It’s Sunday at noon. Churches are sending their congregants away to a new week. Children have been picked up, crafts and lesson sheets in tow. Nurseries have been scrubbed down, sound systems turned off, and toys sanitized. In a few minutes the once bustling church grows quiet as the people resume their lives outside the walls.
And therein lies the challenge. What happens the rest of the week?
And no, I’m not referring to a midweek service. I’m referring to the part of the week where you aren’t “in church.”
A recent study that looked at church attendance found that for most kids, regular attendance (being at church 3 out of 4 Sundays a month) is no longer a realistic expectation. In fact, the majority of churched kids only found their way into the church building on average 2 Sundays a month. That’s 24 hours each year. That’s one day. 1/365th of their life. That’s a lot of time not in church.
Simply put, that’s not enough. This same study show that these kids will spend as many hours engaged in media in two days that they will in church all year. Youths will be in their classroom 60 times longer than in church and spend over 280 hours participating in sports activities over the course of a year.
Maybe you know all this, maybe not. But whether this is a reminder or a wake-up call, I urge you to consider, are you okay with these numbers? Are you satisfied that we are preparing the next generation to carry our faith forward? Are you content that as a church we are doing our best to disciple and mentor our youth and kids?
If you are reading this blog, I would guess that you are not okay, satisfied or content. But you might be lost. Lost as to what to do. Lost as to what to say. Lost as to where to go. Consider these things you can do in order to bring about a real change in the culture of the church and the heart of the home.
Equip Your Parents – If the parents/caregivers in your congregation grew up with a traditional Sunday School model, they may not have the tools to use for faith formation at home. Equip them for the call!
Engage the Congregation – Your church will have to move the focus from Sunday and Wednesday nights to times of relationship-building and faith formation outside of the church walls. The children aren’t in church because often Mom and Dad aren’t in church. If no one is talking to them on the off weeks, our faith has become compartmentalized to a time and place rather than a way of life.
Encourage Your Leaders – If you have a staff, volunteer or paid, who serve the children and families of your church, take time to thank them for their service and encourage them to consider how they can reach out in love all week long, not just on Sunday. Write a note, send a text, say a prayer and share a hug so that they can go and do the same.
Get Plugged In – If kids aren’t in church, it’s often because their parents/caregivers aren’t in church. Maybe you legitimately can’t be there, but if you can’t, you need to find somewhere (a small group, a prayer group, Bible study, or fellowship group) where your kids can see you growing in your faith. You are the single most powerful influence on your kids – what you model, they will follow.
Get Excited – There is nothing more exciting than an active growing life of faith. It’s more exciting that a good grade, a goal scored, or a tooth lost. Showing love, being kind, extending patience, choosing obedience and living gratefully should be celebrated and acknowledged. What makes you excited will tell your kids what is important in life. What do you cheer loudest for?
Get Together – When a family serves together, prays together, and studies together they also grow together. Kids link actions to concepts. If you want your child to grow up as a disciple of Christ, disciple them. If you want them to be a worshiper, worship with them. If you want them to pray, then pray with them and if you want them to believe the Bible, share it with them. Do this life of faith together. (Read more at Doing ‘Sunday’ on Monday)
Church may never “look” the same. Sunday morning and Wednesday night may not be what it was 20 or 30 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that we must lose the next generation. Our faith is bigger than our church walls. It’s time we realize that and we engage with Christ in the everyday. It’s time for change.
Want more? Check out the links below
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- And much more!
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.