For those of you who don't know, I am a pastor at Redeemer Fellowship, a nearly nine year-old church in St. Charles, Illinois, that is, in the far west suburbs of Chicago. As Community Life Pastor, part of my responsibility is to oversee the children's ministry we call Journey Kids. Yes, the ministry is named after Jeff's church ... don't judge! We have set up this ministry in a specific way based on the convictions and values we hold.
Right now, we have 5 classes that look to reach newborns through 5th grade with the gospel. The youngest children are in class for the entire service time. They are our Infants (0 through when they start walking), Walkers (starting to walk to age 2) and Toddlers (ages 2 and 3) classes. We separated the Infants and Walkers because (with the recent baby explosion our church experienced), we didn't want the ones who could walk stepping on the ones who could not get out of the way. The workers, typically 2 or 3, spend their time not just caring for the kids but also praying for them. In the Walkers class in the midst of caring for these little ones, the workers do share a short lesson from the Children Desiring God toddler curriculum. We use this 12 lesson course and spend a month sharing God's character with the kids through pictures. The Toddler class does the same lesson in a more direct way, while sharing a snack around a table, usually about 7 to 10 minutes.
From ages 4 through the 5th grade, kids start out in the service with their parents. We do this intentionally for a few reasons. The reason we do this is because we believe that parents are the primary disciple makers of their kids. So much of what kids learn is caught rather than taught. We want parents to lead by example teaching kids about corporate worship.. We want our kids watching Mom and Dad singing. We want our parents to explain the meaning of communion and pray with their kids. We want the kids to see people being baptized. We believe this is critical for kids to experience and better prepares them to be worshippers themselves. The last announcement that is made every week, right before the sermon is that kids are dismissed to their classes. We want to be intentional about age appropriate instruction which is why we dismiss them at this point. These kids meet their teachers and helpers in the back of the sancturary and head to their classes. The Primary class is for those 4 yrs old through 1st grade and the Intermediate class is 2nd grade through 5th grade. Both classes use the age appropriate lesson of the Gospel Story curriculum published by New Growth press. These teachers and helpers lead the kids through the Bible's grand narrative that points them, through every lesson, to Jesus and their need for a Savior.
For the safety and security of the kids, as well as the peace of mind of the parents, we use KidCheck© for our check-in process for all of our classes. I have written on this before, and while I personally struggle with the need for such a system, this is one of the best. The kid's name tags that are printed out provide teachers with name, allergy information, and a secure way for them to know which kid belongs with which parent. The other security system we have in place is that we do background check on all of our workers. This is another step of security that protects everyone; the kids, the church, and puts parents even more at ease.
This is what we do and why we do it. My hope and prayer with sharing this is that it helps others think through the same things.