How to Be Intentional in Kids Ministry

It’s important not to settle for letting your Kids Ministry just be a childcare center while their parents are in “big church." To do this you need to create an environment where kids look forward to coming back next weekend.

Chris Holland
July 22, 2021
Kids Ministry Leadership

The Playlister Podcast: An Interview with Kim Wood from Jubilee Fellowship Church


It’s important not to settle for letting your Kids Ministry just be a childcare center while their parents are in “big church." To do this you need to create an environment where kids look forward to coming back next weekend. Kim Wood shares how you can be intentional in Kids Ministry so families will want to come back every weekend.


Being intentional is how you do this. Kim shares tips on being intentional about Kids Ministry, just watch the video below or read the transcript to learn more:


Chris Holland:

All right. So today we have Kim from Jubilee Fellowship here, and we're going to be discussing a lot with the Kim's experience in kid's ministry, on making kid's ministry very intentional and taking it beyond just like checking a box of childcare per se, during the church service, but really ministering to the youth and the next generation.

Before we get started in that, can you tell us a bit about your background, what got you into ministry and how you found your role at your current church?


Kim:

Yeah, so I was senior in high school and I really felt that God was calling me in to be a mother to the youth. To me that was youth ministry, so go to Bible college for youth ministry, all that good stuff. I met my husband in Bible college. We've been in ministry now for 23 years, 24, if you include what we did in Bible college.


I've got 23 years worth of ministry. Majority of that is working with youth and kids. My husband was born and raised here in Colorado. We moved back here to plant a church downtown several years ago. I did that for a couple of years, and it just was not taking off. So we landed here at Jubilee and just kind of worked our way into family ministry here.

Jubilee Fellowship Church


Chris Holland:

Yeah. Well, that is awesome to hear an opportunity presented itself and exciting to hear getting involved with the church plant and stuff that is really courageous and stuff. It was hard to do and glad you got to experience that. Got to find a new church to go into and in an area where it sounds like your husband's from. I know I, myself, love Colorado. It is absolutely beautiful. That is awesome.


With those 23 years of ministry experience, I'm curious, what are some of your kind of top takeaways and important things for folks entering kids' ministry to know?


Kim:

Yeah. We've worked in multiple areas with kid's ministry, so obviously with a church plant and it was downtown Denver. So people are like, oh, don't even bother having a kid's ministry, and I'm like that's not okay for me. Right now I have four kids that have gone through kids' ministry and are now in youth, so just as a mom being passionate about kids' ministry and what I want for my kids and growing through that and just seeing the different avenues between smaller churches, larger churches, what are some takeaways from each thing. I kind of really narrowed it down like I said to that intentionality. It's, with a church plant and it was mobile. It was like, it, wasn't just about throwing a room together and having kids there for an hour to play or a church that is established, and it's just the babysitting room. You know, my goal I've always said, I want kids crying when they have to leave church, not crying when their parents are dropping them off.


My goal is always like, I want them to really feel like they've connected and had an amazing time in church. Growing up, I grew up in the church and it was boring. It was like oh, we have to go to church. I don't want kids leaving church with that attitude. I want them leaving with the, I cannot wait to come back next week. And that really is being intentional in your environments, making sure that they feel welcomed. Right now, currently in our church, my husband and I are over zero through graduating kids and our marriage ministry. So we get to really see and work with people. So we have kids' pastors that are under us. What are you doing to get on their level on a weekend? What are you doing to connect with parents during the week? Making it very intentional. We get the kids an hour, a week, maybe an hour and a half and parents get it the rest of the time, so how can we be intentional with working with parents and helping them through the week?


Chris Holland:

Absolutely. I love the idea came about having it, Hey, I'm crying when I'm leaving church as opposed to going to it because that is one thing I've really loved seeing recently. The way kids' ministry has transformed becoming more intentional, becoming more engaging to where it's not just like you sit and just like, don't break anything or your parents will get you from big church.


