Most of us will agree it’s really important that our churches reach out to children and families. But what if the thought of holding a baby terrifies you (“what if I just … drop it??”) or if, given a choice between leading a Junior Church session and sitting through every one of these Top 100 Bad Movies without a bathroom break, you’d be reaching for the DVD remote every time?
The good news is, you don’t have to be good with kids to support children’s ministry in your church. All ministry is supported by a lot of background work that makes the face-to-face stuff happen. Here’s a Top Ten list to get us started – feel free to add your own in the comments!
- Maintain an up-to-date email list of baptism families, and send them information of any activities your church is doing that are friendly for under-5s (Mailchimp can be useful for this – it’s a user-friendly way to send mass mailings, and the free version has everything you need).
- Keep an eye out while in charity shops for any toys or puzzles featuring Bible stories, in good condition, and bring them in for your children’s corner (if you have one) or your Junior Church.
- Make a knitted Nativity set (Parkinson’s UK has a pattern for £10) or knitted teddies for baptism families, or child-sized vestments for “playing church,” or …
- Be responsible for keeping track of volunteers, organising your Junior Church volunteer rota, and reminding them when it’s their week.
- Cook for Messy Church, or organise cooking teams for Messy Church.
- Help set up and tidy up Junior Church, Messy Church, etc – anyone willing to wield a broom, stack chairs, wash dishes, hoover up sequins …
- Distribute leaflets around town for your crib services, Messy Church, All-Age Services, holiday clubs, etc.
- Set up a standing order of £10 a month for art supplies, games, etc.
- Graphic design skills? Make leaflets and posters for your events.
- Be an ally to parents of young children in the service – remind other worshippers that babies and toddlers will sometimes fuss a little and it’s okay, or give an encouraging smile to a parent, or say “you’re doing really well” to a parent wrangling three children under 5, or smile and say “I’m so glad you’re here – it’s great to have the children in church.” Often, parents tell me that this is what made the difference between coming back to church or not!
If you work with under-5s, you probably know Lois Rock. If you don’t, you have a treat in store.
Probably best known for her toddler-friendly “My Very First Bible,” Rock has also edited and written books of prayers, and authored “My Very First Christmas,” which includes Christmas folklore and legends as well as the Christmas story. She has also written Christening gift books and some secular non-fiction that can be used for pastoral care of families, like helping children adjust to a new baby in the house.
Many of the stories from “My Very First Bible” are also available as individual books – some in big-book format, which is great for large groups.
Her writing is clear and simple without being simplistic. She doesn’t talk down to children. She includes some of the non-story parts of the Bible, such as the Lord’s Prayer, by showing how they came to be told. And, in many cases, she adds vital details that are often left out of retellings for very young children – for example, it’s made clear, in her retelling of the Good Samaritan, that Jesus’s listeners wouldn’t have liked the Samaritans. So the crucial element – that the parable isn’t just about “being nice” but about rethinking who your enemies are – is maintained.
An extra note of praise must be given to the illustrator of many of her books, Alex Ayliffe. The illustrations, like the text, are simple without being simplistic, and contain lots of little details that children will notice. The colours are bright, and the shapes attractive even to babies. Sophie Allsopp illustrates some of her others, with wonder and charm.
Jenny Koralek has written three retellings of Old Testament stories for children aged 7 – 11: Queen Esther, The Moses Basket, and The Coat of Many Colours.
She’s also done collections of classic fairy tales, and a retelling of a Christmas legend about the Flight into Egypt.
The books tell the stories in beautiful, clear prose, and give enough background detail on the political situation in which they occurred – not always easy when working with the Moses and Esther stories for children.
Her illustrators (Pauline Baynes for the Joseph and Moses stories, Grizelda Holderness for Esther) do beautiful, intricate work that complements the text perfectly. It’s also worth pointing out that both illustrators use realistic flesh tones for the characters – they look like Middle Easterners, not Northern Europeans.
Highly recommended, especially the Esther story – it’s one of the few Old Testament stories with a brave female heroine, and you don’t see enough versions of it for children.
Here are the slides from the 6th May “Junior Church Boot Camp,” or, more gently, “Junior Church Basics” session.
Junior Church Boot Camp