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Finish Strong

There is so much that goes into making spiritual environments for children, students, and families.  We work with sermons (talks), music, relationship building, and interactive elements.  With all of this planning do you take the time to look at your last impressions?  There is so much talk about that first impression, and there is no doubt that the first thing people see will set the expectations.  Yet, we leave little thought for the final impressions, and that’s too bad; because final impressions matter.

We need to organize our dismissal times with the same energy that we organize our arrival times.  This goes for Student Ministry and Children’s Ministry.  To not be intentional with how we say goodbye, is to miss the greatest opportunity to help kids remember.  It’s not about trying to hand out candy to that kid when they say the bible verse in front of their parents.  Really, it’s not.  It’s not about the youth pastor following up with the parents of insolent teenagers after church.  Really, it’s not.

I believe that there will always be an element of chaos to our dismissal times, but if we are intentional just a little bit we can make them better.  Here are 4 things to consider during this craziest of all times in our teaching environments.

1.  20% Showing Off what you ve done & 80% Encouraging Families with what was taught.  This is a big Kidmin thing to do.  We want to let our children show off what they’ve learned, but it’s our job as leaders to help parents take that next step.  We need to train our leaders to talk to parents at this time.  This may be when parents are the most receptive, and we need to take advantage of the chance ot involve families in all that we’ve done.

2.  Organized, smaller spaces for dismissal allow you to communicate vision to parents AND their children.  If you are doing the super large dismissal where you scream a kids name over a microphone, or let teenagers run into the parking lot en mass; then you are missing it.  Stay small for as long as you can, and let parents enter this environment.

3. Intentional Conversations.  We all know the families that need our special attention.  As a leader we identify, and then take action with the families that need our help.  I dare you to write down those families you most need to be influecing, and then look for them at the end of each service.

4. Positive Reinforcement. Take the time to speak life and hope into the families, children, and students when they leave.  You very well might be the last positive voice they hear until next Sunday

So I’d like to hear how you are intentional with your families at dismissal times.  And if not, what are you going to do different to make the best use of this valuable part of your time with children, students, and families?

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Marcus Zellous · March 7, 2012

    Some of my volunteers make it a point to communicate to the parents as they pick up their kids – especially the infant/toddler volunteers (their parents are particularly interested in how things went with their child).

    When it is me at the door, I usually thank the kids and their parents, give high fives as the kids leave, and tell them that I look forward to seeing them next week.   If I noticed something particularly awesome about the child during service that day (i.e. they shared some great input during small group time, they demonstrated some sort of great characteristic, or they improved on some sort of behavior), I like to let the parents know while their kid is with them.

    While some of this is going on, I do think I need to encourage my other leaders are make it a point to build up the kids and their parents as they leave!   Thanks for sharing!

    • Jonathan Cliff · March 8, 2012

      If you keep doing this, you will find yourself receiving favor over and over and over and over.  It’s so impactful for families to see you serving in that sort of way!

  2. Kate Radford · March 7, 2012

    So weird…I was thinking about this same thing before I read your post.  We’re in a unique position that the building we are about to move into will help a lot with this.  However I still need to work with the volunteers on intentionally speaking with parents.  Our hardest group to do this with is our preteens.  They go straight from class to worship service and there is very little teacher/parent interaction.  Surprisingly these are the teachers who seek out parents to talk to about issues.  Great things to think about…thanks for the insight!

    • Jonathan Cliff · March 8, 2012

      Thanks for the comment Kate.  It’s a hard road to get volunteers to open up and not be intimidated by parents, but when you break through…you have success!

  3. Barbara Graves · March 8, 2012

    I want this time to be effective for us!  I try to speak to all the parents as they pick up the kids, but I feel like it’s still so rushed.  I don’t want to make the parents waiting in line have to stand any longer than necessary, but I wonder if just a quick word about what we did, or how their child participated is enough to encourage them.  Thanks for the confirmation of how important this is and I’ll keep at tweaking it!

  4. Anthony Prince · March 13, 2012

    #2.  I’m going to work on #2.  I need to work on #2.

    (I had to post that for accountability’s sake. I’m fwd’ing this post to my staff… it’s good for them to know what stood out to me, right?)