A NEW DAY: Six Significant Shifts in Ministry to Renew Passion, Commitment, and Effectiveness
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of our ministries. As a result, the way we serve children and families has changed and it has left many of us wondering how to confidently move forward in our ministries. While this “new normal” of our day has its unique challenges, it also positions us to reevaluate our leadership and ministries and adjust them for greater influence.
Fear and uncertainty sought to overwhelm many of us over the past year. However, in the midst of this shaking season, God is just as present now as He was previously. In this new day, the Spirit is calling us to walk in faith and not fear. Our present actions, attitudes, and words are telling the next generation what they need to know about the God we serve. So, we must determine to walk with confidence (2 Timothy 1:7), not leaning on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), taking bold steps forward in faith (Matthew 14:29), so that He can direct our path. As we set our eyes on Him, He promises to establish our work (Psalm 90:17).
In recent years, International Children’s Ministries a prayerfully started each new year seeking a verse of Scripture to serve as our “Verse of the Year.” Each year’s verse has served as a rallying point for our team and global network, as well as had influence in our strategic priorities for the year. Our 2022 verse has so perfectly aligned our hearts with what we believe the Spirit is speaking to those of us in ministry, “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7, HCSB).
With this verse providing as our foundation, we are calling on our leaders, volunteers, parents, and other influencers of children, to move forward into this NEW DAY with authentic, bold confidence. Real confidence is more than just words or rituals, going to church, having religion, or believing there is a God. Authentic confidence backs up words with actions. If it doesn’t, it’s not real confidence. As we exercise this spiritual muscle, confidence, our faith grows as we make choice after choice to trust in God.
Our ministry has identified five foundational elements or shifts, upon which to emerge from the difficulties of this season. We believe that attention to these areas of ministry, through Holy Spirit empowerment, will enable our ministries to serve children and families with renewed passion, commitment, and effectiveness.
DRIVEN BY VISION AND VALUE
Over the past decade, a popular leadership phrase has been repeated as a key principle for motivating people and advancing an organization’s mission. That phrase is “lead with your ‘why.’” In children’s ministry, most of us know the WHAT of our ministry, things like staffing a nursery, offering kids church, or leading a midweek Bible club. Some of us can articulate the HOW we do WHAT we do. We provide our programs or ministries by recruiting volunteers, providing curricula, and making sure our teams show up on time. But very few of us know or are able to articulate our WHY—the purpose, kingdom value, or biblical reason we do what we do.
In this new day of ministry, it is critical that everything we do, whether virtually or online, flows from a clearly defined source. For many of us, our goals are to bring heart transformation to the kids we serve and equip them to be lifelong disciples of Christ. But often, this goal fades from focus when making ministry decisions and leading our ministries week-to-week.
As we step into this new day of ministry with confidence, with shadows of uncertainty and instability still looming in some areas of our world, we must have a clear understanding of the WHY for our ministry. This understanding will inform our decisions and flow throughout every aspect of our ministry. The WHY of your ministry provides you with insight into the destination of your ministry as well as the guardrails for how you will arrive there. In understanding your WHY, or your purpose, you will also unify the evangelism, discipleship, and service efforts of your team.
God has not called you to accomplish His purposes on your own but, rather, He invites you to minister alongside members of your church community. Although sometimes difficult to see, He has placed individuals to work with you to fulfill His plan for the children in your ministry and community. Having a defined and written vision statement can unify those serving on your team by clarifying the purpose for your ministry and describing its desired future. Additionally, by identifying your ministry’s mission, goals, objectives, and core values, you ensure that you are in alignment with God’s purposes for your church, able to measure progress, provide accountability, and guide your ministries’ decisions and behaviors.
Has your ministry done the “hard work” of prayerfully seeking God’s for matter of vision, mission, and strategy? This new day requires these essentials to remain focused in reaching those God has given you to shepherd.
FOCUSED ON FAMILIES AND INFLUENCERS
The impact of your kids ministry is no longer simply about engaging and discipling children. In this new day of ministry, we must also include efforts to intentionally reach, equip, and partner with parents and families.
Parents must not only be awakened to their responsibility but also invited into the discipleship process. This occurs when they know we are on their side and willing to be there for them as they lead their children through the faith walk. There are many practical ways that we can equip parents and wonderful resources that we can provide to engage them in this process. We can also help them identify opportunities where spiritual conversations can occur with their children.
