There’s a lot of discussion lately about seeker friendly churches. Many churches have adopted seeker friendly methods to reach unbelievers. Modern children’s ministry also tends to be seeker friendly in many of its methods. While not all seeker friendly methods are wrong and some have brought the church into the 21st century, there are some aspects that can be troubling.
What Is a Seeker Friendly Church?
Seeker friendly is a church model that emphasizes making unbelievers feel comfortable, having church services that are culturally relevant, and keeping things light and friendly. The idea is that unbelievers will come into the church, decide it’s cool and eventually get saved. In order to make this happen, seeker friendly churches will keep to a tight timeframe, play loud rock concert type music, keep the dress code casual and serve coffee.
The real problem comes when they stop talking about sin or anything that offends, keep the messages light instead of declaring the truth of God’s Word, and keep the worship from being too intense. The idea is that if we offend the unbeliever, he will leave without getting saved. Christ is offensive to those who are dead in their sins, and salvation is not possible without repentance of those sins.
There are some elements of the seeker friendly model that work. After all, methods to reach people for Christ can change with culture. That’s why we flash words to songs on screens instead of using red hymnals, and there’s nothing wrong with coffee before church or contemporary music. But our message should never change. It should never be watered down to please the masses.
9 Reasons You Shouldn’t Have a Seeker Friendly Children’s Ministry
The seeker friendly model has invaded children’s ministry. Even churches that don’t have the seeker friendly model in big church, often times use it in their children’s ministries. Here are 9 reasons you shouldn’t have a seeker friendly children’s ministry:
1. Games are over the top and take the biggest section of children’s church. There is nothing wrong with games in children’s ministry, especially if they emphasize the lesson. But if the games have taken over the biggest part of your children’s church and are the main emphasis, something is wrong.
2. Entertainment is emphasized instead of teaching Biblical truths. There is nothing wrong with using entertaining skits, puppets, object lessons, gospel illusions and other devices to teach Biblical truths. But when the fun element is more important then the Biblical truth, it becomes a problem.
3. Songs are upbeat and fun to sing, but children aren’t taught to worship. There used to be a children’s song ministry called “Psalty the Songbook.” Psalty would remind kids, “You can sing Christian songs ’til you’re blue in the face, but if it’s not from your heart, it’s not praise.” Teaching children modern choruses with a loud beat and upbeat tempo is not the same as teaching kids to praise.
4. Lessons are fun and catchy but don’t ever teach deep Biblical truths. Modern day curriculum is full of catchy titles and phrases that are culturally relevant. Most of them do teach a Biblical theme in five lessons. But we no longer teach children a methodical overview of deep Biblical truths. Children end up graduating from Children’s Church without any understanding of God’s truths or why they believe what they believe.
5. Children are taught God loves them but are never taught about sin, repentance or taking up our cross and following Christ. There’s nothing wrong with teaching children God loves them. It is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Because Christ loves us, He died a horrible death to free us from the bondage of sin. If we don’t teach children about sin and its cost and about what repentance really means, we can’t expect them to be real Christ-followers who are willing to become living sacrifices.
Some worry that children are too young for this kind of teaching, but Christian children throughout the ages have been taught this way, and some of them have been willing to die for Christ at a young age. Others have become prayer warriors, preachers and evangelists as children.
6. Elaborate themes with flashy décor remind us more of Disney World than church. There is nothing wrong with a great set design or with elaborate themes. The problem is when we are trying to compete with the world’s theme parks. We have something to give our students that is so much better than that. The flashy décor shouldn’t be the priority. It should only be an added accessory to an awesome life-changing message.
7. Children participate in fun but are not mentored to do ministry. So many children’s churches focus on entertaining children instead of mentoring them. When entertainment is the priority, children will grow up and leave the church when they find they can be entertained better elsewhere. Or they will stay in the church as adults warming the pews and waiting to be entertained. Children who are mentored and allowed to do ministry become connected to the church and to their walk with Christ in a way that will influence their entire lives.
8. Children are taught to be good, not godly. Repentance leading to salvation leading to discipleship will cause children to transform their lives to meet the “good” criteria of the Gospel. The inward change influences the outward acts. If we teach children to be good without that inward transformation, they learn that all they have to do is be good to go to Heaven. But they will never be good enough.
9. Children are always separated from the “real” church. There are reasons behind this. Adults can have a good, entertaining worship experience without having to be bothered with unruly children. Children can be entertained and taught in age-appropriate ways without them having to listen to a sermon more geared toward adults.
There is nothing wrong with have separate classes for children at times, but if you never include them in “big church,” they will not become a part of the church body. Church shouldn’t just be a meeting place. It is a body of believers, a family that should be connecting together regardless of age. If you always make children feel like they’re not a part of the “real” church, they won’t stay when they’re older.
Another Ministry Model
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Acts 2:46-47 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
There is another ministry model that will revolutionize your church and your children’s ministry. It’s the model used in the Book of Acts and is called the Discipleship Model. The seeker friendly church emphasizes drawing in crowds, entertaining them so they will return and getting them connected in the hope that one day they will give their lives to Christ. The Discipleship Model church instructs, mentors, and makes disciple who will then go out into the world, share the Gospel and make more disciples. The emphasis is on making disciples who go instead of drawing in unbelievers to make converts.