Before the pandemic, we noticed a staggering decline in ministering to children. Sure, we now have colorful environments, flat screen TV’s, and trending music, but time spent on the spiritual development of our children is decreasing. Take for example, a child who attends an hour of program at the local church every single weekend only has a total of 52 hours per year spent on spiritual development.
Compare that to a report revealing that kids of ages 8-18 spend an average of nearly 8 hours per day interacting with the media.
Nearly ½ of that time is spent watching the television.
Here are some reasons why the outdated Sunday School model is no longer effective:
- Not optimized for learning. Most Sunday school programs are designed for the
most highly effective form of management, not engaging learning.
- Not creative. Every week is the same. Sure, it’s a different story, but what kids “want” and “need” is determined by someone else, sometimes a whole team of someone else’s, with no input or feedback from the kids themselves.
- Not relevant when it’s not tech-savvy. For digital natives who spend an average of 4-7 hours online every day, children’s programming that is not digitally augmented is not speaking their language.
- Not measured. Most churches simply execute their weekly program without ever gauging whether or not learning took place.
- Not family-centric. The old model of Sunday School pandered to the 18th century practice of lax parenting, but we know from current research how critical the parenting role in partnership with the church is to the spiritual growth of children. It’s time to create a new paradigm that bridges the gap and helps expand the influence of the Church, in partnership with parents, to increase focus on spiritual development.
5 steps to make children’s ministry more effective:
- Rethink your programming and optimize it for student learning. Rather than expecting kids to “behave” under a one-size-fits-all definition, assess your curriculum and programming to make sure it engages the complete spectrum of learning styles in the room.
- Be creative. It takes courage to change or try something new. There are many experienced practitioners, websites, and entities innovating children’s ministry who share their children ministry ideas for free! This week’s challenge: figure out a way to take a learning style from #1 and incorporate it in either a participatory or co-creative way using input from the kids themselves—you can find some great resources and crowd source creative content and ideas on CM Connect.
- Make it relevant. Leverage technology by utilizing digital tools that speak the language of digital natives, will engage them and are accessible throughout the entire week.
- Measure for success. Unless you are measuring success, how do you know whether kids are learning week to week, building their biblical literacy, growing in knowledge, practicing spiritual disciplines and bearing fruit? We have experienced and witnessed how shifting to an outcome-based ministry model has revolutionized the fruitfulness of our outreach and programs as we begin to measure for effectiveness.
- Partner with family. Parents need to know what went on during the Sunday School hour and be equipped to reinforce and disciple growth throughout the week. We love what Orange is doing to better connect leaders and parents to influence the next generation—check out their weekly Parent Cue app that resources churches to partner with parents in the spiritual development of their children!