I am continuing a 3-part series of posts sharing questions I repeatedly heard at the ETCH Family Ministry Conference October 3-5, 2016 in Nashville, TN.
The ETCH Conference was invigorating as nearly 1000 kidmin, student, family and young adult ministry leaders came together to learn from each other. Jennifer and I were privileged to share in a couple breakout sessions.
As I talked with ministry leaders after those sessions, several questions kept coming up. It seems these questions are what next-gen leaders are regularly facing in their ministry leadership.
Questions I Repeatedly Heard
- What if the parents of my kids/students are not believers in Christ? How do I respond to them?
- What do I do to get outside the walls of my church?
- How can I respond to all the cultural issues that are flying at our kids/students?
Question 2: What do I do to get outside the walls of my church?
Kidmin and stumin leaders are running into a consistent problem. They are offering all these ministry programs at church, such as age-specific worship services, small group opportunities, weekend and summer activities, but the seats are remaining empty.
They want to see growth, but spiritually and numerically, but they fear their programming is not helping that happen.
They are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The rock is the underlying pressure to go hardcore, event-driven, using a host of attractional methods such as free Xbox giveaways, big promotional events, and outlandish gimmick-type things that can draw a large crowd.
The hard place is knowing that you can’t entertain kids and students to Jesus. Entertainment-based, attractional ministry efforts have a short shelf life. No matter how big you go, it will never be big enough to sustain. And if you start big, you’ll have to go bigger and bigger each year in order to keep the crowd that the gimmick initially drew.
So they find themselves stuck.
- They know they must go outside the walls of the church to reach kids and students for Christ.
- They know they have to be actively involved in the schools and community in order to make kingdom connections.
- They know that in order to get the attention of kids and students in a day of uber-technology and crazy-busy schedules, they have to make an appeal to something fun and exciting, but at what cost.
They’re stuck and they don’t really know what to do. Let me attempt to offer a word of encouragement for those who might find themselves in this predicament.
Going BIG Once in a While Is not Sinful
I would offer that doing something attractional on a yearly basis is not out of line. If for no other reason than to get the message out that your ministry is still alive and kicking.
While cars might drive by your church day after day, most will swing by Monday through Friday when the parking lot is mostly empty.
Doing one or two attractional events in a given year lets folks know, “Wow, they’re open. We might check them out sometime.”
Additionally, kids and students have strong connections to their peers. One benefit of the occasional attractional events is for the students in your ministry to have an easy invite to their friends. We know they can invite their friends to any Bible study or worship service, but one attractional event can create an easier opportunity for them to be on-mission.
Never Expect the Crowd to Turn Into the Core
If you utilize an occasional attractional event, keep your expectations in check. If you have 200 at the large event, expect 5-10 to come back the following week. Don’t expect 50. Keep your expectations reasonable.
Consider the fact that Jesus had differing levels of followers: the crowd, the crew (the 12) and the core (the inner 3, Peter, James, and John). The same is true today.
An event can draw a crowd, it will be the Spirit and the seed of the Gospel that will bring them back.
“Outside-the-Walls” Ministry Takes Creativity
If you choose to hold-off on attractional events, you have my complete support. I back you 100%. It is not for everyone in every ministry context.
For that reason, you will want to be thinking about other ways to consistently connect with kids, students and families outside the walls of your church. This approach is more organic and missional in that you keep your eyes open for ways to be an avenue of blessing to the students and families in your town.
- Offer tutoring for students struggling in math.
- Adopt a sports team and provide meals for them after home games.
- Provide water and snacks during big tournaments weekends.
- Host parent workshops & seminars on hot topics.
- Organize service projects like cleaning a park or painting a building.
Creative, multi-faceted, missional approaches that change from month-to-month, year-to-year, will keep the ministry you lead from becoming insulated inside the building.
Remember, kingdom work is a marathon, not a sprint. Be open to the Spirit’s leading and have your eyes open to where kids and students are gathering. Then find a creative way to build a bridge into that gathering place.
This will work much like an attractional event but extended over time.
See the responses to question #1 and #3 in corresponding posts.