Because parents, and other influencers, spend a majority of their time with our children, they have many more opportunities to help them learn and apply the Bible to their lives. If the church wants to disciple and influence children for Christ, then we need to realize that we must influence those with whom children are spending the majority amount of their time.
Therefore, our local congregations must develop a biblical vision for the families and inspire parents with the vision God has for them and their children. This vision must also include grandparents, single parents, foster parents, and other adults raising children. Then, the church must make every hour it has with children at church significant and find ways to extend that significance to the home as we equip influencers.
EQUIPPING MISSIONALLY-MINDED KIDS AND FAMILIES
God’s Word isn’t just about listening and learning. Our journey of faith involves living and doing. Our journey with God isn’t just about “come and hear,” come and receive,” or “come and see.” We are told to “go and show,” “go and give,” and “go and tell.” Our efforts to bring heart transformation to the children we serve must include opportunities for them to live on-mission among their family, friends, church, and communities. In this new day of ministry, we must prioritize opportunities to explore the “missional” life.
The meaning of the word mission is changing and developing in this postmodern culture. In the past, mission meant a new church plant or a ministry in another part of the world. Today the word mission implies practically living out God’s mission in the world today. It includes interacting with the culture around us, meeting the needs of our community and the world, and building authentic relationships that express Christ’s love. Research indicates that children with a strong sense of mission, of having something important to do, use words like “overcome,” “succeed,” and “make a difference.”
The most significant action we can take as we attempt to connect kids with Christ and with the church is to provide opportunities to live out their faith. As we teach kids how to intercede for lost people in their families and serve their communities, homes, and the world, we are helping them grow as disciples. As kids live missionally—learning to recognize a need and respond—they will bring glory to God.
EMBRACING NEW STRATEGIES AND TECHNOLOGIES
Without a doubt, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all of our ministries. The way we gather, worship, plan, and interact has been impacted. The temptation would be to attempt to return to the old way of doing things, familiar rhythms, and/or preferences. However, a healthier approach to this new day of ministry is to determine those things of value that we need to maintain moving forward, uncover new strategies for integration into our ministries, and lay aside anything that is unnecessary to our mission or doesn’t meet the needs of our families.
Kids need relationships. It’s what connects us and nurtures us as part of God’s family. A big part of kids’ ministry is building those relationships with God and with others. Periods of quarantine or isolation may put a damper on this, but we can embrace technologies in communication and social networking to continue to minister to the heart of each child in your children’s ministry and stay connected with them.
CONNECTING RELATIONALLY AND INTENTIONALLY WITH KIDS, FAMILIES, AND YOUR TEAM
In this new day of children’s ministry, we must have a vision and strategy to reach beyond the boundaries of our church building. After all, throughout our recent (or current) season of isolation and quarantine, we’ve learned that to survive and fulfill our mandate, we can no longer depend fully on models that center around the church building.
While services, programs, and events are helpful, our families are looking for meaningful relationships. They need us to support them, almost as surrogate parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the family of God. They need our connections beyond just Sunday morning and Wednesday night. They need us in ways beyond just teaching or preaching. The connection of a spiritual family is important to building foundations of faith in the homes of our kids.
The Biblical pattern of discipleship and promises found in Deuteronomy 6 were not just given to biological families, but to all of the people of God. Yes, parents are primarily responsible to influence the faith of their children. However, Deuteronomy 6 was actually spoken to a nation chosen to represent God, in community, as a light to the nations. Israel had a responsibility to one another; it was never intended to be just for the parents. An example can be found in the passage of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus on their way to the Passover. Often this is looked on as bad parenting, but this is inaccurate. Mary and Joseph lived in community, where the expectation was that somebody had Jesus, so there was no need to be concerned.
To successful grow fully devoted followers of Christ, our families need communities that show care, will coach them, and even challenge them. In this new day, we will embrace the many opportunities to not only connect and spiritual form children, but also their parents. While there are no quick fixes to the problems, brokenness, and losses our families are facing in this day, we must intentionally seek to become a community that radically exemplifies “love for one another.”
It is a NEW DAY! How will your local church and children’s ministry awaken to the realities of it? It is my prayer that you will not seek to simply return to the preferences and patterns of the past. May you seek God’s direction to embrace His heart, His vision, and His will for you.