Limited Time in Kids Ministry

March 30, 2023

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Today's question asks, "our kids' ministry only has one hour each week for a lesson. Do you have any ideas on how we can present truth in a quick way?" In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz provides tips for effectively presenting truth in a short amount of time in a kids' ministry setting, emphasizing the importance of focusing on one main point and repeating it throughout the time. Elizabeth also suggests rethinking child discipleship within the church and gradually implementing changes to prioritize equipping parents. She encourages churches to think creatively about how to engage children during worship and offers resources on for age-appropriate sermon notes.

Downloadable Children's Sermon Guides


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Now, today's question asks, "our kids ministry only has one hour each week for a lesson. Do you have any ideas on how we can present truth in a quick way?" That's a great question, especially for those of you watching and listening who are in a kids ministry context.

Now, before we dive into answering that question today, as always, we just ask that if you found this content beneficial, that you make sure that you like and subscribe so that you don't miss an episode, and also ask that you would share this content with those in your sphere of influence so that we can equip more adults to get these kids in our care thinking critically.

Now, I was really grateful when I saw this question come in because I think it's so wise for us to think through how are we using the time that God has given us with these children that he's placed in our care, and especially in a kids ministry context, really there's so few hours each month that they're with these children. We really do need to think, how are we spending this time? Because if we only have one to two hours per week and we think of these children are in school for 40 plus hours a week, they're in extracurriculars probably anywhere from 5 to 20 hours a week. When we have one to two hours, we want to make sure that we're using that time wisely.

So I have a few tips for us just for those of you who work in a kid's ministry setting. If you're directing the children's programs at your church or you're planning lessons or your teaching lessons, just a few things for you to think through how you can use the little time that you have wisely.

The first thing I would say is for each lesson focus on one main point. Now, the temptation when we have a short amount of time to work with the children in our care is to want to cram as much as we can into that short amount of time. And now we do want to make sure that we're doing a lot, that we're not just focusing solely on having fun or playing games. Not that there's anything wrong with fun or games, but that shouldn't be the main focus of our time in kids' ministry. And so educational researchers have found that the human brain learns best when it's focused on one thing and that thing is repeated over and over and over and over and over again.

So I would encourage you, I mean this is what we do. Every time we're crafting a lesson in a curriculum at Foundation Worldview, we choose one main point to focus on. And so think of what is the main point you're focusing on? And then put it in one sentence that could easily be stated by a child. I want the children in our care to understand x. I'm just thinking of the first lesson in our Comparative Worldview Curriculum. The main point is "truth is what is real." That's the main point that we have. So once you've identified your main point, then come up with a question that you can ask the children that will eventually lead to your main point. For example, that first lesson I just mentioned in foundation comparative Worldview curriculum is truth is what is real. And the question that we ask them is, what is truth?

Okay, so see how the question and the answer go together? What is truth? Truth is what is real? So first, identify the main point you want them to walk away with from the lesson. Come up with a question that will lead to that main point and then ask that question at the beginning of the lesson and say, okay, today during our whole time together, during this hour, we're going to be focused on answering one question and present the question to them. Then as you go throughout the lesson, make sure everything is pointing to the answer to that question and re-ask that question throughout the lesson and then ask it again at the end when you're actually expecting them to answer that question.

This is what we do in all of our curriculums at Foundation Worldview. We ask a key question, an essential question at the beginning that we're expecting the children to be able to answer by the end. We repeat it throughout the lesson and then ask it again at the end. And then at the end, I know this is somewhat of a paradigm shift for kids' ministry because we're used to just giving a lesson and we don't usually assess how successful were we at meeting the goal of this lesson. We might not even have a goal for the lesson, but at the end, we need to really measure, did the children learn what we wanted them to learn? Are they able to articulate the answer to this question? So at the end of the lesson, we should ask the question and then in some way, give each child an opportunity to answer.

Now it's going to take a long time. If you have 30 kids in a room, it's going to take a long time for each of them to go around and individually answer the question. So an easy thing that you can do is you can give each of them a sticky note and say, okay, this was our question that we asked at the beginning of the lesson, and we focus on the middle of the lesson. Now, at the end of the lesson, you should be able to answer that question. So give 'em a sticky note and a pencil or a pen or a crayon and have them write their answer to that question, and then they can come put the sticky note on one one of the walls in the room. Or if you're working with younger kids, you can have them draw a picture that represents the answer to that question, and then have them write anywhere from one to five words that describe what they drew in that picture. So that's a way to really use that one hour of time that you have really well.

Now, again, in the middle of that, you can make sure that you're engaging them in really interactive and fun ways. You can include a game that's going to reinforce it. You can include a song, you can include tons of things that you would typically include at a kid's ministry lesson, but you want to make sure that you have one main point you're focused on, a question that's going to lead the kids to that main point that that question is asked throughout the lesson, and then it's measured, it's assessed at the end. And you might be thinking, "oh, Elizabeth, but this sounds so much like school." Well, yes it does, because what is the purpose of kids' ministry? You want to teach the children in your care. So if the goal is we want to teach the children in our care and we get them for one to two hours a week in kids' ministry and many of them are spending 40 plus hours a week in a secular school environment, why would we not want to use research based strategies for how God has designed the human mind to learn and make sure that we are implementing those strategies during the very short amount of time that we have with these children each week? I would say that we need to make sure that we are doing that.

