They say a new generation is born every 15 years. That means that not only do kids ministries deal with a vast span of diverse ages (usually birth through age 10 or 12), but a diversity of generations. At any given time, two distinct generations may be represented within kids ministry. And that doesn’t count thinking about the generation to come.
No one knows much about these upcoming generations yet. We can assume they will be tech savvy and relationally hungry. They will be gigantic generations—dwarfing the millennials who dwarfed the boomers. They will be much less “white” and probably have a varying degree of parentage—single parents, traditional families, mixed families, foster families, grandparent-as-parent homes, and alien families. Other than that? Your guess is as good as mine.
While youth or student ministries usually span less than one generation, kids min must contend with two (or three if we are thinking ahead!). And, while doing so, mold what they will become. No small task.
What makes it even more challenging is that parents often view kids min from the perspective of when they were growing up. This broadens the generations a kids director must champion from three to five (or even six if grandparents are the main caregivers). Not only do most parents want kids ministries to look and feel similar to their own experience, it may be challenging for them to understand why a completely different method—a three generations down method—might be needed. Even if they do understand how ministry connects with their own children, they may not understand how it connects to the generation younger or older than their own kids.
These are complex issues that must be faced by kids ministry leaders. Not only must ways be found to care for current children, these ways must often be created out of thin air. Additionally, kids ministry thinkers must consider issues that may be coming with the final years of gen. Alpha as well as the beginning years of gen. “Beta.” In the midst of this, leaders must figure out ways to communicate to parents regarding why ministry looks different from when they were a kid. They must take the multiplicity of generational culture into consideration when planning and visioning. They need to make time to review research regarding what the future and present may hold based on current trends.
And of course, they must take all this to the One who is timeless and has planned the future. This is one of the places where prayer intersects so importantly with ministry. Only God knows the future and we must take his perspective as he leads us step by step into the unknown generations.
Some practical tips to take away:
Take time to dream with your team about what kids in your church may be thinking, doing, feeling over the next 10-15 years. What may change about the world? What has already changed? What will the political, technological, and spiritual climate look like in your city? In relation, what will kids need from a church?
Talk to parents about what they loved most about kids min when they were in church as a child. Ask them what they might do differently for their own kids.
Engage the children in your ministry in conversations about what TV show, book, social media, etc. they like the most. How often do they use these things? Which one do they talk about the most? Talk to your team about how ministry could utilize the good parts of these and combat the not so good.