Slaying the Goliaths: Children’s Ministry In the Small Church

Slaying the Goliaths

For those participating in the ICM Resolved Webinar in March 15, 2016, here are some of my presentation notes:


As a smaller church, you often face foes much stronger and bigger than you are. Like David, we stand before these giants. But every “Goliath” has a weakness and through faithfulness, creativity, resourcefulness, and a little sweat, we can bring those obstacles to their knees.

David wasn’t concerned about what other people thought or what he couldn’t do. Instead he concentrated on what God could do through him.

Here are a few of the more common giants you’ve probably already battled in the smaller church:

Volunteers – Smaller churches routinely suffer from a volunteer shortage and struggle to effectively staff programs. The 20/80 rule is true: 20 percent of the people will do 80 percent of the work.

Money – Smaller churches naturally have tight budgets. In children’s ministry that means walking away from some good (and spendy) programming. This ugly giant casts a long shadow that can quickly spread disappointment, and even anger.

Attendance – Numbers are a continual source of disappointment and discouragement in the smaller church. Enthusiasm wanes when we focus our minds on raw numbers, pure data, and plain statistics. Low turnouts. Poor attendance. Or worse, nobody shows. If you’re not careful, you’ll start to focus more on who’s not there than the faithful few that show up.

Facilities and Space – The lack of space is a huge obstacle, especially in children’s programming. Children need as much as four times the space as an adult. Many smaller churches put children in “leftover” space such as hallways, storage rooms, and even attics. That’s when this obstacle presents particular problems.

Envy, Isolation, and Comparison – Contentment is hard to find in many smaller congregations and if you’re not careful, this giant can finish you off. It’s easy to be envious of better facilities, bigger budgets, and larger churches. Sometimes smaller churches even criticize and condemn larger congregations as “selling out” or “watering down the message.” The problem is if you’re always looking at what another church has, you’ll miss what God has given you. Envy and comparison are open doors the enemy uses.

I invite you to do a personal inventory of the giants that you might be facing in your local ministry. In the next few moments we will discuss some ways those giants can come tumbling down.


The story of David, the shepherd boy is an intriguing one. One thing is certain: David wasn’t concerned about what other people thought or what he couldn’t do. Instead he concentrated on what God could do through him. His youthfulness and his small stature didn’t matter.

If you desire to energize your smaller-church children’s ministry, then take a page from David’s story. Too often we worry about what we can’t do rather than seek what God can do through us. We unnecessarily weigh ourselves down as we attempt to take on a larger church’s program armor in program, facilities, or mission. Instead we must let our smaller-church children’s ministry be itself, casting aside our fears that weigh us down and seeking solace in the Living Stone that’s able to deliver us from the giants that beckon.



  1. Never stand in front of your congregation and make a plea for help.
  2. Never beg people to join your ministry..
  3. Never invite someone to join your ministry team unless you’re confident in their abilities to fulfill the roles you assign.



  1. Be thankful for what you do have and show appreciation often.
  2. Talk with other people about potential recruits.
  3. Invite recruits to become a part of the ministry as a fly on the wall.
  4. Enlist parents, teens, preteens.




Tip #1: Carefully think through curriculum

  • Spiritual development
  • Insure learning
  • com – Resources – KidSpring
  • com – Three year cycle, 60 memory verse songs
  • Fishers – 1 ½ year, plus puppet skits
  • com
  • Share with local ministries, districts
  • Hands On Bible
  • Social Media – Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook and Pinterest

Tip #2: Invest into leaders

  • The best use of any size ministry budget is to invest it into your adult leaders.
  • Training resources, webinars, Impact

Tip #3: Plan out expenses for each month

  • If you only plan an annual budget, that’s a good start, but make sure you designate certain funds in each category for each month of the year so you don’t hit August and realize you’re out of funds until January.

Tip #4: Keep it flexible

  • Local outreach
  • Food, drinks, serving supplies
  • Volunteer appreciation
  • Training
  • Curriculum/Resources/Teaching aids
  • Promotions/Supplies/Website
  • Special Events

Tip #5: Plan for an income

  • Offerings
  • Donations
  • Fundraisers

Tip #6: Prioritize the funds

  • To make sure you don’t spend budget money on something that’s not very important only to find out later that you don’t have money left for what is critical, assign a priority value to each of your categories. In my case, I rank food, volunteer appreciation and training all as a high priority; resources and teaching aids as a medium priority; and local outreach, promotions as a low priority.

Tip #7: Run it by a couple of volunteers

  • They’re serving in this ministry with you, so let a couple of them look it over and see what they think. Do they recommend that you cut back in one category to add to another?

Tip #8: Be careful about mixing your own finances

  • I know almost every church handles expenses by reimbursing people after they’ve made the purchase from their own pocket, but I feel very strongly against it. I
  • Checking account, petty cash

Tip #9 Fundraisers and Sponsorships

  • Sponsor supplies and resources
  • Yard sales, bake sales, a-thons,


  1. Build personal relationships with the kids you’re in touch with.
  2. Build personal relationship with the parents of the kids you’re in touch with.
  3. Remain in touch throughout the week.
  4. Facilitate an environment where those kids can build relationships with each other.

People don’t go to church because they want to hear the music, listen to a sermon, or because of cool church events. People go to church primarily because of the relationships they have there with other people. Kids are the same way. They want to be where their friends are, whether that’s at school, the mall, online or at church. So use that to your advantage by getting to know the kids personally and facilitating relationships between them. If your youth group kids enjoy each other and you, they’ll come.

Facilities and Space

  • Shared spaces
  • Be supportive
  • Workout a plan
  • Take out or hide toys
  • Put away things you don’t want touched
  • Create storage spaces in the classroom


A smaller-church children’s ministry must envision what it can accomplish through a fervent reliance upon God’s power. Too many times we see the obstacles and forget this is God’s opportunity. What we see as a barrier might really be God’s eventual blessing. What stands before us as a problem is probably possibility in disguise. When we look with temporary eyes, we will always miss the eternal.

Develop a vision statement.

Sharing vision inspires others to come alongside you and work with you to see the vision accomplished. Vision also inspires commitment. Individuals who are called to vision are usually more committed to its fulfillment than individuals who are asked to fulfill a task or accept a responsibility.


  • Giving kids the opportunity to discover God’s truth, develop a passion for His Word and display His love throughout their church and community through service and ministry.
  • We will lead children into a growing relationship with Christ by creating environments in which children are encouraged to pursue friendship with God, make friends with good people, understand their God-given gifts and begin to use them, and positively affect their friends who do not know Jesus


The smaller church is different. So embrace your differences. The smaller congregation is amazingly unique, with natural strengths and supernatural gifts that larger churches also envy! Unfortunately, smaller churches tend to assume that what works with 1,000 people can be pared down to work with 100. But the truth is ministry by mimicry rarely succeeds. I also think it breaks the heart of a God who specializes in the special. Such attitudes can cripple a smaller congregation. When you attempt to imitate, you’ll rub against the grain of your own resources, facilities, freedom, and opportunities.

Instead, celebrate your individuality. Dare to be different. Dare to be a David. Don’t worry about your size and appearance, but focus your faith on God who wants to watch you succeed. Seek to reach children around you and bring them to an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. Rejoice in your strengths! Dream big, but don’t live beyond your size. A church of 60 should be a dynamic church of 60, not a church that yearns to be a church of 600.

True vision is born when we recognize our purpose and honor God’s plan.


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