Think About Reducing Your Children's Ministry Programming for Greater Impact

The book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors gives you a look at the average American family with kids.

The book shows that the average family has 139 toys for their kids and that's without even digging into closets and toy boxes.

Walk into the house of the average family in your church and you'll find toys scattered everywhere.  Especially after Christmas or a birthday, right?

Another interesting thing to note is this.  Most of the toys are collecting dust.  After just a few weeks, days or even hours of play, many of the toys get discarded to the side.  If you are a parent, you know this.

Some child development experts believe less is more when it comes to providing kids with toys.  Here are some examples.

If you have only a few simple, elegant and natural toys available for the child to enjoy, the effect is similar to being outside at a beautiful park or walking in a pristine forest.  You can breathe.  You can think.  And you can enjoy the spontaneous flow of energy that exists in each moment.  -Matt

Too much stuff leads to too many choices.  If you overwhelm a child with stuff—with choices and pseudochoices—before they are ready, they will only know one emotional gesture: More!  -Kim John Payne

Healthy, typically developing toddlers ages 18–30 months play “better” when they have fewer toys in their environment.  They engage for longer periods of time with each toy, and play with each toy in a wider array of ways, when presented with four toys as opposed to 16.  -University of Toledo Research

You know what happens.  Kids tend to spend the majority of their time with a few of their favorite toys.   The rest of their toys get pushed aside and eventually end up in a yard sale.

I believe this reinforces what we've been saying for years.  When it comes to engaging kids and families, less is more. 

When I first started in children's ministry, I had been taught that the more programs, events, trips, activities, outreach trips, etc. that I implemented, the more effective our ministry would be.  And so I filled the ministry calendar with lots of stuff.

But what it led to was mediocre programs, volunteers who were stretched thin, an unfocused budget and lots of activity with limited results.  It was a lot of "busyness" with little "productivity."
I finally realized that I needed to reduce the amount of programs I was offering and focus on doing a few things with excellence.  When I did this,  I found the ministry was more effective and grew. 

Think about this with me.

When kids and parents look at your ministry, do they see a cluttered box of programs, events and activities?  Or do they see a streamlined, focused strategy that they can engage in?

Is your "ministry toy box" cluttered?  Here are some key questions to talk through if you need to unclutter. 
  • What are we duplicating?  An example would be having Bible study for kids on both Sunday and Wednesday.
  • What is only being used by a few kids and families?  Kids and families vote with their feet.  Why continue something they have shown they are not interested in?  Just because you've done something in the past, doesn't mean you should be doing it today.  Especially if participation has waned.
  • What is not accomplishing what we designed it for?  An example is an event you're doing for outreach, but few, if any kids and families, are being reached through it. 
  • What is good, that could be great, if we gave it more attention?  What has the potential to make a significant impact if we focused on it more?
  • What are we saying "yes" to that needs to be put away?  Sometimes you have to say "no" to something that is mediocre so that something else can become excellent.
If you are offering a plethora of programs, events and activities for families, you are probably overwhelming them...and yourself.

It's not always easy to "thin out" a ministry toy box that has years of tradition, expenses and investment inside it.  But I believe it has to be done if you want to be effective.

Think about reducing your children's ministry programming.  The result will be greater impact!