Getting kids to come to your church isn’t rocket science (though building a couple of rockets might help). It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. All it takes is a few people who genuinely want the kids in their neighbourhoods to hear about Jesus—to know that they are loved, made in the image of God and that God has a purpose for their lives—even when they’re difficult.
Families are struggling. Life is busier and more expensive than ever before, it seems. Looking after kids, working and taking care of the household takes up more hours than the day can offer. So when North Burlington Baptist Church (NBBC) proposed a free midweek kids’ club, it’s no wonder that people paid attention.
For an hour and a half each Wednesday night, Shari Markovich, Children & Family Ministry Pastor, and her team of faithful volunteers welcome kids from the neighbourhood through their doors. Parents have the chance to pick up groceries, spend some one-on-one time with a younger child, or just have 90 minutes of peace and quiet. Meanwhile, in the safe confines of NBBC, the kids have fun together, learn about God, pray together and experience the investment of people who love Jesus and kids.
To keep the costs down, they work slowly through older VBS curriculum, reusing good programming that otherwise takes up space on a pastor’s bookshelf. But that’s not all they do. The program also prepares the kids to lead the service on the first Sunday in December. Kids who are otherwise not part of the church show up with their families on Sunday morning, ready to show what they’ve learned. For many families, it’s the one day of the year that they comes through the doors of the church, but, as Shari says, “It’s a way of getting families into the church and helping them feel comfortable. Christmas is a win for everyone. We have fellowship time and snack after that. It’s a time for the parents to know a little more about us and they get welcomed to the church.”
Given the success of the midweek program, NBBC began casting around for ideas of how else to support families. The next idea was to start a PA Day program. Many parents struggle to find care for their kids on PA days and end up having to use precious vacation days. Enlisting the help of high schoolers and a few volunteers, Shari started providing care for children. To help cover the costs, they charge a small fee for the day and keep the activities simple—Lego, colouring, a trip to the park and a few activities fill the day, and the older students are able to log their volunteer hours and receive a small honourarium for their time.
But is it worth it?
Shari illustrates the impact with the story of one boy:
We have a little guy who comes to all the PA days with his big sister. Then he heard about the kids’ club and comes to that. He’s a handful. He has energy to spare and is super competitive—he has to win. On the PA days, a high school boy is assigned to him. But at the kids’ club, he connected with a senior citizen. This older gentleman—whose camp name is “Oak—has been part of kids’ club for a long time (he was with Christian Service Brigade before). He was committed to coming even though he’s in his 70s. Well, this little guy gravitated toward him. So this kid always looks for Oak. After the summer, he wasn’t sure if that connection would still be there, but it was. And, sure enough, they are buds now. It’s amazing the difference you can make in the life of one child. It’s a little boy who looks for Oak every week. He feels listened to and cared for. We have kids who have taken big steps of faith. They can tell you what the message is. It’s exciting to see.
The kingdom of God isn’t built on masses, it’s built on the quiet investment in others by people like Oak and Shari. It’s found in the consistent, gentle care provided by people who love as Jesus loves. So what do you need to get started?
“If there are two or three people that are excited to do it, then jump in. The needs are great and the families appreciate it… It doesn’t have to be too complicated… Even if it’s for 5 or 6, you can make it a party and do special things. If you can get a critical mass, you’re on your way.”
Kids ministry isn’t secondary. It isn’t something that you do once your adult ministry is underway or your missional initiatives are moving along. Investing in kids—caring for them and teaching them about the immeasurable breadth, width and depth of the love of Christ—is vital to the life of a church.