When Jane and her son Kevin walked into the church for the first time, they felt a bit overwhelmed. “Where are you taking me in this big place?” was the question going through Kevin’s mind as they made their way to Promiseland. After the service, Kevin had a new question, “Can we come back again?”
In order to accomplish our mission we look at every corner of Promise-land through the eyes of kids just like Kevin. As we do, we challenge ourselves with a variety of questions:
- Are we doing the kinds of things children really enjoy?
- Are we singing the style of songs children want to sing?
- Are we teaching the lessons children will understand?
- Would children invite lost friends here?
Honest answers to these questions will indicate how child-targeted a ministry is. To increase the “honesty factor,”ask these very questions to volunteers, parents, and kids—and don’t debate their answers.
Right now, you might be tempted to think, “We certainly are child-targeted because, duh, we are a children ’s ministry.” Don ’t let yourself off that easy. I have a long list of things I’ve been told we should not do in Promiseland because adults might not like it. Adults? I suspect many children’s ministry leader receive pressure to please adult tastes. My response is, and yours can be too, “We have a place for the adults . . . it ’s called the morning service, and everything in it is for the adults —to minister to them on their terms Promiseland is for kids!”
And because every children’s ministry is for kids, deliberateness about our kids’ activities is needed. Someone must constantly look for or write new music; give close examination to how long kids sit during a lesson;and look at the places children like to go for ideas on decor. This value, Child-Targeted, serves as a constant reason to consider change.
For instance, kids gave us low report card scores on music when we first adopted this value. They were adamant that our music was outdated. At first we didn’t know what to do, because in 1989 not many real hot children’s songs were available. We decided to ask our volunteers for help in putting together fresh music. We needed catchy music and lyrics, with cool motions, that made Bible truths learned on Sunday memorable Monday through Friday. That happens with pop music, so why not in Promiseland? Today a large number of our elementary-age kids regularly listen to CDs of tunes first learned during weekends at church.
One of my favorite songs, “Don’t Forget,”1has become a regular in Promiseland’s early childhood area. The melody is simple to pick up, the lyrics are easy for young kids, and the motions are irresistible. Imagine the impact on a three-year-old who remembers this chorus:
Another challenging area is environment. Each weekend, Promiseland must convert plain, corporate-looking space into bright rooms with decor and furnishings that appeal to kids. And to do it all within a limited budget we have to be creative. During a ten-week camp theme, for example, small tents appeared in the hallways, as did signs warning, “Don’t feed the bears!” Every week, three-year-olds enter their room by descending down a small slide. Four- and five-year-olds enter through a miniature door that’s too small for an adult, but just right for a kid. Children see this and think, “This is for me!” And they’re right.
Each weekend, Promiseland must convert plain, corporate-looking space into bright rooms with decor and furnishings that appeal to kids.
Staal, David (2009). Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week (pp. 68-69). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.