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Monday, May 15, 2006

Children's Ministry Is Losing Options In Local Churches

ChildrensI just saw this in Leadership Network's Advance Newsletter:

Approximately 38,000 fewer American churches offer Vacation Bible School now than the number that offered that program in 1997 (from 81 percent to 69 percent--a decrease of 12 percent). When it comes to midweek programming for children, 20,000 churches have dropped those programs (from 64 percent to 58 percent). Source: Christianity Today, October 2005.

FOR DISCUSSION:  What is YOUR church doing?  Have you dropped either VBS or mid-week children's programming (or both?)  Why?  And if so, has it been replaced with other programming/ministries, or are you just doing less?

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May 15, 2006 in Trends in Today's Church | Permalink

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Comments

I love doing VBS. We dropped VBS in favor of taking that age group (grades 1-6) to camp. We target 5-6 unchurched kids, provide aid (the same amount we used to budget for VBS). We are able to target these families more effectively--we have to visit the parents for permission, delivering forms, assuring them their child won't get killed, etc. Instead of 2 hours for five days of VBS, we spend 24/7 for 4 days. When week's over, we have new relationships, and we always baptize a few of these new kids. For us, this has been "more bang for the buck" or good stewardship.
We do Awana on Wed nights, and again we reach more lost kids with that than through Sunday School. However, our children's ministry is very labor intensive and often I've been tempted to cut something back so that the workers can be less stretched and more effective. Any changes in children's ministry for us would be due to volunteers rather than cost.

Posted by: bishopdave | May 15, 2006 8:35:04 AM

We take grades 1-6 to camp instead of VBS now. Instead of having 10 hours with them in a week of VBS we get 4 days of 24/7. Plus, it's less labor intensive since we don't spend 4 weeks putting decorations together. The money we used to budget for VBS now goes to provide aid for unchurched kids for camp. You can call it more bang for the buck or better stewardship, but we see more results and more new families doing it this way. I love VBS. I miss it. But the amount of energy, cost, etc--and we never lack for adult volunteers to go to camp!

Posted by: bishopdave | May 15, 2006 8:39:17 AM

We still have a midweek program but it runs only in the winter. If I could find another team of leaders to run it the fall I would it in a heart beat. We have VBS. We regularly run well over 100 kids. I know because if they make to over 100 I get a pie in the face. We have a large number of kids going to camp, but VBS is a ministry our church values and so does the community.

Of all places to cut back working with children is the last place. You often have highest impact with families and the community prizes this efforts.

Posted by: Kent | May 15, 2006 10:13:39 AM

After reading about 'narrowing the focus' from Andy Stanley, I began to wonder what our church could accomplish if we cancelled VBS for a year and put the money into something more effective like our Awana Clubs. VBS is great if you want to fill the church with kids, but I've seen little return on the investment compared with Awana Clubs.

Posted by: Brent | May 15, 2006 10:19:40 AM

Actually, VBS is a winner for us. It is our most successful ministry in the church. Every year we have added one or more families through this ministry. We had AWANA for seven years (97-04) but the children started dropping out at ages 9-10 because of the competition with homework. AWANA is very intensive. We had tried Sunday evenings, Saturdays, and Wednesdays...but the reality is that the children did not want to come back.

We surveyed the children that enjoyed VBS. We asked them why they liked VBS and what parts did they want in a children's program.

Our program meets twice a month on Sunday evenings (4-6 PM) and includes assembly, crafts, games, music, and Bible Study. We chose twice a month to plan around 3 day weekends and holidays. We have maximized attendance, families that attended VBS only are now attending the children's program called "Followers of Christ" - the name came about through a contest in which the children developed and voted on. Where our AWANA had drawn down to about 6 children, our FOC program averages 18-20 children.

Posted by: Dan Moore | May 15, 2006 10:29:46 AM

When I started full-time at my current church, I had never participated in it's VBS. I had never seen 1500 kids in a VBS and I had never worked a VBS at night before.

Ours is really a community effort and we draw from our entire community and often we get kids and workers from other churches too.

Next to Christmas and Easter, it's by far the biggest program we do in a year.

The evening seems to be the key. We host a sack lunch supper for the volunteers and their families at 5:00 and we get started at 6:30.

It's lots of fun and it's awesome to see lots of kids give their lives to Christ!

Posted by: Mark Triplett | May 15, 2006 10:59:45 AM

Busyness does not equal effectiveness. Churches and/or ministry areas that focus their resources and volunteers on one or two major areas might ultimately be more effective. The goal should not be more programming, but better results. This trend could be a good thing.

Posted by: Brad | May 15, 2006 11:49:07 AM

Our church is looking at the possability of forming either a home school network during the week or a k-5 school.