Now, the second thing that I'm going to encourage us to think through is actually potentially rethinking child discipleship within the church. Now, I think most people who are watching or listening are going to agree with this next statement that I make, that parents are the primary disciplers of their children. Scripture makes clear that it's parents who have been given the responsibility and the authority to raise up their children in the fear and instruction of the Lord. And so I would really encourage all of us to have a mind shift in the way that we think about kids' ministry at church. So especially those of you who are watching and listening that are in positions of leadership at a church, I would really encourage you, challenge you even to think rather than focusing on how can we teach these kids in our church, shift that focus to how can we equip the parents in our church to disciple these children well. Rather than thinking of how can we teach these kids in our church to how can we equip these parents to disciple their children well?

Now I know that that is a huge mind shift. However, when you think about it, again, you have maybe one to two maximum three hours a week with these kids where the parents of these children have tens and tens and tens of hours each week with these children. So if you can train the parents, your influence is only going to multiply. That doesn't mean we need to get rid of kids' ministry. That doesn't mean we need to get rid of the position of a kid's pastor or kid's ministry leader. It doesn't mean that we never have the children together for a lesson, but it does mean that it's wise for our focus to shift. Because one of the main problems with discipling the next generation is that many parents are not equipped to disciple their children well.

And so if we're trying to take on that role at the church in a formal church setting, and that's not the way God has set up the basic building blocks of society, we're going to be fighting a losing game. Now, you may be thinking, well, how do I do this? Parents aren't really willing to come to trainings. How do I actually equip these parents to understand their role as the primary discipler of their children? Well, there's no black or white answer because every church, every local body of believers is going to be different in what you're currently doing and what you should be doing. Every group of Christians is different, but I'm going to suggest something that I know at first glance may ruffle some feathers, but I think we should seriously consider. I think one of the best ways to get parents to realize they're the primary disciplers of their children and to take that responsibility seriously, is to stop offering kids programming during the time of corporate worship.

Now, I didn't say stop Kids Sunday school or I didn't say stop kids midweek programming. But I think the best way to help parents understand that they are the primary disciplers of their children is to stop offering kids programming during the corporate worship service.

Because when we read scripture, I think we're hard pressed to find justification that children should be taken out of the body of Christ at large when we are worshiping God and praising God through song and sitting under the preaching of God's word. And if we stop having kids programming during that time, parents are going to start to see that their responsibility is to help their children understand who God is, is to help them understand what the body of Christ is, is to help them understand their role in the body of Christ.

Now, we can't just stop there and expect, you know that if kids are in the corporate worship service that all of a sudden parents are going to understand completely how to disciple their kids. No, we might need some programs to help them, some parenting classes to help them understand we might need to have, start some discipleship relationships where older parents mentor younger parents. I don't know exactly what that will look like in every church, but I think it's both biblical to keep children in the corporate worship service. And I think it's going to be one of the best wake up calls for parents to realize that they are the primary disciplers of their children.

Now, for those of you who are in church ministry context, you're probably thinking, oh my goodness, so many families will leave our church if we stop having kids programming during corporate worship. Might that happen? Yes, but there's a way to start implementing this without just having it be abrupt and without having there be no explanation, it can be something that can actually be taught. Why are we doing this? What is the benefit of having children in the service? It can be something that's taught to the whole congregation. How can elderly people who don't currently have children in their home, or single people who don't have children of their own, how can they come alongside parents and help them while their children are in the service? And I don't mean just having kids be entertained during the service, like having them color something or read a book, but actually have them engaged in participating in the singing and any liturgy that's going on and listening to the sermon. Just thinking through keywords that are mentioned, I think that this can be a really great opportunity for churches to really come together as the body of Christ as a whole, and to look at, okay, how can these individual family units within the larger family of God really be equipped to disciple their children? well.

Now, if you're interested in some further resources for this, if you go to the Foundation Worldview website, we actually have on the website several different sermon guides for children of different ages that you can download and print off and make as many copies as you want for your church. That can be used as a guide, and those aren't like your typical kids' bulletins or kids are doing a word search or coloring something in, but they're actually giving kids age appropriate activities to focus on during the sermon. For little ones, they're going to be drawing pictures of things that they heard the pastor say. For older ones, they're going to be summarizing things, they're going to be asking questions. So that's a great resource that you can go to as well.

So just as we wrap this up, just as a reminder, just the first thing I said, during those times when the kids are all together and you have them for a lesson, focus on one main point, a question that will lead to that, and make sure you ask it throughout and then circle back at the end to assess that. And then for those of you who are in kids' ministry, to really rethink, rather than focusing on how can we teach these kids during the church service, think of how can we equip these parents to be the primary disciplers of their children in their homes?

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, as we leave this time together, my prayer for you is that God would continue to bless you as you faithfully disciple the children he's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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