There’s no reinventing the wheel, and I’m still having trouble coming up with a better mouse trap…but have we really reached the pinnacle of Sunday school? Is there anything we can change to bring new life into this area of our ministries?
I like how Jim Wideman phrases it in Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century: “The biggest problem I see with so many churches is that they can’t look ahead for looking behind. I believe it’s time for churches to take Paul’s advice in Philippians 3:13-14: ‘No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.’ Did you hear what he said? Forget the past and look forward to what’s ahead. We need to quit looking at the way we’ve always done things and consider instead what’ll launch us into current and future cultures. Let’s concentrate on what tomorrow’s church will look like and effectively train kids now so they can take their place in that church.”
Of course I’m not saying what we cover is in need of a change. God’s Word never changes. But the techniques and strategies we use can change. By taking a look at our strategies and techniques, we may get more kids and their families building their faith and getting into the Bible more. Here are five ways to reinvent your Sunday school.
1. Make technology your friend. Our methods of educating children must change. No longer will the lesson be left in the classroom. It’ll be brought home with kids or downloaded when they get home. They’ll put it on their video-playing device and take it to school to share with others who don’t go to church. The question in the past had been where kids learn about Jesus. Now we must add when and how as well. The digital charge has begun, and it’s time we utilize these various methods to our advantage in educating children.
2. Worship together. One thing we’ll surely do in heaven is worship together, but let’s not wait—let’s start today! We now understand that even preschoolers can be taught the relevance of worship. Worship is praise and singing—it’s an expression of devotion to God. And the emotions they experience when they praise at such a young age are foundational for their developing Christian walk. Familiarize children with actions and responses of worship so they’ll feel comfortable participating with their families in church and so they’ll understand what’s going on. And speaking of family worship…
3. Family Ministry. Family ministry is a challenge and an opportunity for churches today. Trends and research detail the need for ministry in this area, yet many churches experience difficulty defining the role family ministry should have in the church. Keep in mind the rise of nontraditional families. Nontraditional families tend to stay away from church for fear of feeling like outsiders. Help families feel welcome with a sincere attitude.
Nearly 69 percent of American youth are living in nontraditional families, according to the Stepfamily Association. Nontraditional families are on high alert and won’t come back if a church is quick to pass judgment or tries to fix their unique situation. Reach out to families by including them in all church activities, and remember that they may not feel invited to a program unless you extend an invitation. Don’t always separate families into groups such as single parents or interracial families. There are times when ministry to a specific group is appropriate, but making a habit of segregation will never build community. Gather input from all families on ideas that meet their needs and how your church family can be a support for parents and children.
4. Be ready for special needs. Have you considered that some children in your church may feel like they’re living in a world that wasn’t made for them? They’ve heard about God’s love and plan for their lives, but they feel excluded, invisible, and devalued. Today’s churches must understand that children with special needs are in every neighborhood in America. We can no longer send these families to the church across town while we do nothing to accommodate them. Check out Special Needs Ministry for Children for more information on this important ministry.