Great article for consideration:

http://www.americanvision.org/bwarchive/BWV-03-06.pdf

Go to page 18 and 19

We're losing our Christian children in their education.

Posted by: BeHim | May 15, 2006 11:55:36 AM

I think the numbers are going to shrink and continue to do so is because more family are double income, so when mom is working; VBS will not cover all the time needed for child care. So parents place their children in camps throughout the summer instead.

Sure there are places that it will work. Places where mothers may not be working full time.

Posted by: Aaron | May 15, 2006 12:46:33 PM

We have a church with probably 100 kids in it, but for VBS we have anywhere from 300-400 kids, and 175 workers. It's a big ministry opportunity for us--we go into the low-income areas and drive kids to VBS. We go all out for our VBS as well, decorating the whole church, painting a new stage background, etc.

One thing that has helped our church is that we partner with another church in our area for VBS. They have theirs 2 weeks after we have ours, but we use the same curriculum, so all the decorations that we make they use. We take turns every year as to which church makes the canvas backdrop for the skit, as well as some of the props.

It not only helps with budgetary issues, but it's a great testimony to the power of working together for the Gospel.

We have mid-week children's programs, but they aren't very vibrant. Most of the problem is that the parents don't really want to make the effort to bring their kids on Wednesday nights, and most of the kids rather sit at home and play video games.

Posted by: Sarah | May 15, 2006 1:13:08 PM

We are dropping our mid week program next fall because we want to focus our energy more effectively on our Sunday morning ministry, and "hit the ball out of the park" on Sunday mornings. We have 30 staff on Wed. nights and feel that as long as we are struggling to find staff on Sunday mornings, we shouldn't be spreading ourselves so thin. We are also commiting to our families that we want to HELP them be the spiritual leaders in their homes, so by cancelling Wed. nights we alleviate some of the stress they are experiencing.

We still do VBS, but it's getting harder and harder to find volunteers. We have between 400-500 kids, but many of them come from other churches. We do see SOME start attending our church afterwards, but we mostly want to see kids come to know Christ personally, regardless of what church they go to. Sometimes that's hard to determine in a 5 day program. Not sure if we will continue doing VBS after this summer (we also run a 12 week day camp program to reach out to working families who need childcare.)

Posted by: Carol Scheevel | May 15, 2006 2:41:12 PM

"Most of the problem is that the parents don't really want to make the effort to bring their kids on Wednesday nights, and most of the kids rather sit at home and play video games."
Is that a fair assumption of how kids are spending their time? Why not assume kids and parents have lots of options regarding available activities, rather than judging them negatively? Is a another night at church always more valueable than sports, music lessons, homework, dinner as a famiy...?

Posted by: Sheryl | May 22, 2006 2:31:29 PM

I am a Children's Pastor. I understand the thought about not having so much volunteer intensive "stuff" for kids at church. But what do you do with the kids at church? Unless you cancel the service, people will still want to have the kids out of the service. Probably those same people who complain about all the money and volunteers going to the Children's Ministry. I would rather "cut" the adult "stuff" and focus on the kids and students. Take all those adults who warm pews and put them to work telling children and teens about Jesus. That seems like a great step forward to me.

Posted by: Lee Martin | May 23, 2006 1:44:57 PM

At my church we still do Vacation Bible School but we call it Vacation Bible Fun. Kids don't like the word school associated with other things. We also do a mid week program which is running strong.

Posted by: Barbara | Jun 7, 2006 9:00:38 PM

I am reading the comments and wondering if the main force and focus is being dirested towards the day/time when the most unchurched kids can be reached? Example sarah said they are focussing on Sunday morning and cancelling Wednesday night. She has 30 volunteers on a Wed. night but is struggling on a Sun. morning to get volunteers. To me, just the fact that getting adults in the church to commit to a sunday am children's program would say that perhaps sunday isn't the communities day. To say there are 30 volunteers willing to give up their time on a Wed. evening, says to me that that may be a better family/ community time for outreach. I mean, do you believe that the community kids/families unchurched ones anyway, maybe even churched, are more likely to attend on a Sunday in the morning when they'd rather sleep or spend family time or on a wed. night when they are likely ready for some fun in the middle of a mundane week. Find out where the communities heartbeat and watches are and you will find out what the best time to focus your energy and resources are. Timing and convienence is a very important part that must team with passion and resources. Wednesday night church was easier by far when our schools respected it as a church night and didn't schedule sports practices and hand out 3 hours of homework that night. Sign of the times???!!! Maybe we need to change the time. Friday or Saturday Night Live???? Or Sunday Morning Snore???!!!

Posted by: Andrea | May 21, 2007 11:38:24 AM

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