Outreach is good.
Why? Well, not only does it attract new people to your church (which is good if you want to grow and minister to people), but because it communicates that your faith community wants to engage with people outside of the ones already in.
A number of years ago, a lead pastor was asking me some questions about children’s ministry and outreach. One comment that he made really bristled my fur. He told me that his children’s leader would not allow any child who was not a part of the group to go on any fun events. This kidmin leader’s rationale was: if you are not engaging in the “important” stuff during the teaching time, then you shouldn’t go on any “fun” things. And while I understand this person’s seemingly innocent intent, what was missed was an accurate assessment of children.
This leader misunderstood the heart of a child!
There are always anomalies, but I don’t know of many children that say:
Do you have a solid teaching component to your ministry program time in which I will be challenged with doctrinal soundness and didactic instruction for an extended period of time?
NO! Children always ask these kind of questions:
Is it fun? Are we gonna play?
So not only should your program times be intermixed with fun, playful elements, your outreach times, your events, should be geared and centered around play. And for goodness sake, please OPEN UP those events to kids who are not a part of your ministry program. The direction children usually wind up in our ministries at Hayward Wesleyan is through attendance at an event and then kids usually say to their friends:
Why didn’t you tell me about this place before! It’s fun!
During my first year in full-time children’s ministry here, I remember one of my leaders asking this very question of an event/adventure:
Can kids come if they are not a part of Followers?
I think my answer has set the tone and practice of what we have done since the beginning:
“ABSOLUTELY! This is one of the main reasons why we are doing this event!”
Outreach, then, should be something that is very simple. If you haven’t already gathered from me, I love things that are “simple,” and I’ve discovered that families love that, too! Anyway, events that you plan outside of regular based ministry programs should have at the center, play. Of course you can include an instructional component if you feel it necessary, but make that ancillary to the event instead of primary.
For instance, for the last 5 years on Halloween, our church has put on a Trunk or Treat event. When I learned about this event, I immediately thought (you guessed it!):
We have around 30 cars that show up, people hand out candy while sitting in or standing by the decorated trunk of their vehicle, and last year we had over 1,000 kids show up! Just kids… we didn’t count their parents! This event has turned in to a community tradition in the Hayward area.
That’s another powerful by-product of outreach events. They have the potential to become community traditions. But we don’t preach or teach or “evangelize” during Trunk or Treat. You might be asking, “then why do you do it?” I would say: “Because the kids are having fun!” My boss, Lead Pastor Mark Wilson, would say: “It’s goodwill in our community.” I like both of those answers!
The Saturday morning before Easter, we do a giant Easter Egg Hunt. Instead of just chasing after colored Easter eggs and eating popcorn in the gym, we do a mini-program time in the sanctuary. Everyone packs in to our sanctuary, Easter baskets in hand, and we sing songs and I tell them a story. I make it really fast because I know the real reason these kids (and their parents) are there: to get Easter Eggs and the candy inside of them. I know, however, that the real reason I tried to get them there was to hear the Gospel told through the eyes of a character in the story about Jesus. I used Easter Eggs to get them there. We don’t take a lot of time to do it. I compress the songs and story to fit a child’s antsy attention span and then we go hunt for Easter Eggs. This is an example of fun and play and excitement built-in, and using the time wisely to share the Gospel as well.
Once a month we do events with our children’s ministry. They typically happen on Sunday afternoons (the best time we have found for families in our area), and we have long-standing traditions of places we go and things we do: roller skating, hiking, swimming (municipal pool and later a waterpark), Christmas parties, sledding, and sleepovers (at the church!). And they are all about playing and having fun.
What events do you do?
How do you structure and plan your ministry calendar to include fun, playful, outreach events?
Sharing your thoughts and experiences with others really helps the kidmin cause: discipling kids (and reaching out to kids who need to be introduced to discipling).