The practice of adding intentional prayer to your day is nothing new — plenty of ministry leaders will tell you to pray throughout your day whenever you can. Praying while driving is a really popular suggestion, and it’s a great one because most of us drive several times a day and can use that time to connect with God and refocus ourselves on His purposes.
If you often pray while driving, or you want to start, school zones are a great place to pray through, for, and about! Your ministry, whether it’s family ministry, youth ministry, or children’s ministry, is deeply connected to local schools.
Here are five ways I am striving to pray as school is starting and have committed to continue praying as the school year continues.
5 Prayers To Pray As You Drive Through A School Zone
Pray That Students Experience The Unconditional Love And Acceptance Of Jesus
Students are looking to fit in and experience community. This can often lead to bad decisions and regrets, but it doesn’t have to. We should pray that students in our community experience first-time salvations and recommitments.
Pray For The Teachers And Administrators To Draw Near To Jesus
Administrators and faculty need to lead with the Fruit of the God’s Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). They can only lead with these when they are humbly depending on King Jesus.
Pray For Protection
As you drive by, pray for the spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental protection of the students, staff, and faculty. Schools are community hubs. Within the classrooms are the most vulnerable people in our society — children. We must pray for their protection.
Pray For Jesus Followers To Be Bold
Schools need believers to stand in the hallways and extend the love and truth of Jesus. Pray that students are bold enough to set an example and stand up for their beliefs. Pray also that they would become emboldened to share the Gospel.
Pray For The Parents
Between school and extracurricular activities, parents can end up feeling like glorified taxi drivers. But we know that they are much more than that! We need to pray for them to be energized, encouraged, and equipped to lead their children to become followers of Jesus.
What times and places are you setting aside to pray specifically for your students and local schools?
Adults should become more like children during worship.
Notice I didn’t say “act like children.”
Lord knows that some of you all have enough drama posted on Facebook! The last thing that you that you need is to add to your issues by fighting over crayons and spilling goldfish crackers all over the worship center!
Let me say it in another way: We should spend less time trying to make children worship like adults and more time worshipping like our children.
This is counter to what many of us believe. Whether it was our upbringing or some other reason we often try to force adulthood onto our children. Truth be told, we expect children to grow up quickly and mature faster than they should.
Before I get too deep into this conversation, I promise you that this is not a post about parenting and how to raise your child. In fact, it is the exact opposite.
You need to become more like your kids. Yes, that is correct. You, the adult, needs to become more like a child in your relationship with Jesus. And if you think this is absurd, this isn’t my idea, but a teaching from Jesus. Check it out:
- Matthew 18:3-4 “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”
Why would Jesus say this? Simple. Kids have no other choice but to be rely on others.
Jesus was making it clear that pride and self-righteousness have no place in the Kingdom of Heaven. We must humbly submit to Jesus and rely on His provisions. Adults need to depend on Jesus while they journey with Him.
This verse gets me thinking about some of the ways that children worship. Each week I lead the large group-teaching portion of our Kids Worship. I love seeing how elementary kids interact with one another and worship with Jesus.
At times we all come into a worship setting with the wrong attitude and heart. I know children are not perfect. I get that. But I do think that some adults would experience more of Jesus when they release their control and depend on the Spirit of God to move in their lives.
There are many areas of our lives that we try to hold onto our idea and preferences more so than allowing Jesus to move in and through us. Below is a short list to serve as a conversation started around this idea of shedding our pride and fully depending on Jesus in the same way that a child depends on a parent for care.
Here are a few reasons why adults should worship like children.
4 Reasons Adults Should Worship Like Children
Kids Are Excited To Attend Church
Kids are excited to experience God, connect with other people, serve one another, voice prayer requests, and create crafts that center on the day’s Bible passage. Their energy for worship is contagious to the leaders! They have a joy about life and a faith that believes that Jesus will take care of everything. Many adults need a fresh wind and excitement about the things of God.
Kids Are Ready to Learn
When I lead kids worship each week our children are ready to learn about Jesus each Sunday. Many of them bring their Bibles to church, they sit attentively, and remember content from week-to-week. They crave knowledge about Jesus and live out the lessons that they have learned.
Kids Are Not Afraid To Ask Questions
If you spend time around kids you know that they will ask the most random questions! But notice that they are willing to ask anything to learn more and to engage in conversation. One key to community and discipleship is to be willing to ask questions. Asking questions takes humility and a confession that you do not have it all together.
Kids Are Willing To Try New Things
Kids are spontaneous! They are willing to seize opportunities for fun and adventure. Many adults in our churches need to come back to an adventurous spirit. Jesus wants us to journey with Him with a spirit of dependence and adventure (not with a cantankerous attitude).
Does worship seem cold and disconnected from Jesus? In what ways do you need to lay aside your pride and humbly depend on Jesus?
What other reasons would you add to this list?
Humans were created to live in relationship with one another.
