Bright colors, fun music, and friendly faces are some of the first things that grab children’s attention in our programs. Even with these tools, changing environment elements can be a helpful way to keep the kids engaged with the content. Below are some key things to consider when looking for your next children’s ministry theme idea.
Prayer seems like it should be an obvious way to select a theme idea for ministry. However, many children’s pastors can get so caught up in all the logistics of running their programs that they can sometimes forget to start with prayer. Regardless of what Biblical concept or lesson we are trying to teach, it is a lot less likely to be effective if it’s not birthed in prayer. The Holy Spirit can do more in thirty seconds with the heart of a child than we can alone, regardless of how dynamic our program is. Our children’s ministries are, first and foremost, God’s ministries. He longs to have relationships with the children in our programs, so inviting Him into the process is key.
Ask Other Children’s Pastors
Connecting with other area Children’s Pastors can be such a valuable resource and one that is often overlooked. Raid each other’s closets. Check out their prop shelves—re-use curriculum. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when you are likely serving in the same community with a similar calling. Don’t have anyone to ask? Invite them out to coffee. Looking for themes and sharing ideas can be a great way to invite other area Children’s Pastors into each other’s ministries. This can be difficult for some churches to consider, especially if there is a competitive mindset. The reality is that you are likely serving different populations, even within your community. What an amazing example it is to the children when we engage with the body of Christ, even outside our churches. Unity within the body is a powerful lesson for children to see and understand, and we must model it for them in a healthy and life-giving way—bonuspoints for inviting other children’s pastors in as guest speakers.
While seasons may be a popular way to plan themes, that method can be predictable. The children can often anticipate what happens next, especially if seasonal themes are repeated annually. Instead, why not try seasons of life? Seasons of joy, seasons of perseverance, seasons of selflessness. Various seasons of life can serve as a launching point to integrate Biblical concepts into everyday, real-world examples. One of our goals within our ministries is to help children walk in faith through some of the inevitable seasons of life they will experience as they get older.
As much as we may not like it, social media is here to stay. It’s an everyday part of life for most of the children in our ministries. Instead of staying away from it, try using it as a tool for planning your next theme. Seeing what’s trending within social media platforms is an effective way to understand what is capturing the heart of kids outside of the church. In all honesty, our ministries are competing against these kinds of platforms, even if we don’t realize it. Favorite dances from an online platform, combined with some worship music, may just be the next theme that the kids get excited about. When kids are excited about church, their hearts become open to the gospel in a new way.
Kids love apps. Kids use apps. Using their favorite games to make connections to Biblical concepts is an excellent way to theme your content. While this may seem difficult at first, they can connect in ways you may not initially think of. Fruit ninja-themed games to open a fruit of the Spirit series? Yes, please! Angry Birds to explain how to deal with big emotions? Absolutely. Think outside of the box for ways that apps can connect kids to the gospel. Browsing popular app downloads on the app store can be a great way to see what kids are interested in.
What Are They Watching?
While we aren’t suggesting showing TV or Movies in the ministry environment, it is a good idea to have an understanding of what kinds of media kids are currently watching. Using the themes of popular and current new releases can capture the attention of the children in our ministries in a fresh and unique way. These kinds of connections can help kids remember content. Sometimes they will even invite their friends.
Modify What has Been Popular in the Past
Another helpful idea is to look back over previous themes that were popular with the kids. While it probably isn’t a good idea to repeat it in exactly the same way, in reality, you may have a whole new set of kids, depending on the size of your church. Revamping the theme while keeping some key components can allow you to re-use props and tools without having to start completely over. For example, Glow in the Dark Day 2.0 can be just as exciting as the original Glow in the Dark Day, even if the lessons and games are different.
Ask the Parents
The parents of the children in our programs can be an excellent resource when it comes to creating content and themes. Many times they are excited to help, especially if it’s in an area that they are gifted in. A karate teacher can help with an object lesson about defending the faith. An accountant can help explain the concept of tithing. A construction worker can explain the various tools needed to build something, much like the kingdom. Inviting parents into the planning portion of your classroom can be an amazing way to partner with them in the spiritual lives of their children. And sometimes? You may get a new volunteer once they see how fun your room is.
Ask the Kids
Kids know what’s fun. Ask them. Get their ideas on what kinds of things they would like to learn about and what types of themes they would love. While we may not have the budgets for some of their grand ideas, we can certainly use their imaginations to plan our content. Some of the best theme ideas start in the minds of the kids.
Rachael Groll is a Children’s Pastor, Missionary, and Author and can be found planning her next theme in Pennsylvania, where she serves the local church. You can connect with her at shehears.org