Fort Scott, Kansas is small town America. Why is investing in children’s ministry one of the best ways for a church to have a big impact in a small town? Today we talk to Matthew Wells, the children’s education director at Faith Church about how he is reaching children and families for Jesus.
How did you get started doing children’s ministry?
Why is investing in the children’s ministry one of the best ways for a church to reach their community with the Gospel?
Fort Scott has about 7,000 people. How can a church evangelize in small town America?
86% of Christians that are Christians today were saved before the age of 15.
10% are saved between the age of 15 and 30.
A scant 4% of Christians are saved after the age of 30.
So where should be the focus of a church’s outreach?
Listen to Daniel King, the Evangelism Coach, on The Evangelism Podcast
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (00:00):
Fort Scott, Kansas is small town. America. Why is investing in children’s ministry? One of the best ways for a church to have a big impact in a small town. Today, we talked to Matthew Wells, the children’s education director at faith church about how he is reaching children and families for Jesus. Jesus said go into all the world and preach the gospel. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Welcome to the evangelism podcast with dr. Daniel King where Daniel interviews full-time evangelists, pastors, missionary, and normal everyday Christians to discover how they share their faith, their powerful testimonies and amazing stories that will inspire you to reach people with the good news. And now here’s your host missionary and evangelist Daniel King. I love reaching people for Jesus. 86
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (01:02):
Of the Christians that are Christians today were saved before the age of 15, 10% were saved between the age of 15 and 25 and a scant 3% are saved after the age of 25. So one of the most important areas of evangelism is children’s ministry. And today we have a special guest, my good friend, Matt Wells with us who is a children’s pastor and education director at faith church and Fort Scott, Kansas. Matt, thanks for being on the podcast.
Matthew Wells (01:35):
My pleasure, Daniel, thank you for having me. So tell me
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (01:38):
A little bit about how you got started doing children’s ministry.
Matthew Wells (01:42):
I’ve always had a great love for children and I was offered the ability to become an assistant originally and then to take over the ministry full time back when pastor Tim was in charge of the church since then, I’ve kind of taken it in my own direction and been doing it for about 10 years now. I always wanted a lot of kids. We have three kids ourselves, but I always tell everyone I have hundreds of kids at church because I consider them all my children.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (02:12):
I think the children’s ministry is one of the most important parts of a church. When a family goes to buy a vehicle, they look for a vehicle that is safe for their children. You know, if it’s a single guy he’s going to go out and buy a fast Corvette or something, something that goes really fast. But once a guy has a family, he’s got a three-year-old and an eight year old, he wants them to be safe and protected while they drive. So what’s the family going to drive. They’re not going to drive a fast car. They’re going to get a nice minivan with safety standards. And the same thing is true. When families are looking for churches, they look for a church that is good at taking care of the kids. And so if you’re evangelizing in a community, if trying to bring families to Jesus, having a good children’s ministry is one of the most important things that a church can do. And so tell me some of what your church does to make your church welcoming and friendly to the kids that come.
Matthew Wells (03:15):
We do. One of three different things that I would focus on while talking with you. One would be that one of our main tenants is that we create a place for people to belong. And that doesn’t matter if you’re an infant or if you’re someone 80 years old, we want to make sure that the environment is inviting and that we can reach you with Jesus on your level. And I would say that’s one of the driving passions in what we do. We want to reach children in particular with Jesus on their level, so that they have a clear understanding of who he is in their lives and how impactful he is to who they can become for him. Later on. Another thing that we do is we’re very secure in our areas. We don’t allow children to come and go. We have a check-in system that we’ve established so that when parents bring their kids in the first thing they do is check them into the different ministry areas.