In Genesis we read that God knew Adam would need more fulfilling relationships than simply having nature – humans need humans. (Genesis 2:18)
The foundational key to discipleship is relationship: This is how humanity exists and why Jesus endured the cross. Without relationships, discipleship fails. Thriving and sustainable churches understand that every ministry (from the welcome team to the worship band to the nursery volunteers and beyond) must build a culture that values people over programs. While programs are important to reach our mission to preach the Gospel, they are nothing more than a tool to further the mission.
We know relationships are key, but along the way church ministries start moving away from relationships into ministry management. Let’s be honest, relationships are tough! To be invested relationally with others means that you are committing your time, energy, finances, and care to a smaller group of people. It is far easier to serve on the outskirts of relationships than to be invested in others’ lives. So many fail to invest relationally and are consumed with busywork inside the church.
Below are three habits that, when left unaddressed, can hinder relational ministry.
3 Habits That Hinder Relational Ministry
- Affirming the Ministry Without Partnering in Mission
Pastors know that you agree with the student ministry. If you didn’t affirm it, you would be seeking to serve at another church. Ministries do not need a head nod of approval but committed partners who are rolling up their sleeves to do work. Partners invest relationally.
- Asking About People Instead of Using Direct Communication
As a youth pastor and I chatted over coffee a few weeks ago, we discussed a weird phenomenon that church members fall into. It is the thought that asking other people about a person is the same as directly asking the person. Confused yet? Some people would rather pick up the phone and text 12 people to ask why someone has missed church instead of directly talking to the person who wasn’t there. If we are going to build relational ministries we need people to check in and minister directly to those in their small groups.
- Serving People Without Investing in People
Handing out a bottle of water with your church’s name is an easy way to say you are doing ministry without actually building relationships. As I stated above, ministry happens through relationships and at times those relationships will be frustrating, costly, and time consuming. Ministry leaders must avoid service opportunities that promote service that is void of relationships. Don’t get me wrong, serving in tangible ways meets immediate needs, but if you never build a relationship you will never be able to make lasting impact.
In what areas are your ministries avoiding investing relationally?
How you provide for kids tells parents who you actually are as a church.
Every church desires to be friendly, kind, loving, and invested. We all want our churches to teach the Word of God in love and walk alongside of individuals and families as they navigate each phase of life. But every now and again churches must take a step back and see if they are organized and functioning in these ways.
Children’s ministry is a unique area in the church because of the investment each parent has to their kids safety and comfort. Yes, parents of teenagers care about their child’s safety too, but we have to agree there is a different dynamic when we talk about caring for a preschool or elementary child for several consecutive hours. This is a great responsibility that most parents limit to their extended families.
Since caring for children is such a great responsibility, children’s ministries must go the extra mile to ensure that they are providing for the family’s needs when a guest arrives on campus.
Below are eight checklist items that serve as a foundation for a church to examine their ministry space to see how welcoming and warm their ministry space is for a first time guest. Now, this list does not provide specifics about room designs, check-in systems, or security processes. This is simply an entry point to create a welcoming culture in your children’s ministry.
8 Checklist Items To Ensure You Have A Welcoming Children’s Ministry Space For Guests
The Rooms And Lessons Are Ready Before The Kids Arrive
You should not be cleaning as parents and leaders are showing up to drop off their kids. In the same manor, you should not be running around the church collecting craft supplies and games for your lesson. The rooms and your lesson should be ready to go when the doors of the church are opened.
The Teachers Arrive Early
It is a rarity that first time guests will show up late to a worship service. Guests will always arrive earlier than your regular attenders. Why? Guests want to make sure they know where to drop their kids off, speak with their children’s teachers, and find a seat in the worship center before the service starts. To ensure that your team is ready for guests, family ministry leaders must arrive at least 20 minutes early.
The Facility Light Are On
Nothing says, “We are not ready for you” as loudly as having facility lights turned off. Do not try to pinch pennies and save energy by turning off lights to hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms. Trust me, if someone falls because you were being cheap you will pay more in legal fees. Your facilities must be lit. If the lights are turned off it communicates that you are closed and unwelcoming to the community.
The Welcome Team Is Approachable and Informative
The children’s pastor isn’t the only person who can welcome a new family and lead them to the check-in area. Your front lines (welcome team and check-in leaders) need to have kid and adult class information, understand the process for guest families, and be attentive to needs. Doors should always be opened for people as they arrive in your building. It is the small acts that communicate that you value others. Within this conversation is adequate exterior and interior signage to direct parents to the family ministry entrance.
The Check-in System Is Easy To Operate
The parents must know where the check-in system is located, how to check-in their children, and the process for checking their child out after service. Our church has a worker in both kiosk locations (preschool and kids ministry entrances) to assist first time guests and ensure their questions are answered and that they are correctly entered into the system. An easy way to make this process quicker for first time guests is to provide a fillable or downloadable form on your website for parents to complete before their visit.
The Teachers’ Names Are Posted
First time guests have a hard time remembering all of the names of people they are meeting in their small group, worship services, and their child’s leaders. Make sure that every volunteer has a name tag on each week and that the leader’s picture and name are visible by the room door so parents can avoid awkward name exchanges in the coming weeks.
