with each generation. How can churches leverage those precious years to make the most of every opportunity.
- Children who grow up in struggling ministries carry those negative experiences into future church experience. When these children become adults will they remember your church as a loving place? Will they ask why the adults always got so frustrated at them? Is this a safe place to be themselves?
- Programs can take on too much. While Sunday School teachers can do tremendous work in witnessing the Gospel, only God’s Spirit can make lifelong disciples of Jesus. Every ministry can have an impact, but sometimes our well-intending goals lose sight of reality. It’s a lot of pressure to imagine one goldfish snack will lead a person to eternal salvation (or not)!
- We mistake activity for accomplishment. There can be a lot of wheel spinning but the car never moves forward. Once it starts moving you need to know where you are going. That’s what a good ministry vision gives the kids, parents, volunteers, and church supporters.
Agree or Disagree?
I hope this has given you some food for thought. We can all be honest and look for ways to improve. I’m writing this as an outsider now, not responsible for weekly ministry programs. My point is simple — doing better must start with the better understanding of what we’re trying to do. That’s what having goals (or vision if you prefer) is all about.
This list could be longer, but negative stuff isn’t my favorite topic. I’d rather read the 68 reasons why children’s ministry matters!
None of this should diminish the role of Christ in directing the work. Without a doubt, God uses all of his less than perfect followers (and programs) to advance his Kingdom. At the same time we should remember Ephesians 5:16 and make the most of our opportunities to do good. We need to be wise with the privilege of influencing God’s children.
Leave me a comment to start the conversation. I’d especially love to hear what your ministry goals are for the kids department – even if they are unwritten.
6 thoughts on “9 Bad Things Happening When You Forget Ministry Vision”
Good evening. I’m a Sunday School teacher for the Preteens. I’m happy to let you know that I would often use the lesons you provide. I find they are useful and child friendly.
I agree we need to have a mission/vision for the children’s ministry. We teach them the Word of God so that they can be knowledgeable about the Bible. With this understanding it will help them to make a decision to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. Then they can tell others about Jesus.
Thanks for your inspiring article.
Hi Tony thank’s for taking the time… Good food for thought and of oírse each church family has different things going on. In an international church in southern Spain we have the many languages and church or non chutch cultures plus it is like an international airport so we have the children stay for worship and then all ages together with mom’s there for the youngest. The lesson parallels the adults message for two reasons… For family discussion and because continuity is impossible with different children coming each week. Thanks again I am motivated to be for vision orientated despite the nature and challenges here. The gospel is central and character growth. Then we feel we have communicated authentic life and love. Blessing you and this ministry from which I get great snipers of ideas. Melanie x
Thanks for your observations. I really agree with you over the nine bad things that happen without a vision. It is unfortunate that most pastors do not have a vision for the work that God has entrusted to them. Our job has pastors is not to maintain programs and church activities but to equip members for works of service so that they could carry on the mission of God.
Thank you for writing about this often over-looked topic. I teach the preliminary SS class at my church and a Wednesday youth class and find it getting harder and harder to have a healthy balance of learning about Jesus, crafting and having fun, mostly because I do not have the support of the church. Our Pastor and his wife support these classes but the rest of the body sees me as a baby sitter and I honestly believe this is a big factor in why guests are not consistant in bringing their children on a regular basis; they are consistant for several weeks, the kids have fun and I know they are learning something because they ask questions and are able to correctly answer questions; I am going to talk with the assistant in the classes and together we will come up with a written mission and purpose; maybe this will help me with lesson planning and maybe it will help the body see our classes as more than a babysitting room.
Hi Tony good article from a different point of view. Thanks for reminding us that our goal as ministers to children is to create a Love of the Lord in their hearts.
Thank you for your support. I just stumbled upon your website. God put it upon my heart this early A.M. to teach our youth the Lord’s Prayer. So I searched the web for some help. God bless you! I teach the children ministry at my church and the problem I have is we are small and many times I have a wide range of ages from 4-12 mostly. We have only one room available. We are praying to purchase the entire building soon. Thanks again for your help and I plan on downloading these wonderful materials soon.