One of the most heartbreaking things I hear when I travel to speak at churches and conferences is this:
“Our church is dying. We have very few, if any, kids. If it continues, in a few years we’ll have to close the doors.”
“We can’t seem to reach kids. Everyone at our church is older.”
It’s almost like there’s a sign at the front door that says, “No kids allowed.”
The reason kids are not coming could be because you are unintentionally doing one or more of the following…
1. Making kids sit through a service that bores them.
Kids are not adults. So why would you ask them to sit through a service that is designed for adults?
Bill Maher, an outspoken agnostic, said the reason he stopped attending church as a kid was because it was boring. He said it wasn’t relevant to his life and he hated going. I am sure he hated going because he was placed in an adult service that he couldn’t connect with.
Yes…kids should have fun at church. If your blood pressure just rose a little…hang on. Here’s what I mean. When a kid says they had “fun” at church…here’s what they mean: “It was engaging. It kept my attention. It was relevant to my life. I got something out of it.”
2. Placing kids in rooms designed and decorated for adults.
When a child walks into a space at church, the design and interior either says, “This is for adults” or it says, “We designed and decorated this with you in mind.” Don’t expect kids to be excited about sitting in brown metal folding chairs in rooms that are painted beige or hospital white. Besides the volunteers, the physical space is one of the most important ingredients in attracting kids.
3. Making kids be quiet.
Kids were made to fidget, talk, move and interact. If you don’t want to them to come to your church, then tell them to sit still and be quiet when they arrive.
4. Spending more money on things like choir robes than you do on children’s programming.
What’s important to your church will be reflected in your budget and staffing.
5. Treating them like they are 1960s kids instead of 2014 kids.
Children haven’t changed…but childhood has. Don’t expect to attract digital kids with rotary phone methods. Don’t expect kids who play PS4 on Saturday to be excited about flannel-graphs on Sunday.
6. Continually calling them out.
Kids are constantly told what they’re doing wrong…even at church. This causes kids to see church as a house of rules instead of a house of relationships. Instead of calling kids out, let’s call them up to all that God wants for their life.
7. Not reaching their parents.
When a church says they’re not reaching kids, the bigger issue is they are not reaching young parents. Kids don’t drive themselves to church. Reach young families and you will have lots of kids.
8. Perpetuating programs that are no longer effective.
Keep doing what you’ve always done…even if it’s not working. Don’t change or adjust. Yes, you’ll appease Sister-So-and-So whose grandmother started the program years ago, but you’ll keep having the same results. Yes, you’ll make Deacon Crabby happy, but you’ll lose his grandkids.
9. Placing your best volunteers everywhere except in children’s ministry.
Churches that are reaching kids have placed their brightest and best volunteers in children’s ministry. The priority of children’s ministry is reflected in the quality and quantity of people who serve there.
10. Trying to teach kids by just lecturing them.
Stand up…tell them to listen up…and proceed to download information at them through lecturing. You’ll alienate the majority of the kids, and they’ll silently count down every miserable second. Kids don’t learn best by being talked at; they learn best by talking and being talked with.
If you find children in your church a fading memory, be encouraged. You can turn things around. Sit down and take a hard look at what you’re doing. Access where your ministry is. Be willing to have some hard conversations and make some changes, if needed.
The future of the next generation is at stake. This is big-time!