Matthew Wells (04:09):
There they’ll get a name tag that identifies them list any special situations with them, and then allows us to know which person is allowed to come pick them up. So they’ll have a check-in and a check-out ticket. This creates an overall safe environment that we have found to be very pleasing to the parents. The last thing is that we reach children in a way that they want to come back. And that’s one of my driving passions. I want children to not only be impacted with the stories of Jesus Christ, but I want them to be the one waking their parents up the next Sunday morning and saying, let’s go to church. And every time that that happens, I call it a huge win for our service team. We had a situation just a couple of weeks ago, where a boy who had come to church a couple of times didn’t feel like children’s ministry was something that he would benefit from after two weeks, he finally came up to check us out. He had such a great time that the next Sunday he got up early, made his own breakfast, got dressed, and then went in at 6:00 AM to wake his parents up and asked them when they could leave for church. And when I hear a story like that, it Wells up inside of me, just how awesome God is and what he is able to do through each one of us.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (05:33):
It’s better to reach children today than to wait until they become teenagers or adults to reach them with the gospel. The illustration that I like to use is, is that of a tree, you know, a young sapling that is just come up out of the ground. If you, if you tie a stick to it, the sapling will up straight and tall. But if you have an old Oak tree with a big branch and that branch is twisted, it basically would take a miracle to get that Oak tree back straight again. And so sometimes if you’re talking about reaching adults with a gospel, it takes a miracle. God does miracles. Thank God that God does miracles, but it literally takes a miracle to get a 60 year old adult who is an alcoholic. And, and to, to get him back on the straight and narrow, but for a kid it’s really easy to, in that steak that we plant into the ground next to the, the child is the stake of God’s word. And we’re tying them to God’s word. So to help them to grow up straight into it. And so tell me some of what you’re doing in your children’s ministry to give children a love for God’s word.
Matthew Wells (06:56):
Kind of our motto in the children’s ministry is to inspire imagination and to activate faith. Both of those, I believe are extremely important. Drivers to children, children have a great imagination. Anyway, they have an ability to see the things in the old Testament and the stories that are told as truthful, the way they are in the Bible. And that’s something that you run into with adults. They have trouble wrapping their minds around how some of these things could have taken place, but it child has that childlike imagination that allows them to fully comprehend and to bring them in to how awesome God is. So I feel it’s extremely important to let children know that the power that is in Jesus Christ is the same power that is inside of them. Well up inside of the children, the knowledge that they have that same access to Jesus, that the adults do, that there is no separation between that simply because of age.
Matthew Wells (07:57):
I also like to instill in the children and understanding that they are responsible for their own relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not the parent’s responsibility, it’s not the grandparent’s responsibility, but I want them to know that they have a right each and every day to talk to God, just like he’s their best friend, because he should be and to grow and nurture that inside of them, to where they are praying on their own, where they are talking to God, where they’re reaching out to God, where they’re praying for people where they’re the ones praying their lunchrooms at school, where they’re the kids telling their friends about how awesome it is to be impacted by the love of Jesus Christ and then bringing their friends to church. So that then through those, we can reach an whole nother family by impacting the next kid after that.
Matthew Wells (08:47):
And in our areas, I focused on raising up leaders who take care of small groups. I heard a gentleman explained once that between the time a child is born and by the time they’re 18, you have 936 weekends. That’s it. We’re dealing with an even smaller window of about 156 weekends where we have them in children’s ministry. And that’s if they come to church every single Sunday, which sometimes they don’t that small window is our opportunity to reach into these children’s lives and change them forever. So we have small groups based upon each grade level and a small group leader. Who’s the same each and every week, this allows the children to develop a relationship with that adult, someone other than their parents, who they can talk to and who they can see has a relationship with Jesus Christ as well. That makes it more real to the kids that it’s not just their parents and what their parents are telling them. But it’s also this, this person I know at church who is now my friend, and we pray with them. We keep them in those small groups and we continue to nurture them as we grow them up through our small group systems.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (10:00):
I love how you’re thinking about that systematically, what you want to implant in the kids and the weekends that you, you have to be able to do that. And you’re competing with so many other voices. You’re competing with programs on television. You’re competing with their, their screens, small screens. They’re watching stuff on, on their mom’s iPhone. You’re competing with television, you’re competing with what they’re taught in school. And so you just have a small window of time to, to impact kids. I’ve heard it said that it’s better to go fishing with your son today than to go fishing for him tomorrow. In other words, it’s better to reach your kids and tell them about Jesus now than it is to wait until they’re 18, 19 and have lots of curiosity about life. It’s better to, to, to reach them while they’re young. And so what are you doing to, to reach out evangelistically? This is the evangelism podcast. And so what are you doing to attract kids to come to the church? What type of special events would you do over the course of a year to, to attract kids, even new families to come to the,
Matthew Wells (11:19):
Over the years, we have done a backpack giveaway every year. This is an opportunity for families to come to church, get a new backpack to go to school with as well as the school supplies. We have been so blessed at our church that the last two years we’ve been able to buy the supplies for every child that goes to both elementary schools in our city. So how many kids would that be? I believe that’s a little over 300 kids came out to about $20,000 in school that we were able to provide for all of the kids. And we just did a blanket coverage for every single one of them. And let them know that this was just one way that we could honor and to love them because we feel kids are so important. Wow. What a tremendous blessing I tell you, God is amazing in what he can do when you just get out of the way and allow him to take care of it.
