While it was no surprise that prayer was the number one area that changed during the comeback, we found it fascinating that children’s ministry and youth ministry were in the top five. We didn’t necessarily expect to find them rated that high, but once the comebacks started taking place, comeback churches saw the need to make changes in regard to children’s and youth ministry.
When surveyed, a significant majority of comeback leaders indicated that the area of children’s ministry changed in many ways during the comeback. In follow-up interviews, some comeback churches were asked to describe the changes that took place in their children’s ministries. Why was this area of ministry rated in such a significant way among comeback churches and their leaders?
Aylesford United Baptist Church in Aylesford, Nova Scotia, had a dynamic children’s ministry that took off in the last several years. Pastor Clyde Lowe was a musician as well as a pastor. He utilized a band comprised of members in the church, which formed when he first came as pastor. Forming that band influenced the children to form their own worship band, which was made up of people from age nine to adult and was geared specifically toward children. Children learned to play instruments on their own and gained practical experience as they participated in the worship services. Other children’s ministry events included a yearly emphasis focused on children in the Sunday morning worship service, summer VBS, and activities on Saturdays during the summer based on themes.3
Pastor Chad Current of Living Hope Community Church in Centerville, Ohio, explained in an e-mail:
The children’s ministry here is based on the team concept, which is why I think it has been so successful. Instead of one or two people running it, each age group has a team of leaders and a team of helpers that serve in a rotation. We have about 50 people in the rotation. This takes the weight off any one person and allows many people to take ownership for the ministry. Next, the children’s team has made a focus on safety … we publicize to the church that we do background checks on all serving the children, we have windows in the doors, we have check-in and check-out systems and a parent paging system in the worship area if the parents are needed. Most important, the children’s team is dedicated to making the children’s ministry fun, interactive, and high energy. Every child worker has a love for kids and seeing them know Jesus. We also budget money for children’s ministry. Finally, the team does special events throughout the year just for kids … Easter Party, Mud Party, etc.
Their emphasis on children has helped to transform their church.
Don Emerson, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Logan, Utah, said children’s ministry “has been extremely important for us. We have used this avenue to reach people in a predominately Mormon community who came because their children had first attended one of our events.”4 Pastor Emerson saw the need for a more effective children’s ministry. They tried many different programs and found that AWANA worked best for them. They have children from families who are members, regular attenders, sporadic attenders, and some whose families don’t come at all. In regard to Sunday, there are two couples who have done an excellent job with the children’s worship. There is a certain level of enthusiasm from the adult leaders and a passion for reaching children. That kind of passion has helped change this church, and it can help renew yours as well.
Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned around and Yours Can, Too (Nashville: B&H, 2007).