Yesterday, we defined environment as the some total of a person’s experience with the content, delivery, and relationships within your space. When you find synergy among those aspects, you begin to create a children’s ministry that is dynamic and engaging.
Synergy begins with aligning your content throughout your church. Don’t hear me wrong. This does not mean that everyone in the building learns the same lesson on the same day; that’s an incomplete strategy. Rather, it is important that from the top down everyone has answered these questions:
What is the story that we’re telling?
This could be a mission or vision statement that works as a thread keeping your ministries aligned.
For North Point Ministries this is simple “to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” From the babies to the adults, everything points people towards that end in mind.
For Walt Disney, he went with the simple “to make people happy.” Every aspect of what his company aimed to accomplish worked toward building a story where people could be happy – if for only the two hours they watched a film or the day they spent in theme park.
Think of it like this (and yes, I realize that if you think too hard this analogy breaks down, but go with me for a moment.)
Church: Your church is the novel with an over-arching plot line. Every ministry under that umbrella should work towards a common end in mind.
Family Ministry: Your church should have a common chapter in this novel that covers your birth – college strategy.
Children’s: Think of your children’s ministry as a paragraph in the family ministries chapter. It takes some cues from the previous paragraph (Preschool) and sets up the following paragraphs (Students) to succeed.
Programming: Your weekend programming need to be a sentence in the children’s ministry paragraph working for the greater good of that topic sentence. What you do on Sunday needs to be clear, complete, and concise with a singular bottom line for kids to remember on Wednesday when the rubber meets the road.
If you don’t know where to begin, get a few people in a room and brainstorm around what Disney calls psychographic information. Think about the people that both come to your church and who you want to come to your church. Figure out what they need, what they want, what stereotypes might keep them away or help them stay, and what emotions you want them to experience. Answering these questions will give you important in sights as to they story you need to tell through your ministry.
You have to know the story. If you don’t know the story, everything will be an option which in reality means you won’t be saying anything. Knowing the story you want to tell will help you discern how to create the rest of your environment by giving you a framework for saying yes and no. With a common story, you’ll be able to help people prioritize their time.
What’s the bottom line?
As a joke is only as good as the punch line, the story is only as powerful as the bottom line.
The bottom line is the ONE thing you want kids to remember at the end of your story. You can only say one thing each weekend. If you try to say five things, kids won’t remember any of them. By saying one thing, you exponentially increase the chances that kids will remember it throughout the week.
The bottom line should be short and memorable. The best bottom lines include a “go-and-do” idea that helps kids put the story into action as they interact with their family and friends throughout the week.
What do you need to help kids remember the bottom line?
This is simple, right? You just need a building, a room, some sort of stage, and curriculum. OK, maybe not so easy, but this can be simple.
You need a space that helps kids know that you like them and understand their point of view. This includes decorations, posters, paint colors, seating options, and hang-out spaces.
The stage should speak to the story and the bottom line you’re telling. This includes visuals, videos, props, and costumes.
Your curriculum should be strategic from birth to eighteen, but give you age appropriate options for your environments. (Shameless plug: head to WhatIsOrange.org for more on curriculum strategy.)
Obviously, I’m just scratching the surface here with how this works out practically, but the decisions you make about content really come down to your overall philosophy of ministry. The nuts and bolts will become obvious as you work out the story you want to tell.
I’d love to hear from you. What is the story you are telling with your ministry? What curriculum do you use? What have you done to your environments to make them show kids that you like them? Comment below!