I was sound asleep, dreaming of something wonderful I’m sure, and then I’m awakened to the feeling of a presence in the room. My eyes open barely in little slits and I see a shadowy figure right in front of my face. “Daddy, I don’t feel good.” I hear the tiny voice of my 6-year-old baby girl. Ignoring my racing heart, I then ask a series of questions to my daughter:
Does your tummy hurt?
Does your head hurt?
The problem with kids when they are sick is that they don’t know how to tell you what’s wrong. We, as the parents, have to channel our inner Sherlock Holmes and ask for a little help from the Holy Spirit to determine what’s wrong. There are always outward symptoms that help us know if our child is sick, or just wants to cuddle for a little bit. You can see the sickness in their eyes and you can kiss their forehead to see if they have a fever.
Determining the health of a Children’s Ministry can also be tricky. You may not always know what is wrong, but there are some outward symptoms to look for to see if your Children’s Ministry is sick.
What percentage of your overall attendance is children?
As a national average, a children’s ministry should be between 20%-25% of the overall average weekend attendance. If your church has an average weekly attendance of 1,200 people, then on average, 240 of them should be kids under 5th grade. This number can fluctuate, especially if you have an older or younger congregation, but there is a way to dig in deeper to help you determine how this percentage affects health.
A few weeks ago, I was visiting a church that clearly didn’t have a healthy children’s ministry, and it showed in the numbers. This children’s ministry attendance was close to 15% of the church’s average weekly attendance. I went into the main adult service and counted the number of kids sitting with their parents. Guess what I found — the other 5%. There were a lot of kids in the auditorium. If kids don’t want to go to your children’s ministry, chances are it’s sick.
Is there order in the environments?
When there is no plan, kids will come up with their own plan. Do you see kids interacting with each other in groups and circles? When they’re in a large group, are they engaged or are they doing their own thing? What are the ratios of leaders to kids?
Typically, when there aren’t enough volunteers to lead the kids, kids will lead themselves. If the leaders have to ask them to “be quiet and listen,” this is never a good thing. Just to be clear, you aren’t looking for silence or stillness. Things should be loud and fun at times. Look for who’s in charge — the kids or the volunteers. If the volunteers aren’t leading, chances are your children’s ministry isn’t healthy.
What are your volunteers saying?
This is one of the greatest ways to gain insights into the health of your children’s ministry. If you are the children’s ministry leader, it may be best for you to have someone else ask some good questions. There are two main questions you can ask that will give you a wealth of knowledge: “What is God doing in the ministry?” and “What are the greatest obstacles to your success?”
If the answers to the first question sound like, “kids love it,” or “I love the curriculum,” you may have a spiritually sick children’s ministry. When a carefully-worded question about what God is doing brings answers not pointing to God – it’s not good. You want to hear stories of growth, kids serving God and others, and life transformation.
The answers to the second question will give insight into the function and processes of your children’s ministry. You can plan on hearing, “We need more volunteers,” so dig beyond that and you may learn something about curriculum distribution or the lack of supplies in a room. This can reveal deep systematic issues and surface problems. You can’t fix the problems you don’t know about, and you won’t know unless you ask those who are affected by it.
Every ministry has areas of unhealthy systems and structures. A leader’s job is to find them and treat them. There is no perfect ministry, so don’t lose heart if your children’s ministry is sick. Ask great questions and invite the people closest to the problem to be a part of the solution. If you need help determining the health of your ministry or designing solutions to fix your issues, we are here to serve you as a coach in ministry.