Though most congregants see children’s ministry as an “unmistakable priority” within the church, a recent report from Barna Group (produced in partnership with Awana) revealed that children’s ministry leaders often feel that their ministry is forgotten.

A majority (64%) of churched parents of 5-to-14-year-olds said that “children’s ministry was ‘very’ important in their selection of their church.”

Answering under the assumption that their church could only focus on a limited number of programs, “a similar majority (61%)” said that “children’s ministry would be most important” among church programs.

This majority response remained consistent regardless of whether the sample was limited to parents of 5-to-14-year-olds or expanded to non-parents within the congregations. Consistently, children’s ministry was chosen by 51% of all congregants as “the most important focus of a church.”

When parents were asked to respond to the prompt, “My children’s time in children’s ministry is as important as my time in service,” 54% strongly agreed, while 34% agreed somewhat.

Despite the importance ascribed to children’s ministry by all congregants, a slight majority (56%) of children’s ministry leaders agreed to some extent that children’s ministry is often forgotten in their church.

Of the children’s ministry leaders surveyed, 15% of children’s ministers strongly agreed to this statement, while 41% of children’s ministers agreed somewhat.

A majority of children’s ministers (87%) think that their work is making some degree of long-term difference in the lives of children, with 45% of the children’s ministers surveyed answering “definitely,” while 42% “somewhat.”

Children’s ministers across the board struggled to evaluate their impact with precision. Most answered it was “somewhat difficult” (48%) or only “somewhat easy” (40%) to evaluate their impact on children.

Open-ended responses allowed children’s ministry leaders to discuss some of the indicators they use to evaluate their impact upon children. Among these responses, a trend emerged: “Across all responses, parental involvement / family engagement is mentioned most often as a critical determinant of outcomes.”

The open-ended responses also allowed children’s ministry leaders to express more subjective measures of their impact, such as the “excitement” within their ministries.

Additionally, several leaders cited faith that “the Word of God does not return void (Isaiah 55:11)” as a reason they believe their work will have long-term impact.

“It’s interesting to note that children’s ministry leaders’ sense of satisfaction and support hangs together with the ability to assess their impact. While this study can’t define the direction of that relationship … we do see that clear measures for evaluating effectiveness in children’s ministry are a quality of supportive, satisfying church environments,” the report noted.

The full report is available here. The margin of error for U.S. adults who attended church at least once in the last six months is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points. The margin of error for U.S. Protestant children’s ministers is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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