When I am more concerned about what I am doing rather than the people I am doing it for, my ministry ceases to be a ministry; it becomes a program.
What is the ultimate goal of our children’s ministries? Even though I am sure we all want to have an excellent kids’ service, I don’t think we would say that this is our end goal. Yet, I wonder if in that desire to have an impactful Sunday morning service, that we’ve started living Sunday to Sunday.
Here’s what I mean by living Sunday to Sunday. We work really hard to put together a service that children will both enjoy and experience the presence of God in. It’s almost like putting on an event every week. We need to make sure volunteers are ready, we need to put together the songs and the media, and we need to prepare to deliver an incredible message. By the time we’ve done all that and are ready to think beyond Sunday, Sunday rolls right around the corner. We have a good service and do it all again next week.
Have we reduced our goal to just having an excellent service? I don’t doubt that kids are touched and lives are changed during these times. It’s important to get together amongst other believers to be encouraged in our walk with Christ. However, I know that I want to create lifelong disciples of Jesus. If I’m living Sunday to Sunday, am I doing that?
Our Sunday service is about an hour and a half. If a child comes to Sunday School, that’s an extra 45 minutes. I have about two hours and 15 minutes to pour into a child’s life. Should all my time and resources be utilized on those two hours? Can I redistribute some of that time and some of those resources to make a longer-lasting impact?
This is an issue that I have begun pondering recently. In fact, this is an exploration for myself just as much as I hope it will be for someone else. These thoughts are just beginning to form for me, and I’d like to invite you on a journey with me to think through them. How can we stop living Sunday to Sunday and start impacting lives throughout the week?
Connect with Kids and Families During the Week
When we’re living Sunday to Sunday, we spend more time on programs than people. We miss their needs and we miss the opportunities to walk with them through problems. Connecting with kids and families can be as simple as a phone call or postcard, or it could be taking a child out for ice cream or to the park. Maybe it’s showing up at sports games or recitals. It could even mean visiting the hospital or providing childcare during trying times.
Connecting with kids and families gives me a chance to model faith in a tangible way. How did I treat the waiter or waitress at the restaurant? How did I react when someone cut me off while driving? If kids understand that I am in real life who I say I am on Sundays, the message that I preach becomes more authentic in their eyes. I want them to know me as the same person outside the church that I am on the inside. I want them to see that faith is lived out every minute of every day, not just on Sunday mornings.
Of course, I can’t take out all the kids all the time. I’ve started to call on my leaders to each create a bond with a few kids so that together we can reach them all. I’m excited to see where this will lead us.
Make the Lesson Reach Beyond Sunday
Each lesson should have a takeaway – something we expect kids to do if the message has resonated in their hearts. I’ve been guilty of leaving this out many times, but the truth is, we need this to be effective. I am reminded of James 1:22-25 which says:
“22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
We want children to be doers of the word, not just hearers. Giving some sort of challenge based on the lesson helps to emphasize this truth for them. Your two hours with those kids (or however long you have) become more meaningful if those two hours have affected how they behave in all 168 hours in the week. You’ve given them a tool to live out God’s truth in a practical way.
What do these takeaways look like? Your curriculum may have them built in (though most that I’ve seen don’t), or you may have to come up with some of your own. It could be an object related to the lesson that reminds them to pray for a specific need. Maybe you challenge them to tell someone they forgive them after you talk about forgiveness. Perhaps you suggest they hand out an invite to church to a friend. Whatever you choose to do, be sure to follow up the next week.
Invest in Families
“6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
This is what I believe to be the most important strategy we can use to make a lasting impact. In a previous post, I discussed the importance of family ministry. Parents (and grandparents!) will spend exponentially more time with the children in our ministries than we ever will. They are called to be the primary disciple makers of their children. We are called to equip them to do that. If we can empower families to pass on the faith to their children, then we have done more than we ever could on a Sunday morning.
A great resource to get you started is Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones. It walks you through what family ministry is and gives you a practical guide to get it off the ground. Ultimately, family ministry is a shift in our church culture to move from being a series of independent ministries to a unified team that works to provide families with the tools they need to live out faith in Christ together.
This is the greatest remedy to living Sunday to Sunday. If we split our time between preparing for Sunday and investing in families, we will be seeing much better fruit in the generations to come.
Tying it All Together
I don’t want to downplay the importance of the Sunday morning service. We need it to be refreshed and encouraged. We want to make sure we’re not neglecting to gather together (Hebrews 10:25). What I am saying is this: If all our energy is spent on putting together a perfect service, we will have a harder time accomplishing our goal of making lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. When I am more concerned about what I am doing rather than the people I am doing it for, my ministry ceases to be a ministry; it becomes a program.
What are some more ways we can stop living Sunday to Sunday?