Matthew Wells (12:17):
And our church is so faithful in sowing into those ministries and giving of themselves in financial gifts, that we are truly blessed to be able to do that. We also feel it’s extremely important to empower our children, to reach out to their friends and invite them. So we continue to offer different systems of points that can be gathered by children. They can gather these points in several different ways. The main point gathers are bringing a friend to church, bringing your Bible, memorizing the memory verse and knowing the main point. Then we allow the kids to spend those points in what we call our connect store, because we call our small groups connect groups, because it’s connecting them with Jesus Christ. Then they spend those points on different items that they would like to get. So it encourages them also to reach out to their friends.
Matthew Wells (13:13):
Also, we engage our small group leaders in going out to where those children are. So if you have a child that’s in your small group, we encourage our small group leaders to go to their school, to watch them perform, or to go to one of their sporting events and watch them participate with their friends. Then to go out and actively talk with that child who’s in their small group. This is, we have shown to encourage the other children around, to ask who that person is and why they would give up their time when they’re not a parent or relative to come in to watch it. Then the kid gets to tell them this encourages those kids, because they want to have a friend like that too. Those are just a few of the things that we do right now to try to reach out and evangelize the children around us to come in. We’ve also had a game room that we make available. We let the kids know about that. It’s available before and after service, where we have a place for kids together play different games and just an overall great environment that’s associated with the church.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (14:16):
How big is Fort Scott, Kansas
Matthew Wells (14:19):
In the city of Fort Scott, we have approximately seven to 8,000 people in the area that we’re trying to reach around us in bourbon County. We’ve estimated that there’s around 15,000
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (14:31):
People and in normal times pre COVID how many people, how many kids would typically be there on a Sunday?
Matthew Wells (14:42):
This is where we just feel like God has done amazing work through us. When we first started the children’s ministry, we had about 26 coming every Sunday, the last Sunday before COVID we had 125 kids come to church that Sunday.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (15:02):
Now you’re not doing all the ministry all by yourself. You have a whole team. How many people are involved in ministering to the kids in normal times,
Matthew Wells (15:10):
I’ve been extremely blessed. I have a team right now of about 26 individuals. A couple of these are room leaders. Then I have the small group leaders. I also have some children who have graduated from kids church who come up and help us with the audio visual and the technical aspects of what we’re doing. This allows them to engage and to have an opportunity to give back as well. But about 26 is the main group that I’m working with. And we split that up over to services pre COVID.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (15:42):
That’s awesome. Well, things are going to bounce back very quickly. I believe where things will be back to normal. I think for the size of Fort Scott and the area that you’re reaching, you basically have a mega ministry ministering to those kids, because if there’s 300 kids in the elementary schools around there and you have 120 of them in your church on a Sunday morning, that is extremely impressive.
