Don’t Sink Your Kids’ Ministry; Plan!

kids planning blogWithout Planning, our kids’ ministry will drift about aimlessly until it runs aground. When parents and various organizations pitch things to us, we will not know which way to steer. Do we go to this camp? Should we have a lock-in? What about the summer? If we have no strategy, we will answer these questions differently every year. Or perhaps an even worse thing will happen.  We will start digging a ministry rut, refusing to change anything. “After all we did it that way last year,” we say.

If we continually flip flop on what we do, we will exasperate the moms and dads in our ministry, losing the very trust we need to cultivate. But if we keep doing the same-old, same-old, we will wake up one day and discover that we our exciting new ministry is showing 20 year-old VHS tapes. Neither is good. And both extremes can easily be avoided with some planning.

First Comes Vision

But to plan well, we must have vision. We must have strategic goals that we are trying to reach. At FBCE my goal is to reach kids with the gospel, to equip parents, and to foster godly relationships through discipleship. Every curriculum I pick, every outing our kids go on, and every camp we attend is chosen because of it helps FBCE reach one of these goals.

For example when I came to FBCE, our kids attended a Winshape Day Camp. The 15 kids who attended loved camp. The last year we went to Winshape, only 3 kids hopped on the church bus. At FBCE, we average around 100 kids in attendance every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Only three were going to camp. We were not reaching kids with the gospel.  Consequently, I decided that FBCE’s kids’ ministry would stop attending Winshape. In it’s place, we decided to start our own day camp, Connect Camp. Through Connect Camp, we have reached an average of almost 40 kids each year. We have gone from 4 to 40. Ultimately what lead me to make the decision to try something new was my strategic goals. Since Winshape was not helping us accomplish any of our mission,  we let it go. I am not against Winshape. I think it’s amazing. But the camp was not working for the families of FBCE because of logistical reasons. A change had to be made.

Before we can thoughtfully set our calendars, we must have strategic ministry goals that will help us chart our course. And then we must plan.

Then Comes Planning

Yes, it is good to always be flexible. It is good and helpfully to be able to cancel, reschedule, and create new events as needed. We are not God. And all who depend on him, must be humble and must be open to God reworking their plans. As proverbs 19:6 says,

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

If our plans become so protected that we sin to get them and/or sin to ensure they go happen, we do not have a calendar. We have an idol, and we need to repent of it.

But trusting God does not relief us from the responsibility to plan. Often the only way to implement our strategic goals is to plan months (if not years) in advance. It takes time to mobilize volunteers, to collect resources, and prepare teams. It takes more than one event to reach kids with the gospel, to equip parents, and to foster Christians relationships. It takes years. And we need to plan accordingly. We need to wrestle through our calendars and decided which curriculums, events, and groups will help us advance the gospel in our community.

Today, I am doing many things that I first thought of back in August of 2012 when I first arrived. The ideas have morphed and changed to meet the needs of FBCE. But they would not have happened without intentionally planning and prayer. We as the leaders need to be making hard decisions well in advance so that we can guide our people and our kids. In short, the only way to prevent ministry drift and stagnation is to plan. Whose ready?

M4G 2015 Camp Elva Form

Summer Camp GradesEvery year, I am can’t wait for camp. It’s a great time to connect with kids, celebrate shaving cream craziness, and to share the gospel. This year did not disappoint. FBCE’s kids ministry (Ministry for Generations) participated in three camps this summer (Winshape Day Camps, Connect Camp (FBCE’s very own camp!) and Centrikid). All three camps were phenomenal. Our campers were exposed to great biblical content and made a ton of memories during Trianglulaiton, OMC, and their track times . But with that being said, I’ve also come to realize that not all camps are created equal. Below, I will evaluate the three camps our FBCE kids attended, looking specifically at each camp’s production value, cost, organization, attendance (i.e. FBCE campers), and Bible content. Let’s take a look:

Winshape Camp for Communities

  1. Production Value: A-

  2. Cost: B

  3. Organization: A-

  4. Attendance (FBCE Kids): C-

  5. Bible Content: B+

Negatives: Although the Bible content was solid, it can occasionally slipped into moralism (one down side to having the camp pastor be college winshape 2015  1student). But the biggest drawbacks for FBCE is Winshape’s  cost and accessibility. Though the $199 per student is not ridiculous, the price can be a little much for parents with multiple kids. Combine the cost with the travel distance (we had to drive to Dublin, GA everyday) and you get only minimal participation. FBCE had only four kids attend camp this year.

Positives: Winshape is a fast past, great day camp. The worship is high powered and features a great combination of teaching, drama, music and video. The camp also runs incredibly smoothly. The kids get to experience a ton of activities. Moreover, the staff really cares about their campers and invests in them. In many ways, Winshape for Communities is like 9-5 VBS run by professional kid workers!  

Overall Grade: B

Connect Camp

  1. Production: B-

  2. Cost: A+

  3. Organization: B

  4. Attendance (FBCE): A+

  5. Bible Content: A+

 Negatives: Being our first year of camp, Connect Camp experienced some technical difficulties. We had to shuffle staff around on occasion to make sure every class and track was covered. connect camp blank logoAnd, we lacked the live band and custom videos found at Winshape and Centrikid. This year’s mantra was flexibility!

Positives: The three biggest positives of Connect Camp were cost, attendance, and content. Running the camp out our Kids’ Ministry budget, FBCE did not have to charge an attendance fee. Consequently, the number of Connect campers more than doubled the combined number of campers who attended Winshape and Centrikid. And most importantly, we got to ensure that the gospel was clearly preached every day of camp.

Overall Grade: A-  

  Centrikid Camp

  1. Production Value: A+

  2. Cost: A

  3. Organization: A+

  4. Attendance: B+

  5. Bible Content: B

Negatives: In most ways, I think Centrikid is the standard for all kids’ camps. The only negative for Centrikid this year was the camp’s biblical content.CENTRIKID-LOGO-ORANGE Admittedly, I struggled with this rating. The small group leaders did a great job relaying the gospel and of sharing their testimonies. But the camp pastor did not do so well. He taught (exegeted) great biblical truth, but he never tied his lessons back into the gospel. Because our kids left the main sessions without hearing the gospel, I dropped Centrikid to a B.

Positives: Centrikid Weekend Camps are the perfect way to introduce kids into camp life. Lasting three days and two nights, Centrikid is so jammed pack with activities, games, cool music, teaching, and OMC, the kids have no time to miss home. Plus the $165 cost (which includes all meals) is a very reasonable price. The weekend camp appeals to both campers and their parents, resulting in great FBCE participation. Every year our kids leave camp with a better appreciation for Jesus and of course a little exhausted.  

Overall Rating: A