Maybe it’s time for a ministry shift

2020 has definitely been challenging no matter who you are. But if you are in any kind of ministry, you are dealing with things the church has never seen in recent history. So what are you supposed to do? There is no question that you need to shift your thought process. But what do you do? How about changing your focus— a ministry shift from the crowd to the individual. From the Sunday production to the personal relationship.

Kids ministry looks different in every church, but there are multiple similarities from one church to the other.  Think about how your kids ministry operated pre-pandemic. You likely fit into one of these categories:

Large group weekend

Your service consists of all kids together in one group. Often the sit facing a stage area, where all the activity and teaching takes place. Sometimes there are screens or tvs to watch for slides or music videos. Whether your choice, or your resources, your main focus is on one large group setting for teaching.

Large group/small group

You split your ministry time into two main segments. You have a large group time like above, but then you split your kids into smaller groups to have a deeper discussion relating to the topic of the day. Each time you meet you may or may not have the same small group teachers. You may or may not divide by ages. It likely depends on the number of kids you have and how many volunteer leaders you have.

Mid-week service

Not everyone has a midweek ministry time for kids. If you do, you may do AWANA, IMPACT, or Royal Rangers.  Maybe you don’t have a set curriculum, but you still likely follow one of the above ministry formats. 

The other thing that most ministries have in common is they take place on church property.  You have a program and people come to you.

The pandemic has completely changed that. Depending on the state you live in, church in general has changed, which means children’s ministry that we once knew isn’t possible (at least for the moment)  Many churches are completely virtual, meaning all ministry is happening via video and watched through an electronic device. That goes for the kids too.

Since many did not know what to do, or what they should do, many in kids ministry took what they were already doing and put it on video for kids and families to watch. That may have worked for a little while, but it isn’t working that well now. It is even difficult for adults who continue to try and experience ‘church’ through a video. Maybe it is time to rethink what we are doing.

What if we looked to Jesus to see his model of ministry?

Jesus often spoke to large crowds. He was a great leader. We can look to him to set a good example for us to follow.

Luke chapter 5 we see the account of Jesus teaching on the shores of Lake Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee). The Bible says there were many many people crowding around, so Jesus did something a little different. He got in a boat and went out a little way into the water and continued to teach. I wondered how that would help, so I did some extra reading and discovered that the hills that surround the lake act as a natural amphitheater, so by going out into the water, Jesus was actually making sure the people could hear him better.

When he was done teaching, Jesus had his disciples take him out into the lake to fish, and he continued teaching them in a much more intimate setting. 

Jesus shifted his focus. When he felt it was necessary, his ministry shifted from the crowd to the individual.

In Luke 19 we read the account of a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus.  As Jesus was travelling, there was a large crowd travelling with him. Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a tree with the hopes of seeing Jesus as he walked by. Seeing Jesus in the crowd would have been difficult, so the smart man that he was, Zacchaeus climbed a tree, which put him above the crowd so he would be sure to see Jesus as he walked by.

When Jesus got to the tree, he called Zacchaeus by name, had him come down, and Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house. 

What did Jesus do?  He left the crowd to focus on the individual.

When we watch Jesus, we can see that there is an appropriate time to focus on the crowd. But ministry is not only about the crowd.  Ministry is equally about the individual, and Jesus modeled this for us over and over. 

Maybe its time for us to shift our focus from the production to the person, the crowd to the individual.   It’s possible the pandemic has given us an opportunity to naturally shift our focus and allow us to do something we may not have done before.  Since we don’t have crowds coming to church like we used to, we have an awesome opportunity to focus on the individual.

It’s easy to focus on a crowd. Everyone can see what you are doing. There is no question you are working and doing ministry. When you shift focus to the individual, the crowd loses sight of the ministry that is taking place, but we can see when Jesus did ministry with individuals, lives were changed.  Ministry can be powerful when we make it personal.

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:8-10

What does a ministry shift look like?  I am not sure. I have a feeling it will be different for every situation, just like it was different for Jesus.  