Chris Holland:

What are some tips? You mentioned a couple of things: like meeting them where they are, creating engaging environments. What are some ways to be intentional with the programming and environments in the actual church building?


Kim:

Yeah. So as far as age group, I'll break down what I see. You got to learn how to really read a person. So for me, with my zero to five year olds, when I have a toddler coming in who is apprehensive, I don't want to go in there, I'm nervous, and it's been every couple of weeks working with mom, working with dad. Okay.


I had a set of twins and they of course would play off of each other when one started crying, the other one would go, so I was intentional of meeting mom with, Hey do they have anything special at home they like to play with that maybe we could get for the room? She's like, oh, they love trains, so I got a train set for the room. That next week when they came in, they were like they knew that they had something special and that blew mom away, and it was just like a $25 train set. It wasn't like, it was a massive $400 purchase, but that meant something to her. That showed her, like my kids matter down here, I'm not just dropping them off. They actually matter. Somebody actually took the effort to meet them, see them where they were, and they've been coming in very well from then on because they know they can go right over to that train set. It's something that they like.


As far as older kids go, we just had our staff meeting this week and trying to figure out ways to get more information from mom and dad. We've had several kids that we found out that are foster kids. Well, if we don't know that, we don't know what's going on with them, and you can kind of be like, look, you're in third grade, I think you can handle an hour in class. Well, we don't know what's going on at home. So how can we figure out ways to connect and be there for families.


I just had a mom. She actually drove in from Utah Sunday morning. She had just gotten custody back of her kids. They had been in the foster care system, but she was coming back because her support systems here in Colorado with the previous foster mom, and they brought her to church. So it was like, how can we help you? How can we get you plugged into a place where you feel like you have that support system around you so that you can keep your kids and not have them back in the system.


So just learning and seeing those things you kind of have to, you can't really be so all about like structure and program all the time that you have that flexibility to be able to connect and see what's going on in that moment.


We have for our church, we have a kindergarten through second grade and a third through fifth grade. We did that very intentionally because a kindergartner and a fifth grader, it's very hard, they're learning at totally different levels. It's very hard to teach both of them, something. Either the fifth graders board or the kindergartner doesn't understand anything you're saying. So for us, it was, we were able to do that. That may not be feasible for everyone to break it down as that, but what can you do in that environment if it is just kindergarten through fifth? Can you make space for small group time where somebody is just reaching those kindergartners and maybe breaking down the story a little bit more on their level, or challenging the fifth graders in that time?


We've got several of our youth leaders that volunteer on the weekends with the kids, knowing I want to work with the fifth graders because they're going to be moving up into youth, and we want to make that a smooth transition for them. Being very intentional with that. Even our youth pastor and his wife, they volunteer on a monthly basis in the kids' ministry, just to be connected with those kids and build that relationship now so that when they join scary middle school ministry, it's not as scary because they already know faces and the people that are there.

Creating an engaging Ministry ensures kids will learn and have fun


Chris Holland:

Absolutely. I mean, I loved that idea of being intentional. If you like the age and stage changes, they like introducing them to other people that are going to be talking to them and supporting them and that next stage of ministry. So that is brilliant. And I love the idea of for instance, the train set you mentioned earlier is awesome because it does a lot of important things. So there's obviously a, we don't want the kids to cry every weekend, so okay train set, they're no longer crying. We want them to know, we care about them in particular. They know that they get excited when they see that. We show their parents that we are here for you. We care about you. We want to serve you in particular. And so that does that as well.


So what are some ways you approach parents and connect with them to get the info you need to learn more about their situation and how you can help minister to them and support them?


