I’ve been a pastor to kids for a very long time. Over all my years of ministry, I would say that there are two questions parents ask that are asked more than any other questions. From connecting with hundreds and thousands of ministry leaders, I’ve learned that most of us in kidmin don’t like the questions (well, at least one of them). We wish the parents didn’t ask this question, but I feel that this is a different issue all together. I truly believe that having the right answer to these two questions may make the difference of whether a family is going to come back to your church. Focus on creating a great answer to these questions and I believe that you’ll have a different retention rate.
Question number one: “Did you have fun?”
It’s the first question 80% (I just made up that statistic… I just know that most parents ask it) of parents ask when they pick up their kids. Interestingly, it’s the churched parents as well as the unchurched parents. For whatever reason, fun is a big deal. If you have kids, you’ll understand this, right? If your kids have to be anywhere for any length of time, we hope that they’ll have fun. Fun is the currency of kids. Get a kid to laugh and you hold the keys of influence for that kid.
I know, you probably don’t like this question. You’re thinking, “Of all the questions to ask their kids, why is the fun question the first question?” We wish parents would ask more spiritually stimulating questions. You’re right, but wishing parents asked another question is missing the point.
I may be going rogue here, but hang in there for a minute. Jesus seemed to like being with kids. We read about how he chastised the disciples for sending them away. To be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine Jesus pulled out a puppet and told a bible story. When I imagine Jesus with the kids, I picture him chasing them, playing games with them and making them laugh. I picture kids telling their parents that they love Jesus… because he’s fun and when they were with him, they felt loved and accepted. Sorry, I know all of that is a stretch theologically/biblically.
Why shouldn’t fun be a higher priority than it normally is. We’re smart enough to know that we can do both. We can put together solid biblical content and present it in a fun and relevant way.
I guess this is what I’m trying to say. We know two things. Studies say that parents will attend a church they don’t love if their kids are happy. It’s a key driver for retention. Secondly, we know that 80% (again, this is a number I just made up to indicate “most”) of parents are going to ask, “Did you have fun?” Knowing those two things, why would we not do everything in our power to make sure that every kid answers that question with, “Mom! Dad! That was crazy awesome! Can we come back next week? Please? Please!”
Question number two: What did you learn?
Yes, this is a great question, but I’m going to admit, I’m not really in love with this question either. Why? Because I don’t think that parents really care about the answer. Okay, maybe they do… but not completely.
I feel the “What did you learn?” question is an automatic question. Parents ask it without even knowing that they ask it. They ask it every day their kids come home from school and kids typically give the same exact answer, “no.” The “What did you learn?” question is very similar to the automatic “how are you?” question and response. You know, when someone asks, “how are you?” and the other person responds with “how are you?” It’s not even an answer, but we don’t care because it’s just a greeting and we really don’t care about the answer. The “What did you learn?” question is almost like this. When the child says, “I don’t know,” few parents push to find the answer, revealing that they don’t really care. I know, I sound so pessimistic and negative, right?
Here’s the deal though. Kids answering “I don’t know” is really our own fault (mostly). Some kids are less social and they don’t want to answer even if they did learn something. However, kids may not remember what they learned because we didn’t boil the truth down to one essential point. We didn’t make it memorable. We didn’t present it in a way that amazed and shocked them. We didn’t clarify enough to say, “When your parents say, ‘what did you learn today?’ you can simply answer, ‘Mom and Dad, I learned ______!’”
I think we have an opportunity here.
Have you ever asked the automatic “how are you?” question and been shocked out of your daze by an answer you didn’t expect? Sometimes for fun, I’ll answer the automatic “how are you? question with “TERRIBLE!” They’re shocked as they didn’t expect that answer… it usually makes the moment funny and memorable.
What if we worked hard to create memorable experiences just like this? What if we worked hard to make sure that every kid (well, as many as we could) got the message so well, they could communicate what they learned in a short & profound statement. What if the statement was a little unusual? What if it was at times funny or at other times a little shocking? Play this one out with me.
“Julie, what did you learn in church today?”
“Mom, I learned that the Bible tastes like tacos!”
“You learned what?”
“Well, not really, but we did learn in Psalms that God’s word is sweeter than honey… but I prefer tacos! God’s word is like food and it helps be grow.”
Okay, it’s an unusual conversation… but it would be memorable. It would demonstrate that something was taught and something was learned. Also, it’s an answer that a parent wouldn’t expect. It causes the parent to ask further questions which is great for helping parents engage their kids. Lastly, it further cements learning for a kid because now they’re communicating/teaching information. Wow, what a concept.
Many parents come back to church or are driven to attend church because they want something better for their kids. Some parents want their kids to have an experience similar to what they had. If you want a family to stick, help the kids answer their parent’s question in a way they’re not expecting.
These two questions are really not significant at all. When you get to the bottom of it, they’re absolutely not the questions we wish were asked in our environments. They’re shallow and automatic… meaningless even.
But, they’re significant because they represent an opportunity. We never had to ask a parent to ask these questions. Somewhere in the DNA of a parent, moms and dads are wired to ask these two questions. What compels the questions, we’ll never know. But how beautiful is it that every parent instinctually asks two questions and every church can be prepared.
How a child answers that question may determine if they come back again. Maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic, but the eternity of that child may depend on on how they answer that question. This could be the last time mom and dad try church. Maybe they’re looking for an excuse to make a new Sunday routine and the answer to this question may simply confirm what mom and dad are already feeling or it could challenge mom and dad to come again for another weekend.
“Mom and Dad, this place is so fun! Mr. Matt told the story and he kept saying Miss Lisa’s name wrong and he ran into the sign and fell down. Mr. matt is so funny. Can we come back tomorrow?”
Wow, my kid is excited about church? He’s never this excited about new places, maybe we should come back.
“Dad, did you know that Jesus walked on water? It wasn’t even frozen! He wasn’t even wearing boat shoes. I can’t walk on water, but Jesus did! If Jesus can walk on water, he can do anything!”
I think my kid learned more than I did today. I like that my son is learning about things that are important. We should bring him more often.
It’s not really about the questions. It’s about the opportunity. If it were other questions, we’d need to be ready with a different answer. Yes, the gospel needs to be communicated, verses need to be learned and snacks need to be dispensed, but make sure every kid has the time of his/her life and walks out clearly understanding one single point that matters!