by Stephanie Smith
Every group of kids shares different gifts, likes different jokes, and enjoys their own unique set of quirks. As leaders, we are responsible to serve the ones entrusted to us—whoever they are, whatever gifts they have. Our job is to lead them to Jesus. Because every group of children is different, no two ministries look exactly the same. As the children’s ministry director at Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia, I have the privilege of serving in a dense and diverse urban context. Our church family is a rainbow of cultures, stories, and experiences that combine to produce a beautiful reflection of God’s family. While working in a culturally diverse setting is an incredible joy, it also has difficult challenges. The lesson plans that might work in other settings do not connect with our group of kids. And as a young church plant, our resources are vastly limited when compared to those of more established churches. But with Orange, it does not matter. The structure of Orange is stable enough to create strong ministry foundations. At the same time, its structure is flexible enough to be contextualized in a variety of settings.
For the past year, we have used First Look and 252 Basics for our pre-k and elementary-aged classes. As much as we have loved the lessons, videos, themes, crafts, and activities, these are not the things that have impacted our ministry the most. Orange has equipped us with principles and values that re-shaped the core of our ministry. Orange showed us how to fight for consistency, raise the standard for volunteers, and create overall stability for children, parents, and volunteers. Today, our volunteers are more consistent than ever before. They know their responsibilities better, know the kids better, and are more joyful in their service. Our parents are more excited to partner with us in ministry and our kids are beginning to apply what they are learning to their everyday lives. Orange helped us remember that relationships are more important than having cool games and that letting a child know he/she is loved is more important than having the latest technology. At the same time, Orange challenged us to creatively make use of the resources we have to capture the hearts and minds of our kids through engaging environments, exciting worship experiences, and hilariously fun activities.
If you are new to the Orange scene, don’t get overwhelmed by the vast array of resources available to you. Start simple with consistency through a stable structure, clear vision, and thorough volunteer training. Once these elements are in place, you will be able to grow and add on to what you already have. Don’t get caught up comparing your ministry to other churches around you. Take key foundational principles and figure out how to apply them in your context. Partnering with parents can happen in a variety of ways. Engaging environments can be created with or without a large budget. Your leaders can build strong relationships with families if you have five services or if you just have one. Don’t lose sight of the unique opportunities in your context by constantly striving to match the performance of another church. Use the resources you have been given to serve the families you are entrusted with. And more than anything else, pray your heart out. We can be consistent and contextualized with all of our great strategies, but none of it matters if the Lord is not in it. Only the Holy Spirit can truly engage the hearts of our kids and draw them to Himself. Everything we are doing is to create spaces for that to happen – but He is the only One who can cause growth. He can work through our strengths and our weaknesses and lead us into understanding how He wants us to serve. So no matter what you do as a leader, don’t take your eyes off of Jesus for one second. He will lead you as you lead the little ones. Because after all, He loves them infinitely more than we ever could.
Stephanie Smith is the children’s ministry director at Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia.