Studies show that one of the ways to keep kids involved in church is to make them part of the overall ministry—by giving them a responsibility. This feeling of belonging is especially important for older kids, but why start when they are 16 or 17? Even little children (think preschoolers) can help out. Let them know that their contribution is important—if they don’t carry through, someone else will have to do the job.
Here are some responsibilities that very young children can handle (with some coaching and training). Worried that the job won’t be done correctly? Work alongside them to make sure it is!
1. Pick up the toys in the nursery. Assign children to go to the nursery after a service and help the workers pick up the baby/toddler toys. They could even help wash them (with adult supervision).
2. Bring food for a food bank. Explain that some people (children) don’t have much food and that’s why you’re sharing. (Too often we provide service opportunities like this without explaining why they’re bringing a can of soup to church.)
3. Straighten the prayer cards, church magazines, brochures, etc. that are on the table in the lobby.
4. Hand out worship folders or programs.
5. Organize the crayon bins. If you’ve ever taught a children’s class, you know how quickly nicely-wrapped, sharpened crayons become broken pieces with torn paper flapping off the sides. Children love to organize. If the paper is badly torn, tell them to rip it off the entire way. Then have them put the pieces in containers by color. (You can later divide the colors so each bin has some of each.) Ask them to put small broken pieces in another container. Later you can melt them into bigger crayons—by melting them in muffin cups. By the way, I watched as two preschoolers happily spent two hours organizing crayons. They thought it great fun.
6. Draw posters. Sure, I know it’s easy to print a poster off on a computer, but why not print the words and allow the children to draw the pictures? Awana awards night? Summer Extravaganza? Christmas program? A lot of children love to draw—what better way for them to use their talents?
7. Pick up communion cups. One church regularly assigns younger children to go through the rows and put the discarded cups (often left in those little spaces on the pew backs) into a discard bucket. (Gloves can alleviate any germ concern.) For some reason, most children find picking up the cups great fun.
8. Pick up paper after services. A lot of times notes are written during church (although people texting with their phones has eliminated a lot of this), candy wrappers are dropped, worship folders are left on the floor. Assign a few children to walk through the church and pick up all the messy scrap paper. Give them a bag to deposit what they find.
9. Pass things out. Do papers need to be passed out before you begin the lesson? Do pencils need to be passed out? How about notes to parents at the end of class? Let the children take turns being the “passer outer.”
10. Be friendly. Small children can be very welcoming. Team them up with their parents to be church greeters. They can hold the door open and say “hi” as people arrive at church. Why not? Nothing says welcome like the smiling face of a child (and in the process, you are training them to always be someone who welcomes visitors).
11. Play offertory. OK, a lot of churches don’t do offertories with music anymore, but if you do, why not allow your very young musicians to have an occasional opportunity to perform? Or, allow children to play the piano, guitar, etc. for Christmas programs, Awana awards nights, or other special events. If your church is too big to fairly accommodate all the young musicians, have an occasional talent night for them to participate.
As a bonus, you could occasionally honor them with a certificate for being “the best paper-picker-upper” or “crayon organizer” and let you know how much you appreciate their service with a small gift card.
You can think of more ways than mentioned here. (We’d be glad to have you share them. Maybe others would like to adopt them for their own churches.) We need to be intentional about allowing them to take part in church ministry as children so they will grow up to be part of the ministry as adults.