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Children’s Ministry: Crafting a Safe and Engaging Space for Your Youngest Guests

praying during childrens ministry

When a guest shows up at your church, they hope to hear a great sermon. They’d like to have friendly faces to invite them back. 

But for guests with kids, nothing outshines your children’s ministry. One survey showed 87 percent of parents said the children’s ministry was either very or moderately important when choosing their current church.

The first impressions your children’s ministry makes upon parents visiting your church are crucial. You only get one shot at a great first impression, and it’s likely that your guests won’t give you another chance without a great first impression. 

That’s why it’s critical to provide guests with both a safe and engaging experience for their children. This helps build trust, so you make a great first impression, and they want to return. A safe environment encourages parents to trust you and will encourage a long-term commitment to your ministry. Parents simply won’t return if they don’t believe you take their children’s safety seriously. 

Without engaging children in age-appropriate activities, they won’t want to return either. Parents won’t bring their children back to a ministry where children aren’t learning, growing, and enjoying the experience. 

A Safe Ministry: Making a Great First Impression on Families

Safety has to be job number one for any church’s children’s ministry. Sure, you want to teach kids how to follow Jesus. You want to show them how to live the way God intended. 

But none of that will matter if you can’t keep kids safe. Parents won’t return to churches that can’t keep their children safe. When churches don’t keep kids safe, those kids often end up distancing themselves from the church for much of their lives. 

You owe it to those children to ensure a safe experience for them to learn about Jesus. What does that mean in practical terms?

  • Screen your volunteers. It’s hard to get volunteers sometimes, but that’s never a good excuse for forgoing the screening process. Every volunteer needs to fill out an application with a full work/volunteer history and references. (And it’s critical to follow up on these references. It shouldn’t be seen as a mere formality.)  Of course, make sure you have a system in place for background checks. Many outside organizations can help you make this process easier and more complete.
  • Have a check-in system. Parents want to know when they drop their children off that only they can pick them back up. You can do this through a variety of methods, but leveraging technology makes the most sense. ACS Technologies has an entire guide, Keeping Your Children’s Ministry Secure Through Check-In,  to help you do this well. 
  • Adopt the two-adult rule. The two-adult rule means that you never leave any children alone with one adult. Sure, it means you need at least two volunteers for every children’s activity, but it really shouldn’t be a question. This needs to be an unbreakable rule in your ministry. Most likely, your insurance company will require this anyway.
  • Train your staff and volunteers. Your staff and volunteers need to know the basics of how to keep children safe. Even people with previous experience with their own children or in other contexts need to understand the unique dynamics of keeping children safe within the church. A number of effective outside sources can help you with this training process. If your church is connected to a denomination, ask them about any resources they’d recommend. They may provide training for this. 

These four ideas are just a start. Talk to other churches about how they keep children safe. Always keep learning. The safety needs of your children will continue to evolve. Keeping kids safe today will likely be different than keeping them safe five years from now. 

An Engaging Ministry: Letting Little Ones Know They Matter to You

Your church doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to “wow” your guest’s children. Engagement is much deeper than the latest fad in entertaining kids.

Engagement–more than anything else–is about care. Whether they say it or not, most kids want to know the adults around them care. That’s true for kids you serve week after week. But it’s also true about the kids who show up to your church’s children’s ministry for the first time. 

So, how do you provide that kind of caring and engaging environment for your newcomers?

  • Encourage teachers to learn the names of children. Make it easy for yourself as you start by providing name tags.  Call children by their names. Challenge leaders to learn the children’s names as quickly as possible. It shows you care, and it makes for a more orderly classroom. (“Hey you, get down from there” rarely makes the classroom run more smoothly.) Don’t stop with a child’s name. Make every effort to listen and learn about other details about their lives. Show kids you know who they are and care about them as an individual.
  • Apply the Bible stories to their lives. The application always takes a bit more work, whether you’re teaching kids or adults, but it’s the heartbeat of good engagement throughout your time with children. Help them see that God’s Word isn’t an abstraction. The story of how God has worked in the pages of the Bible is also the story of the children you are engaging.  Help them to tie the Bible to their lives. One of the best ways to do this is to send home some application ideas with parents to reinforce throughout the week.
  • Do your best to increase your child-to-adult ratio. The more adults you have, the easier it will be to engage all the kids personally. The two-adult rule is a start but shouldn’t be your end goal. Every children’s ministry will have a different optimal ratio. Find yours.
  • Keep in mind the attention spans of your kids. It’s no secret that children have shorter attention spans than adults. Children’s attention spans are likely getting shorter each year. Keep your lessons short. It’s more important that children get a great 10-15 minute teaching experience than a mediocre longer one. Break up extended teaching times with different kinds of activities like music and games. 

Your youngest guests want to know the church they visit cares about them–not just their parents. Engaging them in a unique way lets them know you care and see them as an individual. 

Your church’s guest experience is critical. You want your guests to return to learn more about Jesus and how to live for him. Your children’s ministry is an important part of that process. Focusing on providing a safe and engaging environment will help you not only bring parents back to your church next week but also help you begin a relationship with your youngest guests—a relationship that can lead them to the hope of the gospel. 

ACS Technologies

ACS Technologies sets a new standard in church technology, offering a holistic suite of solutions that streamline administrative tasks and empower your staff to excel in their roles and your church to excel in your community.

In the ever-evolving landscape of church engagement and management, ACS Technologies rises above the rest. Our comprehensive church solutions, bespoke digital offerings, streamlined communication tools, comprehensive ministry consulting, and training make us the trusted choice for over fifty thousand churches. Experience the ACS Technologies advantage and elevate your church’s online presence, connectivity, and generosity today. Join us in redefining church technology for the digital age, where your ministry’s success becomes our shared mission.

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