Empty seats will not change lives. Every ministry leader realizes this. In every community, pastors pray for their churches to be a place where hope is shared and the gospel changes lives. Yet, the challenge remains when summer vacations linger into sports schedules. Online church convenience replaces real-life relationships. As kids pastors, we bear this burden alongside our ministry leaders. Below are seven tips for growing and revitalizing your church through children’s ministry.
Outside to Inside
Throughout the year, hosting a community event can serve as an opportunity for some family-friendly fun and getting the word out about programs at your church. The key is not to do this on your church campus but somewhere in the community that serves the families you hope to reach. Local locations like ball fields, courthouse lawns, or playgrounds in the neighborhood are some perfect places.
Make sure to check out local regulations for permits and permission. Some fun ideas include block parties, slip and slide baseball, sensory tubs, and bouncy houses. Useful merch with your church information can serve as an invite card: think small flashlights, really nice pens, keychain rulers, etc. Low budget? Printed flyers or church business cards with a piece of candy attached gets attention, too. Getting outside the four walls of the church can be one of the most effective way to get people back inside them.
Marketing on Social Media
Childrens ministries are usually pretty good about engaging children with content that they are interested in. However, that information doesn’t always reach the community. Social media advertising is an inexpensive way to get the word out about your programming within your community. Targeted engagement can reach parents in a way that traditional advertisement doesn’t. Parents are on social media. If they catch wind of your next “glow in the dark party” (insert fun program you have planned here), they may just decide to check it out.
Friend Competition with Really Good Prizes
A really effective way to reach kids is with other kids. One way to do this? Prizes. Really good prizes. Super soakers. Headphones. Game systems. While some budgets may not allow this, think outside the box. Many local businesses will donate items or funds for items if they know it’s going specifically to children’s programs. Instead of doing a monthly prize, perhaps it can be quarterly. Keep track of which kids bring friends, and each “friend” earns them one chance to win the prize. This encourages the children to bring their friends, and eventually, their friends will want to bring friends. And in the meantime? They learn about Jesus.
Parent Education Nights
Childrens pastors often get asked questions from parents during the transition stages. Moving into kindergarten, junior high, or high school brings challenges that many parents are looking for help with. It’s natural for them to come to you as a faith leader in their lives for answers. Why not use that as an opportunity to engage with your community as well? Host a transition night for each age group. Many churches have members that are teachers, coaches, and even mental health professionals. Getting volunteers for a panel that can just answer questions is helpful for parents. Parent education nights can go beyond the transition stages to include things parents often need help with: parenting with social media, wise digital device use, peer relationships, etc. Offering this service, perhaps with some pizza, can help your community see your church as a dependable resource that cares about their family. That’s the goal, right? That way, we can point them back to the One who cares about them the most.
People in our community need community. That’s part of what draws them to churches in the first place. Why not offer that in a way that not only engages the church family you have but provides an easy way to engage new families? Think beyond Easter Egg hunts and Trunk or Treat nights. How about movie nights on the lawn or in the auditorium? How about a pizza and game night? How about an old-fashioned talent show? Brainstorm with your team (and maybe some kids) about what events they would like to host. One guaranteed way to get a child interested in coming back to your church? Allow them to pepper their dad with water balloons. Then teach them about living water.
Support at Community Events
Community events are a great way to get the word out about your church. When the community is already hosting an event, ask for a space for a table or a booth. Once you get permission for that, game on! Bring in things that will draw families to your booth: balloons, bubbles, giant lawn games, free water bottles/juice boxes, fun music. A great way to engage the parents is with an opportunity to win a giveaway like a gift card to the movie theater or a favorite local restaurant in exchange for their email. Once you have their email, invite them to all the fun stuff you are doing each month.
Although the previous ideas are all great ways to draw kids and families to your church, one important thing to remember is that you have to be ready to receive them. You get one chance to make a first impression. If they come to your church, that’s a big thing for a new family to do. They risk the insecurity of not knowing what to expect, exactly where to go, or maybe not knowing anyone. We have the responsibility to make their morning one that makes them feel welcome, encouraged, and loved. This doesn’t just mean having a great curriculum prepared for the kids. It also means having friendly greeters at the door to show them where to go. It means having a user-friendly check-in system. It means having loving nursery workers to greet their crying babies. It means ushers that will help them to find a seat. All these dynamics come into play when we are inviting new families into our churches. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Rachael Groll has helped the local church grow with these ideas and more as she serves as a children’s pastor, missionary, and author in her hometown of Saegertown, Pa. You can keep up with her at her website, http://shehears.org/