How to bring new life to old churches

May 15, 2018

Our church, South Main Baptist, has been around for a long time. Since 1911, this fellowship of believers has been an anchor on the south side of the beautiful county-seat town Greenwood, South Carolina. Recently, our church has experienced explosive growth and a renewed vitality, and I believe our unique approach to children may be part of the reason.

An age-integrated approach

As much as possible, South Main takes an age-integrated approach to ministry. Our children are a vital part of our worship, Sunday School small groups, committees and work groups.

Age integration in worship service
We have a nursery and preschool provided, but by first grade, children are in the worship service worshiping alongside adults. But this does not mean that our kids are just “enduring” as they sit through an adult service. We bring kids elements into our services by incorporating children’s songs and choirs, and inviting them to participate by reading Scripture and lead the offertory prayer.

Age integration in worship support
At South Main, children are involved in greeting, handing out worship folders, and taking the offering. Our tech crew has children side-by-side with the adults involved in running sound, operating the screens and even producing videos. It’s not for every church, but our attendance has grown as whole families are involved in ministry.=

Age integration in worship features
For the younger kids, the sermon portion is sometimes hard to sit through. Because of this, almost every Sunday before the sermon we have a wacky, memorable and meaningful children’s sermon to unpack the sermon theme and main points. Kids, as well as adults, enjoy this time in our service. After the children’s sermon, kids in grades one through three are dismissed for a short, contextualized version of the sermon featuring videos and stories. We have even brought back flannel-graph (that most kids today have never seen!)

Age integration in Sunday School
We still have a fully graded Sunday School, but we have included a lot of cross-networking of ages. Students give testimonies in Senior Adult classes and, from time to time, we have special features in our large fellowship area during the Sunday School hour involving all age groups.

Age integration in committees
Even our committees include children as vital working members. For example, one of the most valuable members of our baptism committee is Claire Hudson, who is now 11 years old. For two years she has been a great asset to this committee – especially as she helps and instructs any children who are being baptized.

An age-contextualized approach

Even though we age-integrate as much as possible, we realize that there needs to be certain events, curriculums, programs and activities that are age-contextualized just for kids. As we have made this a priority, the results have been astounding.

Upward Sports
This is a priority at South Main, and it involves the second-greatest number of workers (after Sunday School) of any activity in our church. Upward Sports, for us, is probably our greatest mission and ministry outreach to our community each year. This year, we had 30 teams, and dozens of volunteers involved in coaching, officiating, administration, concessions, clean-up, etc. At our last Upward Celebration Night, we had a total of 527 people in attendance – and this does not count the leaders! We also had 70 kids, coaches and family members who indicated that they prayed to receive Christ. We praise the Lord for these new brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the whole families who are now in our church because they were introduced to Christ and to South Main through Upward.

Good News Clubs
Many churches are involved in Good News Clubs in schools, but we take it to an entirely different level than most. We have dozens of workers involved – reaching beyond the kids to their families. The stories are too numerous to share, but my favorite involves the weekly prayer list. A young boy was constantly praying for his father who was incarcerated. Each week, he requested prayer for his dad to be saved. One week, one of our Good News Club volunteers told his wife he was going to “stop praying, and go visit that man in jail,” and led the dad to faith in Christ, coming back each week to disciple him. This has led to a jail ministry, and to-date, more than 30 men have received Christ.

Truth-Trackers
This is a Wednesday program of discipleship, Bible teaching, ministry training and missions involvement involving more than 70 kids each Wednesday evening. We still do RAs and GAs on Sunday evenings, but this exciting supplement has reached kids and entire families who are now fully-devoted followers of Christ and members of our church.

Want to breathe new life into your old church? Try children’s ministry, but not just ministry to children. Make sure and emphasize the ministry of children as you involve them in every facet of life in your church family!


by Toby Frost  
/  Senior Pastor  /  South Main Baptist Church

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