Turning Crisis into Opportunity in Children’s Ministry
We are living in a unique time in history with a pandemic and lockdowns. Something none of us have ever experienced. Despite the uncertainties, the Psalmist assures us that God is our help and our shield, therefore, we rejoice and trust in His Holy Name: We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you (Psalm 33:20-22).
God can turn crisis into opportunities; we only need to put our hope in Him. Like many churches, we seek God’s face on how to move forward in our children’s ministry.
A resource that has been particular helpful is Resilient: Child Discipleship and the Fearless Future of the Church by Valerie Bell and Awana Clubs International. It focuses on three key areas, which are essential for shaping long-term faith:
Belonging: Highly relational ministry led by a loving and caring adult
Believing: Deeply Scriptural ministry rooted in the truth of God’s Word and the power of the gospel
Becoming: Experiential ministry, designed to move kids from simulation to real-world application of faith-based living
“Belong, Believe and Become is the foundation for spiritual resilience. From child to child, the environments and circumstances can change; but when these components are present, the probability for fruitful, long-term discipleship increases — even in the face of adverse conditions” (page 167).
International Baptist Church Stuttgart’s children’s ministry team reflected on how to apply these foundations to our Sunday School and Awana programs. These are highlighted below.
In Mark 10:14, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Our goal each week was, and still is, to welcome children as Jesus welcomes them, whether online or in person — with love and a sense of belonging. We call each child by name during activities and offer specific prayers for each child. First-timers receive a gift to let them know we are happy to have them. Birthday celebrants receive a small gift to let them know how special they are. When children move or relocate to other countries, they receive a small farewell gift to let them know they will be missed.
Since it was impossible to host all children in onsite Sunday School during our 9:30 and 11:30 services, we offered a parallel online Sunday School service from 10:00-10:45. The goal was that no one would be left out. Challenges with technology and slow internet connections did not hold us back. We persisted in our attempts to seek ways to connect with families. We are still seeking new ideas on how to make our children feel welcome. We are continually evaluating our effectiveness in the area of using technology to connect with our children. Ultimately, our desire is that all children feel connected by experiencing a sense of belonging. Our goal is they will truly know that they are individually loved by God and us, their leaders.
We moved our Awana program to Zoom as well. In order for each child to have individual time with their leader, each leader is assigned three children. Each child has a 10-minute, one-on-one time with his/her leader to ensure that each one has the opportunity to recite Bible verses from memory. It is also a time to follow-up and pray. Children also study the Bible for 30 minutes in a large group class. These were highly anticipated, and both children and leaders looked forward to it. The small, intimate groups fostered a sense of BELONGING.
Despite not holding Kingdom Kids during the lockdown from March 17 until the end of April, we provided families with devotional resource links to help parents lead their children in worshipping God, studying His Word, and knowing more about Jesus. Here’s the timeline:
02 May 2020
- Started our online Saturday Kingdom Kids which continued until mid-July
- Maximum of 25 kids who participated: Preschool, Grade 1-3, and Grade 4-6
- Consisted of three small groups
19 July 2020
- Resumed our in-person Kingdom Kids Sunday School for 9:30 &11:30 services
- Hosted a mixed group (Preschool and Elementary)
- Capacity of 30 kids per service
- Launched VBS@Home and provided materials such as Bible lesson videos, PowerPoint presentations, and craft supplies.
- Five families participated
During the lockdown from March through June
- In our Awana Sunday Program 2019-2020,clubbers continued using an online one-on-one platform to recite memory verses in order to finish their books.
- Instead of the awards night ceremony in May, the year-end awardswere given individually.
25 October 2020
- Our Awana Sunday Program 2020-2021 kicked off online
- Clubs or Groups
+Cubbies (3-4 year olds)
+ Sparks (K5-Grade 2)
+Truth &Training -T&T (Grade 3-6)
+Trek (Grade 7-9)
+Journey (Grade 10-12)
- There were 60 children/youth registered with 15 leaders.
- Each club has a large group Bible Study for 30 minutes followed by calls from leader assigned to 3 children to serve as mentor for the complete Awana year.
Here’s what Mrs. Lindsey (mom of a first-grader Sparky) said about Awana:
“My son loves the accomplishment he feels reciting the Bible verse he has memorized to his leader. He works hard on this each week and is proud to show what he has learned.”
To foster a love to recite God’s word, to know it, and to share it – is our prayer for everyone we teach. Mrs. Sharlene, (our T&T Director and mom of T&Ters – Grade 5 & Grade 6) describes how Awana has helped her children grow in Christ:
“Awana has provided my family the opportunity to study and learn more about God and His Word in a dynamic way. Through large group lessons, small group studies, and Scripture memorization, Awana is instilling biblical principles into the lives of our children. It has been a blessing to be able to continue our journey in Awana, albeit, virtually during the pandemic. Regardless of the many uncertainties that are currently flooding our daily lives, taking time to focus on developing a deeper understanding and relationship with God has brought us a sense of stability, purpose, and peace.”
Asked how it supports the children in their spiritual journey, she replied:
“God is the center of our lives. Through our daily prayers, studying the Bible, attending church, participating in Awana, and listening to Christian music, we strive to grow our relationship with God as a family. I believe it is equally important to not only learn about God and what is written in the Bible but also to demonstrate how to apply the Word in our daily lives. As a mother, I attempt to be a positive role model for my children and when I fail, which can be often at times, I admit my faults and ask for forgiveness. While each of us must individually choose to follow God, it is our responsibility to teach our children about God as it is written in the Bible: ‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4).”
Our prayer is God will use our ministry to mold children not only to believe and belong, but also to BECOME like Christ. Spiritual formation is a life-long process. It takes daily routines to enforce faith in family. One Awana mom, Mrs. Lindsey happily reports:
“As a parent I try to make faith a part of everyday life. We regularly pray, have worship music playing in our home, and talk about what we are thankful for and where we saw God working in our day. In our home we start every morning with a Bible story from either our Awana handbook or The Beginners Bible for children while we eat breakfast. This helps us to start the day on a positive note with our minds focused on the Word before we head off to school and work!”
Another Awana mom, Mrs. Claudine describes the spiritual journey of her Sparky-Grade 1 daughter as follows:
“IBC helped Ineza a lot to grow in her faith by teaching her different Bible stories. From them, she got to know who Jesus is, who God is, and how to behave like a child who knows Jesus/God. She is such a good girl, and her knowledge about the Bible is helping her to be so. As her parents, we encourage her to love Jesus more by reading her Bible at home, praying together every day, and loving others. We try to model how believers behave in everyday life for her.”
We are filled with joy to hear how our programs and materials are incorporated in the daily routines of our children’s lives.
This ministry requires that we teach beyond words. When asked to identify the most dedicated, modern-day disciple of Jesus they have ever heard, a teen student responded, “Mr. Kingsley (our Sparks Director) because he is very kind to everyone and very faithful in serving God.”
Our love and commitment to the good works God designed for us to accomplish speaks volumes regarding our faith. Our impact goes beyond the classroom and can change lives.
Despite the difficult circumstances caused by this epidemic last year and up to the current day, God continues to use this ministry mightily. Come join us now in the children’s ministry! The next generation is greatly in need of passionate leaders. Our greatest joy in children’s ministry is to see both children and adult leaders flourishing in their journey of faith and to know the feeling of: BELONGING, BELIEVING, and BECOMING lifelong lovers and servants of God.
by Susana Kornahrens
Director of Children’s Ministries, International Baptist Church, Stuttgart, Germany