Sometimes we are asked if The Gospel Project for Kids works in smaller churches where resources are not abundant and where there are only a handful of kids.
Well, that’s the church I serve at, and don’t worry, The Gospel Project is still a great fit. Here are five tips we use at our church to help The Gospel Project for Kids function in a smaller setting.
- Don’t be afraid to combine age groups. For a good stretch of time, we had kids from 1st through 5th grade all in one classroom. This isn’t necessarily ideal, but it can work. Print some of the Younger Kids activity pages and some of the Older Kids activity pages, and let the kids choose which they find more engaging. Some of our 4th graders wanted to color. Meanwhile, some of our 2nd graders wanted the additional challenge of the Older Kids activities. If you combine age groups, don’t worry too much about making sure each kid is working the activity page designed for their age group. Each activity page is designed to connect to the Bible story that day, so regardless of which page a kid works on, she’ll end up at the same place. If kids get stuck on something, help them out or offer them the other sheet.
- Choose “Low Prep” activities. We make sure every session has activities that can be prepared with minimal time, effort, and expenses. This is not because we think kids are worth minimal time, effort, and expenses, but because we know that God’s Word doesn’t require flashiness and glamour to move the hearts of kids and adults alike. Intricate crafts or multistage relay races can be fun and engaging for kids, but don’t make it a goal to become a production studio instead of a ministry. Sometimes simplicity can be more powerful. The key is to tie everything back to the gospel and step out-of-the-way of the Holy Spirit. Only He can change lives.
- Have a schedule, but don’t be a slave to one. Kids need repetition and routine, but in a more intimate setting, don’t be afraid to chase a rabbit or two with kids. While there is something amazing about seeing a giant kids ministry working like a well-oiled machine to present hundreds of children with God’s truth, there is something equally special about having a real relationship with each of your kids and knowing them well enough to go a little off topic to help them learn. Smaller ministries have the benefit of more easily getting the room back on track, so don’t be afraid of a little chaos.
- Combine or alter activities to fit your group. You know the kids you work with, and they may have a favorite game that they want to play every week, even when it’s not a suggested activity. My group loves Red Light/Green Light and Simon Says. I get requests for those games just about every week. So I find ways to incorporate our review time into those classic and well-loved games. Maybe if Johnny was supposed to be out, he gets a chance to answer a review question to keep going. Or maybe if Hannah reached the other side first, she must still say the big picture question and answer before she takes over as the “traffic light.” In a small church, it can be much easier to alter activities, especially on the fly; play to those strengths and find ways to make the material work for you. This can also be a helpful way to “make up time” you may have lost while following tip #3!
- Pray often and specifically. This is more than just a way to add a fifth tip to a four tip list. For me, prayer is the only vitally important tool that I forget to use at least as often as I remember to. I’ve never tried to drive a nail into a board with my fists because I forgot to use a hammer. I’ve never tried to cut my grass with scissors because I forgot to use my lawnmower. The fact is, you can’t do a job without the right tools for the job. Prayer is our most important tool when ministering to kids (or anyone, for that matter). Our kids ministries cannot thrive and grow if we aren’t praying for them to. As much as we know numbers and attendance aren’t the most important thing, we still often secretly think they are. There’s nothing bad about having a smaller kids ministry, but don’t let a lack of prayerfulness be the reason for it.
What about you? What size ministry do you work with? How do you make a session run smoothly? Share your tips and tricks to help kids engage with material in the comment section below!
Sam O’Neil is a Content Editor for The Gospel Project for Kids. Prior to working at LifeWay, he worked as a Family Resources Resident for The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. He now lives with his wife and dog in Antioch, TN and serves in the children’s ministry at Redemption City Church in Franklin, TN.