As I said in my last blog post, children’s ministry is key to having and creating an irresistible church. It’s one of the big 3 things that I look for as a secret shopper (First Impressions, Children’s and Security). I should also mention I’m a dad of 3 elementary aged kids, so how your Children’s Ministry comes across is huge to me.
When I visit churches, the three things that I must see and look for are… Is your Children’s Ministry clean, safe and secure?
Let’s look at each of the 3 things every children’s ministry must be:
Germs – every church has them. However, if my kids consistently comes home sick from church, I’m going to catch on and not return. One of the best practices I’ve seen many churches do is to place hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the building and in every classroom. This is wonderful.
When I say “clean”, I don’t just mean germs. I mean neat and well-kept rooms. If a room is messy, dirty and cluttered, it gives me a bad impression as a parent and makes me want to take my kids out of the room or I sit in the worship service thinking about it.
Every room where children are and playground or outdoor area where children play must be safe. This is a pretty simple concept. You can’t have any jagged edges or rough corners, sharp objects that can poke out a kid’s eye, etc. If your room is not safe, I’m not leaving my kid. For parents that do leave their kid, they may not be able to concentrate and worship during the service because they fear for their child’s safety.
Even worse, God forbid something happens and a kid gets hurt – If your room was not safe and the accident could have been prevented, you and your church will be liable and could get a bad reputation. One single accident or accusation could lead to news coverage and bad PR for the church. Much worse – a child could be hurt or damaged for the rest of their life. Kids are precious and should be protected at all costs.
Safety also includes those that work with your kids. Every kids worker must go through a background check. Period. I was recently talking with a pastor that said none of their kids’ volunteers had been through a background check. I was disturbed and shocked. He knew he needed to change that, but I don’t think he’s moving fast enough.
Safety also includes that you are staffed properly and adequately. If I’m dropping my baby off into a nursery with one volunteer and ten babies, I’m turning around and leaving. Make sure you have a good ratio of kids to volunteers.
Safety also includes the view into the room. Many kids’ rooms have big windows that parents can look into. Also, most churches have windows in their doors or a half-door that allows people to see in, but keeps the children in the classroom. You don’t want kids wandering down the hall.
Lastly, always escort kids to the bathroom (same sex) and make sure they are not messed with, molested or kidnapped. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been able to stand and wait in a kid’s bathroom at a church that didn’t have proper security. This is a nightmare. We must protect our kids and do whatever it takes to see that they grow up without shame.
When I say “secure”, I’m mainly focusing on the children’s check-in and check-out procedures with a laser focus on their check-out procedure. You need to do whatever it takes to make sure that whoever is supposed to pick up a kid is the one that picks up the kid. I was just talking with a pastor the other day that had a divorced dad pick up his kids without the mom that had dropped them off knowing it. There was a lot of drama and it could have been avoided.
Security also means that every entrance and exit of the children’s area and facilities are covered with volunteers that only let parents in and out. I was just at a great church in California last week that had every single entry and exit covered and it was a beautiful thing to see.
My friend, Tim Stevens, has written about his theory on three growth lids. One of the growth lids that he says every church ought to keep an eye on is children’s ministry. Tim says, “If it looks like a child is entering a room that is too small, understaffed, or unsafe, then the parents will not return.”
Obviously, I look at the kid’s facilities, decor, atmosphere, curriculum, and what my kids think after I pick them up. Creativity goes a long way in children’s ministry and you can never emphasize enough how important that kids’ ministries are FUN. I want my kids to learn about Jesus, but also have the time of their life and love going to church.
These three things I shared today (clean, safe and secure) are just basic building blocks of a next-level children’s ministry and unfortunately, are often overlooked by some churches. If you will focus on the entire experience for your kids, including these three keys, you’ll have an irresistible children’s ministry.