Our ministry environments matter . . . a LOT! But that doesn’t mean that everything we do has to be hard or expensive. There are easy ways to improve our ministry environments which will instantly make them more inviting to parents and kids. Here are 10 things to start with:
1. Make it inviting starting with the parking lot.
I visit a lot of churches and I’m often amazed at two things. First, at how poorly cared for the parking lot area is and, second, how difficult it is to find the Children’s Ministry (which is what I’m usually looking for). Next time you drive into your church parking lot, look at it from the perspective of a first time visiting family – and make changes accordingly.
2. Make it obviously safe.
Signage, check-in requirements, people with bright orange vests … whatever you need to do to communicate that they are entering (and dropping their kids off in) a safe environment – do it.
3. Brighten things up.
Have you ever walked into a dark area that was supposed to be for kids? Enough said.
4. Music matters.
Have you ever walked into a room that was supposed to be for kids which was dead silent? Enough said.
5. Be ready and waiting.
Don’t make families figure things out for themselves. When they arrive at church, they need to figure out how to get their kids checked in, where they are going to drop them off, where the bathrooms are, how to get from where they are to the Worship Center, what they’re going to do with the pager, and on and on. There’s a LOT to figure out, and usually in a short period of time (because what visitor wants to walk in late to the Worship Center?). Greeters ought to be as much a part of your team as teachers.
6. Teach your team to smile.
There are few things less inviting than a hurried, grumpy, distracted person meeting kids and parents at the classroom (or as a greeter!). Smiling makes everything better, easier and more inviting!
7. Point them in the right direction.
I mentioned how hard it is sometimes to find the Children’s Ministry from parking lots of churches. I’m also amazed at hard it is to find things once I’m inside. How can you not have appropriate signage for your ministry? Make your signage attractive (NO HANDWRITTEN NOTES TAPED TO THE WALL!!!) and make sure you have signage point to every significant area from every possible direction.
8. Keep it clean.
Cleanliness may not be next to godliness, but it certainly is next to attractiveness. Don’t let your families walk in to a room with trash on the floor (or overflowing trash cans), dirty table or sink areas, smelly bathrooms, etc. Find a way to keep it clean.
9. Remember that “fun” is not a dirty word.
What’s the #1 question parents ask when they pick up their kids? “Did you have fun?” While we can debate whether this should be the case or not, the truth is they want their kids to have fun. And so do the kids! I say it all the time, “If kids in your ministry aren’t having fun, then chances are they aren’t learning much, either.” Find ways to make it fun and communicate that from the time families walk in the door.
10. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
One of the things that bogs down our ministry and turns off those who attend are systems and processes that are complicated. How many steps does it take for a new family to get into the classroom? How hard is it to pick up their kids? What does it take to get their kids signed up for VBS or Summer Camp? Systems are critical, but they have to be simple. In fact, everything about your ministry needs to be as simple as possible (while still being effective and safe).