Should we have a children’s church?
This is a question that must be answered by the session of your church. Within Presbyterian and Reformed circles there is every possible position on this topic ranging from “absolutely not” to Children’s church for all ages during the entire service. The questions that need to be considered are:
- What is our motivation to need/have a special time of training for our children during corporate worship?
- What ages would be best served by this?
- What do we want this training time to accomplish?
- How do we staff this time without losing continuity of purpose?
We can help you find curriculum to meet your needs when your leadership has answered these questions.
Should we catechize our children, and how do we best go about that?
Teaching Children the First Catechism or the Shorter Catechism is highly recommended. Many churches have a Sunday evening or midweek program to accomplish this. One church holds a week-long catechism camp rather than traditional VBS in the summer. Whatever your church decides to do, the parents need to be on board. The most successful catechism attempts are ones that are supported by the parents and there is ongoing practice and teaching at home in corroboration with the church. The following resources are recommended and can be ordered from the PCA/CEP bookstore:
How do we choose curriculum for our children’s Bible teaching?
There is so much on the market to choose from and much of it is not consistent with what Reformed and Presbyterian churches teach as the Gospel. Take a look at our curriculum summary chart as we have reviewed much that we would and would not recommend and analyzed it according to the needs of the local church. There is a tendency to think that you can make anything work for children, but beware. Your curriculum needs to be training your teachers each week to communicate the gospel in a way that is consistent with what is being preached in your pulpit. Teacher friendly, easy to prepare, fun, and inexpensive should not be top priorities when it comes to training the next generation.
Many times when teachers are unhappy with the curriculum that they are using, you have a teacher problem rather than a curriculum problem. Not that the teachers are incompetent, but they need to have a restored vision of what they are doing, a renewed calling to the ministry, and some fresh ideas on making disciples of the next generation. We at CEP can help you do that as well.
Should we hire a staff person for children’s ministry? Where would we find a qualified person?
Many churches sense the need for a part-time staff person to coordinate ministry to children when the church has 60+ children and there are obvious signs of growth in young families. If your church finds someone in the congregation or community who fits your needs, we will provide training and networking for them. In the ministry toolbox you will find examples of job descriptions and also ideas for building a children’s ministry team. If all of the signs are pointing to hiring a full-time director of children’s ministry (100 + children and signs of continuing growth), CEP will help you search for a qualified person. The same training and networking will also be provided for full-time staff if needed.
How do we recruit, train, and retain volunteers in children’s ministry?
Training the next generation of God’s people is not an optional activity for any of us. We are commanded to make disciples as we are living this life (Matthew 28) and we are commanded to teach the children God’s story (Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78). The best tool for getting this truth out among your congregation is the pulpit. Pray for and encourage your pastor to regularly remind everyone of their discipleship responsibilities. Have regular training for all of your youth and adults which emphasizes teaching the Word to children. Organize a team of people who enjoy discipling children and have them pray about how to cast this vision before the whole church.
Rather than put out an “all-call” for teachers, have a praying team look at all the needs and expect God to reveal those who should serve in each place. Regularly post children’s ministry needs for people to pray about, but let everyone know that you are trusting God to provide just the right person who is ready for this serious discipleship ministry. Publically acknowledge and thank those teaching children, constantly requesting prayer for this vital church ministry. Rather than fostering an attitude of “fulfilling the duty”, encourage those teaching children to see what a privilege it is to be called to this highest of Kingdom service. (Matthew 18)
What is the best way to go about ensuring that our children are safe at church?
Two adults should always be present in a classroom, not only for child protection but also to protect the adult from any accusations. Background checks are another process that is good to begin when you don’t really need it. Eventually you may feel the need and it will be more difficult to launch a program if there is cause to be concerned about your staffing and volunteers. See our Ministry Toolbox for background check providers and other Child Safety programs.
Make sure that you have a simple, but fool-proof check-in for all preschool children. In a larger church you may want that process to go on through elementary grades. Also post an evacuation plan and a lock-down plan for every room in case of fire, tornadoes or any other danger. Your Children’s ministry team will be able to think of any other necessary precautions for your local church and community.
How many adults per children do you recommend in nursery and classroom situations?
The following is a reasonable ratio chart, but your church may want to adjust depending on classroom size and available volunteers. However, two adults should always be present when caring for and teaching other people’s children.
0-12 mos 1:2
12-24 mos 1:3
6-10 yrs 1:10
We have a child (children) with special needs? What is the best solution for caring for that child and the family while including them in every part of the church’s ministry?
We are very blessed in the PCA to have a Special Need Ministry team of facilitators to help individual churches define the best course of action with the special needs families that God brings to them. Many churches are also looking at ways to reach out to a community filled with special needs children and adults with the Gospel message. http://pcamna.org/special-needs/ is the site which will help you begin to connect with just the right facilitator for your church.
We do not have enough children to have a class for every grade. How do you recommend that we divide up the age groups?
When a church is small, you have the wonderful privilege of getting to know all of your children and praying about what structure would work best for them. The one-room school house served our nation well for over a century and we do not have to be confined to modern education systems to have success in our Christian education programs.
Think outside the box, having older children helping younger children. Before worrying about what curriculum to choose, get to know the students and begin building relationships with and between them. Then, as you look at curriculum, you will know exactly which one will suit the training of all the children God has given you at this time. His plan is always perfect.