Matthew Wells (16:07):
That’s amazing. God is, God is so good. We’ve said, we say that over and over again, but I am. I’m amazed at how he has taken it up a notch from what I even thought was possible. I remember before when I thought having 60 some kids up there was almost too much. And then we have those Sundays where we would have 120 kids and things are going so well simply because we tried to follow a pathway of scalability, where before we were in a mindset of focusing on certain areas. Now I like to look at everything as if it’s scalable. So now we have 120 kids. So we need to be planning for when God takes us to 240 kids. And then we need to be planning for when he takes us to 480 kids and continue to plan on where we’re going to grow a pastor. Craig Rochelle says something that I always love. He’s like, he says that if you’re not thinking about growing, then you’re going to be dying.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (17:07):
I really love your pastor. Pastor Matt hunt. Yes, sir. Matthew Hunt, which he’s been a friend for many years, a tremendous man of God. What is some of his vision for the future in the kid’s ministry,
Matthew Wells (17:22):
He wants to see us continue to grow and then to split the area out, even more to focus on more individual ministries. Right now we have a infant and toddler area, a preschool ministry, and then the children’s ministry, which envelops everyone from kindergarten to fifth grade. Eventually what we’d like to do is split that even further, where we have one area that focuses on first through third graders, one area that focuses on fourth and fifth graders, and then an additional area that we’ll focus on six, seventh and eighth graders, so that we can just continue to sow into their lives on their level.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (18:02):
What are some of the principles that you’re trying to impart into the children that you minister to? What are some of the important things that you want them to get out of spending time with you?
Matthew Wells (18:15):
I’ll tell you the greatest thing that I hope that they take away is that one thought that they’re responsible for their personal relationship with Jesus.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (18:23):
Yeah, it’s been said that God doesn’t have any grandkids. He only has children. And so you’re not saved just because your mom and dad are saved. Every person has to make an individual commitment to follow.
Matthew Wells (18:34):
And that he, Jesus is so much more than, than the picture that you saw on the wall. Or as I like to refer to him when I was younger, the flannel board, Jesus. Now a lot of people don’t know about flannel boards, but they were around when I was growing up
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (18:48):
Back before they had screens.
Matthew Wells (18:51):
I want children to realize how real Jesus is and that they have that opportunity to continue to reach out to him, to talk to him, to spend time with him, that they can read their Bibles now that their children, that they can be the one engaging their parents to read the Bible if they don’t. And that’s one of the things that I try to drive into my small group leaders is how important it is to let these kids know that their relationship personally, with Jesus is of the utmost importance and that they can do anything with the power of Christ Jesus inside of them. They can lay hands on people and pray for miracles. God does not care how old or how young you are. He just wants to use you. And I want these kids to realize that even at this age, God can use them to be an evangelist in their school. God can use them to lay hands on people and to pray for miracles and see those miracles come to pass. And that has a huge impact to empower these children, to take control of their own lives and their relationship with God.
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (20:03):
And I love that so much. You’re actually teaching the children to be evangelists, to even evangelize their own parents. Maybe the kids start coming and get saved before the parents even get saved. And because of the work that God’s doing in the kids’ lives, then the parents start getting connected to the church. And then the kids
Matthew Wells (20:23):
I’m so blessed right now. I actually have two of my leaders that started coming because their kid came as a friend and then he wanted to come back. And for two weeks they dropped him off to go to church with his friend, but he kept telling them how much fun he was having at church. So they came and tried it. Now they’re members of the church and they are served team members, two of my most
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (20:48):
Room leaders and their ability to reach kids is awesome. All because we were able to reach one kid and it snowballed throughout the entire family. I think that if a church wants to reach more people, one of the first places they should make an investment is in the children’s ministry. We see this so many times in, in churches, overseas, where they almost think kids are in annoyance sometimes. And they, they shoo them out of the church and say, go, go outside and play, get out, you know, be quiet where we’re listening to the preacher, where they should be inviting the kids to come in and, and teaching them and training them in the things of God. Because if you wait until later to evangelize them, it’s too late. I have a saying that I like to use with my small group leaders, that pastor Matthew is babysitting the adults so that we can do the real work of the ministry. That’s wonderful. Well, Matt, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Appreciate you talking about reaching children for Jesus. It’s been my pleasure, Daniel. Thank you for having me. Thank you
Evangelism Coach Daniel King (21:54):
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