If ministry in the past looked like a Sunday production, what can you do differently to make ministry feel more personal? We have been dealing with quarantine and social distancing for months now. Many people are desperate for social interaction- in great need of personal ministry. 

What are some ways you can shift ministry from the crowd to the individual?  This is best answered when thinking about ways you can move away from your physical church location into a different setting, one your individual probably already is.

Family Zoom calls

Maybe your state still isn’t allowing in person gathering. Rather than trying to do a large Zoom call with lots of people, why not try to shrink the number of people on the call? 

This could mean dropping the numbers to 3 kids on a call instead of 10.  The fewer the people, the higher the engagement. Yes, it means you will do the same call multiple times, but is that a problem if you are getting higher engagement?

Maybe you don’t want to meet with just kids.  Maybe you want a personal connection with the entire family.  You could schedule a call with every family. It could be anything you want: conversation about how they are doing, talk about a Bible passage you just read (or read together). You could simply pray with them.  In a smaller setting- just you and them, it becomes very personal. A personal connection will go a long way while we are in a social distancing era.

Take lunch to their house

Find out what their favorite take out is and plan a picnic. Pick up lunch and go visit them at their house. Bring a blanket and have lunch on the front lawn.  Want to include the family? Pick up a pizza and head over later in the afternoon for dinner. That will be a great opportunity for personal connection.

Nerf War

If you don’t have the budget for multiple pizza dinners, I get it. What about taking some nerf guns and darts to their house and have a nerf war on their front lawn? Running away from each other will allow you to maintain proper social distancing, but also allow you to make some great memories.

Soccer at the park

You could plan some soccer games (or kick ball, or dodgeball, etc) for smaller groups of your kids. Meet at a park and play some games outside for a little while. Ministry to the individual (or smaller groups) doesn’t always have to be a Bible study. Many of Jesus’ teaching moments came during hang out time like fishing trips or meals together.  Don’t overthink, you probably have an idea right now of something that would be a fun small group kind of activity to do with your kids.  You likely will have to do the same thing multiple times, and it will not be an all group experience, but we are thinking about Jesus leaving the crowds to minister to the smaller numbers. WHat does that look like for you?

These are just a few possibilities.  I get it, moving from a church ‘production’ to something more intimate and ‘personal’ isn’t easy.  It is easy to do something once for the entire group. But as we are seeing, in many states right now that is very difficult. 

It is time to start thinking differently. Maybe it’s time for a ministry shift.  The world is changing, and the way we do church is also changing. What are some things you can do right now that would connect with someone on a personal level? 

So what do you think? What have you done to move from a production mindset to a personal mindset?  How have you been intentional about maintaining relationship lately? Leave a comment and let us know!

Got Fruit? Has been on top of the Amazon Best Seller list multiple times

Are you  looking for more great family devotion resources? Check out an Amazon #1 best selling children’s ministry book: Got Fruit: a guide to family devotions based on the fruit of the spirit.

Your child’s relationship with God must extend beyond Sunday morning. Parents have to take a leading role in the discipleship of their kids. Based on the Fruit of the Spirit, Got Fruit? is an effective tool to help parents disciple their children. If you are looking for help with your family devotion time, Got Fruit? is for you! Through this devotional you will be guided through discussions that build on each of the 9 fruits of the spirit. Each of the 9 devotionals include bible passages that highlight the highlighted fruit as well as a few related thoughts. Also included is a series of discussion questions that will help you guide your children in a conversation to bring truth and understanding. This short devotional is a perfect tool to guide you as you disciple your children into a deeper relationship and understanding with God.

About the Author

Ron is happily married to his best friend, and dad to the best daughter you could imagine. As a teacher and children's pastor, he has over 20 years experience of teaching, leading, writing, creating and consulting. He has written for churches, contributed to several collaborative publications, and written a #1 Best Selling Devotional, Got Fruit? on Amazon. His blog is consistantly listed in the Top 40 Children's Ministry Blogs and Websites. Don't hesitate to ask if you think he could help you and your ministry in any way.

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