3. Map the Same Pathway
Many churches use a tool called a ministry pathway for their
church members to monitor their progress along their spiritual
journeys. Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is famous
for its baseball-diamond metaphor. Saddleback's members know what
the church expects of them. Their task is to "run the bases" by
attending certain courses that equip them spiritually. Willow Creek
Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, prescribes a
seven-step pathway. A person begins by visiting the church and
moves toward serving in meaningful ministry.
Think of a ministry pathway in educational terms. Develop 12
manageable tasks to accomplish-one for each grade. Discipleship is
a lifelong journey. By providing milestones along the way, your
church can keep its disciples from becoming overwhelmed.
Check to see if your church has a ministry pathway. If so,
consider creating a kid-friendly version to help your kids
understand spiritual growth. Grace Baptist Church in Erie,
Pennsylvania, uses a Three Bridge pathway. Every adult is
responsible to build a bridge to God (transformation), a bridge to
the world (evangelism), and a bridge to the church (mobilization).
Our children's ministry is currently reorganizing its services and
programs in a way that helps children understand that it's their
job to also build these three bridges in their lives.
4. Listen for Similar Music
Out of the thousands of Christian songs that've been sung over
the course of 2,000 years, your church has chosen several dozen of
those songs that reflect its culture. These songs have the power to
evoke deep emotional responses within people. Some songs remind
your congregation of times of victory. Teardrops stain the pages of
hymns sung to comfort during the mourning of a loved one now in
heaven. These songs forge the culture of your church. Do these
songs shape your kids' faith at all?
By sharing common songs with the adult ministry, you can help
your kids and volunteers feel unified with Big Church. Your
children can enter the worship service and have some sense of
mastery over what's going on in the worship center. New volunteers
can enter your ministry without everything being totally new to
Whether you align your worship ministry by adding a few hymns or
adult praise and worship songs, make the music kid-friendly. You
can find kids' worship CDs filled with hymns that crank up the bass
and drums. Alignment is a good thing. However, don't prioritize
alignment over being learner-based. Turning children's church into
an adult worship service is counterproductive. Work for just enough
commonality so that it's noticeable.
5. Build a Reflective Infrastructure
Every church has some form of a constitution that outlines how
decisions get made. The constitution prescribes how people should
organize themselves into the groups needed to get the job done.
Some churches organize in boards and committees, while other
churches prefer to organize around teams. What's the difference
between boards, committees, and teams?
Many churches that were established more than 25 years ago use
the board system. The church delegates major functions of the
church to several committees. These committees report to one
central board for accountability. The
board model values strong checks and balances, formalized
procedures, and task orientation. What the board system gains in
stability and accountability, it loses in speed and efficiency.
Younger churches tend to use a team model to shape their
organization. The team model biases toward speed, flexibility, and
community. The model acknowledges the relational needs of its
members and attempts to meet some of them.
Do your organizational flow charts mirror the infrastructure of
the Big Church? Attempting to operate a team-oriented ministry in a
board-driven church could create the perception that the children's
ministry operates impulsively without discipline. Attempting to
operate your children's ministry with the formality of the board
system in a team-driven church will create the impression that
children's ministry is slow, rigid, and unresponsive.
By aligning your children's ministry with the organizational
culture of your church, you'll promote a harmonious environment
because you use a common process. This builds trust, which, by the
way, comes in handy during budget season.
Larry Shallenberger is a children's minister in Erie,
Pennsylvania, and the author of Instant Puppet Skits: Big Hairy
Issues Kids Face (Group Publishing, Inc.). Please keep in mind that
phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to