There is a prevailing message that I have been sharing for the past year with pastors and churches throughout America. It’s simple and it’s probably not as flashy as you’re hoping it is, but here it is:
If I were only given 10 minutes to facilitate a meeting with church leaders, I would (every time) spend 5 minutes discussing the need for a great website and 5 minutes discussing the need for developing a great children’s ministry.
Sure, there are a lot of other important areas of ministry. But I firmly believe that success for today as well as sustained success in the future for our ministries must include these two elements. And they must be done well!
Let me tell you why:
The first 5 minutes…
48% of people cite a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business. (Ironpaper)
Traditionally, most churches lag behind in staying current with our ever-changing culture. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not referring here to watering down our doctrine or compromising the truth of Scripture. The Word of God along with the prompting of the Holy Spirit is what leads us to transformation from spiritually dead to spiritually alive beings! The focus of my 10-minute presentation isn’t on message as much as it is on method. The MESSAGE never changes, but the METHODS do!
I find that many churches have websites that fall into three basic categories:
1 – Presented poorly with an “insider” focus that is not maintained.
2 – Presented well with an “insider” focus that is not culturally relevant.
3 – Presented excellently with an “insider/outsider” focus that leverages cultural connection points.
Many churches have a website that is not very good and that no one ever updates or maintains. Therefore, there are still banners on the homepage in October advertising last spring’s Easter production. This is just as harmful to connecting with new families as the church sign out front that is never updated. The outdated website and sign both communicate to prospective unchurched visitors that staying current is not important to our church.
“Research continues to show that the majority of us check things out online long before we check them out in-person.”
The church that has a good website that is maintained well but has more “insider language” and emphasis will still have a difficult time connecting with the unchurched. The prevailing thought in this church is that the website exists for the church community exclusively.
The good news is that there are churches of all sizes throughout America who understand and value the importance of leveraging a great website along with social media. They do so with a specific strategy to connect with both the church community and those outside of the church. And they have a continual flow of first-time guests each month as a reward!
If you attend one of our one-day events for pastors we host throughout the country, you will hear Austin teach during the “Clarifying Effective Internal and External Communications” session some profound truths. Austin helps us see that because we’re going through the greatest communications shift in the last 500 years, our digital presence and presentation matter a lot!
Research continues to show that the majority of us check things out online long before we check them out in-person. This is true whether we’re looking for a new car, a new home, or a new job. It’s also true when looking for a new church!
There are times that I will get pushback from a church on this topic. Usually, I’ll have someone comment that they had 3 new families come to the church over the past year that found them on their poorly maintained website. My response is always the same as I ask them to think about how many dozens of families chose not to attend because of the website.
Let me say it once more: Your digital presence and presentation matters a lot!
The second 5 minutes…
The success, or failure, of your children’s ministry is also paramount to developing a strong presence in your community. Simply put, vibrant and exciting opportunities for kids will determine your ability to attract and retain young families. It is so important to provide ministry to children on their level. And like it or not, this also requires embracing updated ways of connecting with them that is engaging and entertaining. The last thing we want to do is to cause our children to think that church, and in turn, Jesus is boring. Nothing is further from the truth!
Here’s a value that I find most churches miss when it comes to effective children’s ministry: “Reaching children requires that we also honor the values of their parents.”
There are several “absolutes” that parents are looking for in finding the right atmosphere for their children in today’s cultural environment. Here are 7 that are non-negotiable:
There must be a great check-in system and visible security present. When possible, it’s great to have a police officer present, especially near the children’s ministry area.
Dropping off and picking up the kids needs to be planned out well. Never give children the rooms in the far-away places of your facility. We don’t want it to appear that we are giving the children our “leftovers.”
Kids today have every form of modern technology at their disposal. Therefore, we must provide ministry to them on their level in a similar fashion, utilizing music and media in an exciting and colorful atmosphere.
Kids just want to have fun! It is our responsibility to create an environment where they can’t wait to get back to next week. Invest in some fun games and activities that make them not want to leave!
There is an ever-growing desire with young families to know what’s real today. You can bet that the parents who are seeking truth most definitely want their kids to find it as well!
Nothing builds community more than developing relationships. Young parents are looking for authentic mentors for themselves as well as for their kids. You don’t have to be “super-gifted” to simply love kids!
The young families that we are trying to reach today are busy! Really busy! They are overcommitted with events and gatherings that fill up their every waking moment. It’s so important that we respect their time and be punctual.
I can already hear people saying, “That’s all well and good for the ‘big’ churches that have lots of people and money. But we can’t do this stuff in our small church.”
If that’s where you are today, then let me ask you this: How big is Jesus? Does He have a shortage of resources? We both know that He has it all! I believe He is looking for leaders who are willing to take an honest inventory of their ministries and then do whatever is necessary to reach people in their community for Jesus.
Here are 3 Action Steps to follow:
1) Pray in faith.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as leaders is to make our plans and then ask the Lord to bless them. Ask Him first to give you specific direction for how to best use your website and children’s ministry to connect with the community.
2) Pursue with purpose.
It is obvious that both of these areas require great leadership.
When it comes to your website and social media, ask around to see if someone in your congregation, or even outside of it, would be willing to oversee this area. Quite frankly, the pastor typically should not be managing this area of ministry; they’re often far too close to it and sometimes make it more difficult than it needs to be.
(Just a thought: Wouldn’t it be great if you could get someone in the community that is not a believer to help you? Maybe that’s the push they have been waiting for to attend your church!)
If your website needs to be overhauled or tweaked, please utilize several of our strategic partners who are gifted in the areas of websites, branding, communications, and promotion. You will be surprised how affordable they have intentionally made their services to assist you. They love the local church as much as we do!
When it comes to leading a children’s ministry, the biggest mistake I see churches make is thinking that the leader needs to be great in front of the kids. This is incorrect thinking! A great Children’s Minister needs to be able to assimilate and lead adults. Afterall, the majority of your volunteer leaders are either older teens or adults. The ability to schedule, plan, prepare, communicate, and provide accountability are the essentials to leading a great children’s ministry.
We have two ministry partners in KidSpring and Harvest Kids Now that provide everything necessary to lead a great children’s ministry from teacher training videos to service curriculum to music videos and more. The resources that are part of Kidspring are completely free, and Harvest Kids Now is completely free to our 95Network Members.
3) Plan and follow-through.
Finally, to be frank, one of the biggest issues that I see in small churches is that they don’t follow-through and have little accountability. Please put some measures in place among your leaders that you will pray for God’s plan, develop what He gives you, and stay with it until you see your “faith become sight!” Your community as well as the next generation are counting on you!
I completely understand that you may not have the finances, facilities, people, and other resources to build a great website and develop a great children’s ministry today. However, you need to start somewhere! And the best place to start is to develop a plan on how you will get there.
Begin developing room in your budget to set aside money for these important areas. Get together with your leadership and write down a strategy for recruiting the best leaders possible. Review how you are using your current facilities with an eye toward a potential renovation or remodel to repurpose your space. If you are a portable church that has to set up and tear down every week, then it’s vitally important to assess if you are trying to do too much with your current pool of volunteers! Exhausted volunteers eventually end up burning out.
Here’s what it comes down to: We have to do the best we can with what we have at our disposal today. I believe it’s better to do two or three things really well than to spread yourself too thin by trying to do too much. The Bible tells us in Zachariah 4:10, “Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place.” Small beginnings can lead to BIG endings!
Need help developing a great plan? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at 95Network.