Kim:

Yeah, that's what we, we were just discussing ideas of how to do that this week. So we were like, okay, because you I checked personally, I was checking in the mom who just got the kids back and that was, I'm sure a very uncomfortable situation. She gave me her name and all her kids had a different last name, and you could tell she was like just put my name, hesitant, possibly a little nervous, maybe a little embarrassed, not knowing. You go into a situation like that and you automatically think that people are watching me, they know my situation, they know what's going on. How do we make them comfortable to allow us to be a part of that healing process and working that through. So we're in discussion on how to make that happen. Some of this stuff is let's get a questionnaire out there.


We do have a grandma that brings grandkids because mom and dad don't go to church. Well, we know that it's grandma, how can we resource grandma to get them information and stuff like that. So as we're checking students in, the children in, and just engaging, Hey, how was your week? Is this your son? Is this. We have different people doing checking every week. So we may not know from week to week the story, but we're able to go ahead and put, Hey, just want you to let you know, we'll let our team know this family is coming this week, this is the situation. They may be a little agitated at first or a little angry. They could be hurt. Just give them some extra love. We don't know. That's one thing, even without knowing, I always let my volunteers know, like you don't know what their week has been like, and this could be an hour that they just get loved.


And that one hour we have could change the trajectory of their life. That next week for them knowing that, you know what, I may have had a really bad week, but I just connected with somebody who cared for me. And I connected with Jesus. I learned something about Jesus that I saw Jesus in that person in my classroom, or let's just show them.


We were just saying yesterday, our kindergarten through second grade teacher, our pastor, him and his wife, we just complimented him because he literally is like the epitome of what I see Jesus being to children. When you read the stories about Jesus in the Bible, literally he shows these kids like he is down to their level. Like when they come in, he gets down on his knees to be on their level. Hey, how are you, this is your first time? You're kidding me? Well let me show you what. Just like, I see that as being like Jesus.


So how can we be Jesus in a classroom when we may not know, and then follow up. So we did follow up with mom that may, Hey, she looks like she's struggling. I'm going to go ahead and reach out to her this week, buy her a coffee or give her some resources. Hey I just want to let you know, I'm here for you. If you need anything, we've got resources, we've got information. Just being available I think, and not getting so busy with all the tasks, that people get forgotten.


Chris Holland:

Absolutely. I mean, it is important to still stay a high level and not be too busy with all the tasks to you keep showing people, you care about them. And I love the idea of we bring in people that exhibit real gifts to your area ministry. Like the dude that is very Christlike it seems ministering to the kids, getting at their level and stuff, engaging with them, making them feel special and heard and stuff. That is outstanding. So really like that.


You mentioned earlier that it's important to go and meet the youth, meet the kids where they are. What are some things you do to be intentional about doing that and meeting them maybe outside of a church setting?


Kim:

Yeah, so we do quarterly because we are over the marriage as well. We kind of do a parent's date night with an option of drop your kid off at church. We're going to have a fun night for them. The older kids one week did a dart wars and we just took over the entire church. I'm sure they're still like Nerf gun pellets hidden somewhere, wedged somewhere, and offering that so that parents get a chance to go out, but we also have a fun, really intentionally fun night for the kids.


We have a great playground in the back. And so this last time it was great weather. So we just had ice pops and goodies and just had fun games outside where parents know that they're in a safe place and they can go and enjoy a night out, but the kids are having a blast. They're not just stuck at home with a babysitter. We'll do that quarterly. We have a moms group that does activities pretty much throughout the year. So they've done a lot of work dates starting in the summer. Different things to get kids outside of church connected so that when they see each other at church, it's all the more incentive to want to be there.


Chris Holland:

Absolutely. I mean, I love the idea of like events for like parent date night things. That's awesome because great for the parents great for the kids. That is outstanding.


I like the idea that the moms group as well, and there are probably lots of other ways, like not just kids' ministry but student ministry. I was talking to one church actually earlier today and they started streaming Fortnite tournaments in their student ministry. So there's like a lot


Kim:

My son would sign up for that for sure.


What other things do you all do to be intentional about meeting the people that maybe haven't found a church yet?