The Teachers Are Attentive
Does the guest family have any allergies that need to be discussed? How about questions about feeding bottles? It is best to have two leaders per room so that one leader can stand by the door before and after bible study to answer questions, transfer information on upcoming events, and brag on the kids to their parents. When teachers are attentive to a family’s needs parents are more comfortable leaving their kids.
The Parents Are Contacted Within Three Days By The Small Group Leader And Church Staff
It is important that both the small group leader and the church staff contact guest parents within three days of their visit to the church. To have one and not other contact will limit the potential relationship the church can build by supporting small group leaders as they minister on the front lines in the children’s ministry. Use this as a non-threatening, informal survey about their experience. Ask them about their visit, if their kids enjoyed their room, if there are any questions that you can answer for them, and inform them of the next event that is coming up.
As a small group leader: How can you ensure guests are noticed, cared for, and comforted?
As a children’s leader: How can your team ensure hospitality and care is extended to every family this Sunday?
How are you trying to increase camp attendance this summer?
While we spend hundreds of hours planning for our camps it is easy to overlook the most import step – inviting students to attend. You may argue with me, but in the rush to schedule activities, coordinate with guest speakers, and finalize bus schedules, our invitation process is often limited to handing out flyers, sending one parent email, and talking about it a few times after student worship.
If you want to increase your camp attendance you must communicate more than the camp dates.
As you finalize your camp details, here are a few tips that can help you increase your camp attendance this summer.
5 Tips To Increase Camp Attendance
Communicate Life Change
The draw of a beach camp, zip line, or lake adventure doesn’t resonate with students anymore. With the vast amount of options they have to choose from this summer, your camp may be lost in the clutter of other events. The one thing that shines more brightly than any new camp game is the life change Jesus brings. How can you communicate that camp can impact more than their tan line or Snapchat following?
Communicate Financial Assistance
There will be families who need financial assistance to make camp work for their kids. While I do not promote that financial assistance is available (after all, I don’t have a budget line dedicated to send kids to camp) I do talk with parents who inquire about financial assistance to see how we can assist their family. From there, I communicate needs with our church leadership and key members in our congregation.
Your two best camp recruiters are your small group leaders (those attending camp with you) and students. Think about how many times students have asked you, “Who else is going to be at camp?” Students are the best recruiters for camp. Make sure that you communicate the importance of bringing other students to camp.
The further out you can communicate the dates and cost of camp, the better off you will be. Parents and adult leaders need to know these specifics nine to 12 months out so they can clear their calendars, ask off of work, and save up money. If a parent finds out about a beach camp two weeks before it starts, chances are that student will not be attending.
Communicate Directly With Parents
Have you ever picked up event flyers in the church parking lot 10 minute after handing them to students? I have felt that frustration as well! If you want your students to attend camp you need to make sure parents know the specifics of camp. Emailing is an easy way to transfer the information but phone calls are the best way to bring clarity to the event. Small group leaders are an incredible resource to leverage when planning a phone call blast to your students’ parents.
What are your strengths in getting kids to camp, and what are your weaknesses?
If you are a kid ministry leader you know that summer means that it is time to promote VBS!
Many churches (especially in the Bible Belt) utilize Vacation Bible School to disciple children and serve as an outreach to the community. There are plenty of variations of the traditional VBS model of hosting daily programming on your campus, but no matter how your church ministers to kids you will be doing some promotion to get dates, times, costs, and locations out.
Can I be honest? VBS is one of those weird, churchy things. Trust me, I’m all for having a VBS event if it works for your community, but “Vacation Bible School” sounds weird and confusing for outsiders to the faith.
- Why would their child want to go to school during summer break?
- What is a Bible school?
- Will their children have fun or will they only memorize long passages of the Old Testament?
If we are not careful our event promotions can communicate a different message then what we are hoping is conveyed to the community. Because each church leads a different variation of VBS it is easy for parents to become confused as to what VBS is for YOUR church.
Even with an event like VBS, an event that we assume everyone knows what we are talking about, we must strive for clarity because the vast majority of people that we are hoping to reach have never stepped foot inside of our churches.
Before you design posters, set-up banners, and schedule Facebook ads here are two questions you need to answer:
2 Questions To Answer As You Promote VBS
Are We Communicating More Than Childcare?
Does your promotion material communicate life-change? Are there stories being shared or is your VBS viewed as free childcare? I know that you would never view VBS as childcare, but does your community? You will always have parents who are content with dropping their children off at the door and head home, but does your literature, promotions, and videos create a drop-off culture? How are you communicating the power of Jesus, importance of worship, and need to invite outsiders of the faith with your congregation?
Can Our Website Answer Parent’s Questions?
How much information is on your website? If you hope to leverage VBS as an outreach for your community you must think through the questions parents who have never been on your campus will have before they send their child. What food will be served? How are allergies handled? What is needed to register? How many leaders (and how are they screened) are in each class? Your website must be prepared to answer the most frequent questions that parents may have. This will limit the headaches you will experience and the number of phone calls you will receive.
How can your team communicate the life-change that will happen at VBS?