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The Number Game (or what really makes your children’s ministry great?)

Last month, a post on one of the blogs I follow really struck a chord with me. The writer Nancy Talbot was commenting on the Gospel reading for the following Sunday Mark 10:35-45. She wrote:

“My problem is that the ministries in which I invest much of my life energy are struggling. Sunday morning worship, study groups, spiritual retreats, children and youth programs are vibrant but small. And when I read this week’s scripture I see myself in James and John, wanting to be recognized for all my hard work and effort, for being “good” at spreading the Good News. And then I hear Jesus say to be truly great is to be a servant. It has to do with being willing to walk the path he walked and to drink the cup he drank. It has nothing to do with numbers.”

You can find her post here

Do her thoughts resonate with you?  Do you find it all too easy to get caught up in the numbers game? Have you ever compared your Sunday school with those of larger churches? They seem so successful, offering wonderful programs for children and their families. The danger with those kinds of comparisons is that they can lead us to feelings of discouragement. Like Nancy Talbot, I think many of us want to be recognized for our hard work. We want to be considered successful. We want our children’s ministry to be great.

Our society likes to quantify success, and that creates a tendency to look at numbers as a measure of achievement. It doesn’t help that many diocesan reports require churches to provide numbers, where the unspoken assumption is that high numbers are good and low numbers are bad. High numbers means you are successful, low numbers mean you are failing.

   Jesus reminds us that in God’s realm high numbers do not define greatness and success.

A great children’s ministry is not determined by:

  • The number of children who attend
  • The number of programs offered
  • The number of families reached
  • The number of volunteers
  • The number of dollars in our Christian Education budget

What a relief! Jesus said that to be truly great is to be a servant. Therefore a truly great children’s ministry takes form in our willingness to serve the children and families with whom we minister. Are we willing to serve them, to walk with them, to listen and help meet their needs? If the answer is yes, then you have a children’s ministry that is truly great — and that is good news! To be sure big churches can have a great ministries too, but it’s not because of their higher numbers.

What makes the children’s ministry in your church really great? Servanthood reveals Jesus’ model for greatness in ministry. How are you serving the children and families in your community? How are you sharing God’s love in word and action?

I’d love to hear from you.

Sharon Harding

About Sharon Harding

I was born in England and immigrated to Canada almost 30 years ago. A graduate of Gloucestershire University (B.Ed.), I have been involved in children’s ministry since I was 16. Over the past 12 years I have written for a variety of Christian Education curriculum resources. I also write a blog at encouraging parents to build strong connections with their children. When I am not working I enjoy painting, reading, and pottering around the Internet.
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