Kim:

You know, we have a great missions' department and they do a ton of outreach stuff, so we'll partner with them.


One thing, when we came into the ministry here at Jubilee, we've always noticed it's really easy for churches to have silo ministries. So kids is here, youth is here, adult church is here, women's is here, men's is here. Well, how can we like all come together and get rid of that silo ministry kind of feel. So we are working with the missions' department. Hey obviously, maybe kindergartners can't go on a missions trip, but is there a way we can reach out to our community and show them already how to meet somebody where they're at? How do we show them that their backyard is their mission field?


Going into the schools. It's a little bit harder nowadays, but if we get special permissions, we'll meet in the parking lot and just have donuts at the high school on Wednesday mornings.


So kids are coming in like, wait, what? Free donuts. This is awesome. And yeah, like there's more we can offer you more, more than just donuts. All the donuts are good. Free food always brings people in. So there's this for you.


So we're just really trying to work through that, getting rid of that silo ministry. How can we work with the women's ministry and draw that in so that moms can invite maybe other moms from their neighborhood that with no other reason come to church, but she would go to a pottery night and we offer childcare for her. You know, it's just kind of reaching our neighbors really and showing the kids that they, they can reach them through school. We're getting ready to get into a new building. I have hopes and dreams of having afternoons, from like three to six, how do we get people in that can offer homework help? And a place for the kids to hang out that they're not just maybe mom and dad are working. They're not just going home and just doing nothing or getting into trouble, but Hey, how can we use this new facility to offer stuff for the community? So we're just kind of in hopes and dreams of stuff like that.


Chris Holland:

Absolutely. I was talking to a colleague the other day. He has a company that sets up like learning environments. So he does a lot of work with K-12, a lot of work with psychologists, community centers and stuff, and even some churches. And he was talking about how the churches right now and in the future is a place for community. That's what the church has always been. And when you expand it to say, Hey, you don't have to just do church stuff here. It's not just open on Sunday. This is a place for you to be as much as possible. So yeah, that is, that is really exciting to hear you got some stuff rolling with that.


Kim:

Yeah. We're excited about it. I'm in that stage of taking you all wake up in the middle of the night, I learned I had to have a notebook fixed in my bag of that. And then I'm like thinking about it all night. I'm like, no, I can't do that. I need sleep.


Chris Holland:

Notebook next to your bed is very important for ideas pop to you at random. So yeah, absolutely. And then that kind of is a good segue to another question I had for you, Kim, what are some of your short term and long term ministry goals?


Kim:

Yeah, so short-term right now we have, we are kind of figuring out how to do portable again because we sold our building, but our new building won't be available yet. So short-term is how to make that transition comfortable for kids, especially like, okay, littles, who've just gotten comfortable with coming into our room here and they're familiar with it. How do we make that mirror, that in a portable setting to where we're not losing families in that season of not having a place. So from, okay, how do we make it so that this train set is portable? How do we make this, those things that we can mimic to make it feel like home to them, even though we're in a school gym or something, or wherever we end up being.


Short term, other things is just, we're always, always, always growing our team. You know, always recruiting, always getting volunteers, training up, raising up volunteers and not just people that are like, I need something to do, but people that are passionate about kids and ministry and just really, I don't want somebody down in our room that's just like I'm just doing time. I want to be here.


Being very intentional. We do a lot of personality tests, spiritual gifts tests. Let's get somebody planted in a position, in a place serving that they're not going to dread going to. So I just, that's very intentional for me with my kids' ministry and youth ministry. We want to make sure that they actually want to be a part of that. So making sure they're plugged in.


Long-term is, like I said, just kind of dreaming about after school programs and what does that look like? Can we get college students to come and volunteer some time, maybe they need some service hours. For seniors in high school, they need those service hours or projects that they can come and tutor kids for an hour on an afternoon, but we can make it a fun afternoon as well. And helping kids get through school.


