Church

Children and Student Ministry at a Microsite Church

On this site, I’ve talked quite a bit about the Sunday worship experience at microsite churches, as well as resourcing adult leaders. But what do you do with children and students? Is it possible to integrate a ministry for them into what you’re doing at a microsite?

The answer to that is complicated. That’s because kids and student ministries can vary significantly from one microsite to another. So much depends on space and resources—not to mention available leadership. In other words, what you won’t find in this article is a one-size-fits-all solution for your microsite.

But that said, there are several general guidelines that could help you find something that works for you.

Make Peace with Your Space

Many microsites launch in smaller spaces, such as living rooms, basements, hotel meeting rooms, restaurants, and even barns. These spaces work for a small gathering, and they make financial sense (especially if they’re free).

But they often don’t offer much flexibility in terms of space. You may only have one large gathering space available to you. And that’s okay.

The truth is that in many microsite locations such as these, you may not have any room for a nursery, a children’s worship area, or a youth hangout. Even though those types of areas are essential to your larger campuses, don’t let that stop you from pushing ahead with a microsite.

If you don’t have any of these spaces, you’ll have to work on training your microsite leaders to help parents with young children who attend. They’ll need to know how to deal with any disruptive behavior or situations with grace.

But the bottom line is that your space will dictate much of how you approach children and youth. If there’s no room for what you’d like to do, that’s okay; a microsite can still work.

Start Younger

If you do have extra space at your microsite location, always start younger. Your first addition should be a nursery and/or a space for parents to go with children. That’s a nice perk that families will appreciate.

More space? Add some sort of gathering for preschool children. Ideally, this includes at least a rudimentary curriculum with games, songs, and lessons.

Your next addition would be for elementary kids. But wait to roll this out until you have a solid volunteer or staff member who can spearhead a quality experience for kids. You’ll hurt the reputation of the microsite far more with a subpar kids church compared to just not having one at all.

As for students, very few microsites offer something on Sunday mornings for them specifically. Most have their youth worship together with everyone else. But they do offer other options, as we’ll see later.

Add Slowly

Even if you have the space and resources, add to your microsite’s ministries slowly and carefully after much planning and prayer. This will save you some pain in the long run.

First, you want to make sure you’ve found the right leader for each of these areas. These may very well be volunteer roles, but you still want there to be high standards and expectations for those who lead these ministries.

Next, once you start these ministries, you’ll have to sustain them. Having an on-again-off-again nursery is frustrating for parents, for example. And with a microsite, you’ll need enough volunteers who can keep everything humming each week. Not to mention that you’ll need enough kids coming on a regular basis to justify having those ministries.

Finally, you must have a meticulous safety plan in place to protect your workers and your kids. This isn’t a church building with computer check-in stations on every corner, but the safety of the kids is just as important—and maybe even more so because of the scale.

If you can’t promise the parents you’ve taken every precaution at the microsite to assure the safety of the kids, then don’t launch any kind of children’s space. You need a solid check-in and check-out system, rules governing the number of adults with kids at all times, bathroom protocols, background checks for every volunteer and staff member, and all the same precautions you’d take at your larger campuses.

Does that complicate things? Yes, absolutely. But it’s worth every bit of the complication.

Keep It Standard

For your curriculum choices at a microsite, go with the same materials you use across your other campuses. You already have access to those resources, they’re good quality (hopefully), and your staff knows them.

But there’s a bigger reason for doing this, even if it costs you a little more. Namely, a standard curriculum across your church means you have experience you can share with microsite volunteers. Include them in your meetings (via Zoom or recorded videos if need be) so they feel like they’re a part of the team. Invite them to talk to a ministry leader on your staff once a month. Open your staff gatherings to microsite leaders.

When you do this, you add another layer of connection between the microsite and the church as a whole. And you’re continuing to develop a pipeline of potential leaders.

But go one step further by also including children and students on camps, trips, and outreach opportunities. True, the microsite could be too far away to do everything with the rest of the church, but whenever possible, allow them to sign up and join larger events.

Take the Students Outside

So far, we’ve been focusing on kids ministry, which is mainly because space limitations typically make student ministry tough for Sundays. But that’s not the end of the story.

For many microsites, youth ministry simply takes place outside Sunday mornings. If you have some volunteer leaders (or perhaps even staff) who have a passion for teens, tap into that by encouraging them to meet as a group in a home or community space. Quite a few have found Sunday or Wednesday evenings to work best, but it’s really up to you.

Other microsites split students up into small groups at homes throughout the week and then join together for a worship gathering once each month. Still others use the same location as the microsite for a weekly gathering with small group breakouts. And some simply join with another area youth group once each week.

However you do it, follow the same guidelines of sharing the curriculum if possible and the safety protocols you have in place at your campuses.