Novy Muzame, iServe Africa alumnus who has studied the state of children’s ministry in urban and rural Kenya, reports on the challenges and suggests ways forward in improving this vital area of ministry for the benefit of our children and the church as a whole.
A case of neglect?
According to my research, children’s ministry is generally in a position of neglect. There are a number indicators of a ‘neglect position’ and a number of factors contributing to this but also practical ways that we can address the situation.
Signs of a neglected children’s ministry
- The lack of recognition of children’s ministry by the wider church and leadership. Children’s ministries are easily forgotten and at times go unnoticed. It is surprising that most of the leaders in church get very much concerned with other things and other people in the church and get less concerned with their children. Too often church leaders are caught up in management of week-to-week programs, attending to the big picture of the church and not kids. They will closely monitor the progress of the youth ministry, praise team and choir ministry but forget there is a big ministry for the small members in the church who, though insignificant in the world’s eyes, are great in the Kingdom of God. Children’s ministry, if not entirely neglected, is assumed – it becomes just something that goes on in the background with the aim of taming the children so they will not disrupt the ‘main’ services.
- Lack of trained Sunday school or children’s ministers. Not many people are willing to take up this role of handling children. Children can be stubborn and they at times make you dirty. Who is willing to do such kind of job? Repeating the same thing over and over again to the little minds till they grasp the concept and practice it! Very few people will honestly and joyfully take up this role. Furthermore, most of those who do take up this role are given no serious training. Children are assigned “anybody” to handle and teach them thus being taught “anything.”
- No curriculum or organized program for the children’s classes. The “anything” is often not even an organized programme. Children need to be taught step by step in an organized manner till they grasp a concept but most churches lack an organized program for their children or a curriculum for their classes.
- Moralism. In the absence of a clear biblical curriculum, the “anything” being taught usually ends up consisting of children being taught ‘moral values’, and rarely are they taught about the saving grace and love of God. They are taught the “do”s and the “don’t”s and reminded of their need to love others (especially the adults) but never told their value in the kingdom of God and of the great love of God in sending Christ to save sinners.
- The level of seriousness in preparation. This diet of moralism (together with the lack of recognition by the church and lack of trained teachers) has the consequence that children’s teachers or pastor often do not take it as a serious priority to adequately prepare sermons for children as they would do if told to prepare for the youth and adult services. After all, it is thought, they need just to know what to do and what not to do so as to fit in the society as good people – and that does not really need much prayer and fasting and preparation.
- Children are at times not included in the church’s budget. As a final insult and indication of the neglect of children’s ministry There are some churches which simply don’t remember to put any money aside for children’s ministry. Thankfully this is not always the case and some churches do give the children’s ministry priority when making the budget for the church but this is rare. Where children’s ministries do feature in the budget they tend to be low down in the priorities.
How have we got into this position? What are the factors involved?
Pick up issue 3 of Conversation Magazine to read the rest of this article as Muzame gives 5 factors that produce a neglected children’s ministry and then 5 actions to elevate a children’s ministry.