Chris Holland:

Absolutely. I mean, I love that idea of like personality tests and doing stuff to really have people volunteered, serve in a place that they'll actually enjoy it because someone may be an introvert that really likes technology. They might feel more comfortable helping with production and the service as opposed to, and having a nursery.


What are some strategies you use to recruit and engage volunteers?


Kim:

One thing that I'm trying to remind my team of right now is a lot of times it's just the ask. I mean, the worst thing they can say is no. We'll move on to the next person, but a lot of times I'll reach out to a mom or somebody and they're like, really? You thought of me, it's almost an honor to them. They get excited. Like, wow, I can't believe you thought I would be a good fit in here. Yeah, let me try it out. So a lot of times it is just an ask. We have our student ministry that we started for youth. So we have a servant team how, okay. They're required to serve in the church somewhere. So as they're a part of student leadership, we're getting them plugged into the church. A lot of times, if a kid graduates high school, if they're not plugged into a local church, they're not going to go away to college and find a local church to get plugged into.

Recruiting volunteers requires determining the best place for them to serve


So when we have kids that are graduating, we want to make sure that they're already so plugged into the church, that it's natural for them to find a church to get plugged into. So we're very intentional with that. Using the student leadership, doesn't have to be helping out with kids ministry. Maybe they want to help in the coffee bar. Maybe they want to do production. Maybe they're called media. Well, let's get them plugged into the working the cameras and all the tech stuff now. And that's just part of their resume already.


So finding people who are looking for specific things. Maybe we have graphic artists, and we just don't know about that can be doing the birthday postcards for kids ministry on their off time. Just trying to really see what people are up to, see what their needs are, their wants are. And a lot of times, like I said, is just the ask and they, they feel excited that you would even consider and think of them because I mean, let's be honest, people like to know that they're thought of. So I know you're thinking of me, that's so special and knowing that, you know how that's, it's just the big ask sometimes.


Chris Holland:

Absolutely. Like you said, the worst they can say is no, and they're not going to be like angry if they're like, no, why'd you ask me to volunteer, but you're


Kim:

No, I'm not going to get plugged into kids' ministry, or is there somewhere else in the church we can get you plugged in? Because I would love to get you plugged in anywhere. I just want to see, I want to see the church being the church and not just coming to church and consuming.


Chris Holland:

I mean, that is a really important way to look at it. And like being assuming you're not just like sitting there listening or whatnot, but engaging in ministry, moving it forward is really what ministry is say. That's awesome to hear you are prioritizing that. And just being intentional about it is amazing.


What other info and advice would you want to share with other folks about being intentional and kids' ministry?


Kim:

I would say, well it's people over preference. I'm a planner and a structurer and systems kind of person, so I have to remember that. So people over preference, may not prefer this way, but if it's going to make that person comfortable, you got to do that. That's intentional in that. Being intentional as far as I talk with my leaders about, Hey, every week we have a huddle before service. We pray over the morning, we go over anything going on. Hey, just as a reminder, you're making a difference. You may not see it right now, but you're making a difference and just really encouraging. Maybe have a story for those leaders and just to encourage them because they're coming in on a week to week basis or every other week, they just kind of get to that, I'm just clocking in and doing this, but really just vocalizing that, Hey, you're making a difference.


I remember the nursery worker I had when I was a kid and, and down the road, somebody's going to look back and be like, I remember that when she spoke that into my life or she spent that time with me and just reminding those volunteers, Hey, we've got one hour. Let's keep our cell phones up because whatever's going on in the world can wait an hour while you're intentionally investing in these kids. I always want to make sure that kids go home with a take home. So mom and dad see that they actually did something in class. We do, we use the orange strategy and their curriculum. So we always have a take home for parents. Social media is a big thing. We always post every week, Hey, while you're driving, do this with your child, because this is what they're learning this week. And, really making sure that parents can keep engaged with what's going on down in the kids' area as well.


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