When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything. – G.K. Chesterton
Last week I shared the article Leaving Sunday Behind which looked at lagging church attendance and the role of the home and the church in reaching families struck a chord with many of my readers. It does beg the question, if families are not regularly attending corporate worship together anymore, where are they?
As Chesterton says, when we cease to worship God, we don’t cease to worship; rather we replace the object of our worship with something else. So, we must ask, what is being worshiped today?
A survey done by Faith Communities Today found these top three reasons cited by families regarding the demands on their time that conflicted with regular church attendance.
- School or Sports related activities
- Work Schedule conflicts
- Driving distance/Time and cost
So it’s not that the families were just sitting at home not doing anything, but they had made the decision to choose other demands on their time over attending church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night.
As parents, this should give us pause and help us consider; what are we teaching our children to worship? If these activities that pull families away from church truly are important to individual families, then as Christians it should also be our goal to find alternatives time to commit to corporate worship and fellowship with other believers.
As ministers, we need to recognize that in a battle against a changing culture, we desperately need a change in tactics. The constraints of traditional service times will increasingly become inadequate for reaching families in our church and new families we desire to share God’s love with. We can spend time lamenting this change and dissecting why it happened and if it’s good or bad or neutral, or we can just acknowledge that it is, and we can begin to look for ways to address it head on.
If we use the following findings from Barna Research Group as a frame for how families in our cultures operate, perhaps we can consider some innovative ways to connect the church with the home.
- Parents are just as dependent on technology as are teens and tweens.
- Most family members, even parents, feel that technology has been a positive influence on their families.
- Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology.
- Families experience conflict about technology, but not in predictable ways
- Few families have experienced—or expect—churches to address technology
And what about the study that found when 1,500 kids were asked what makes a happy family they responded, “Doing things together”? Contrast this with what we traditionally do in our church settings with separate children, youth, adult, and senior adult ministries.
Finally consider another study from Barna that asked self-identified Christians why they chose not to attend church where 40% responded “I find God elsewhere” and 35% said “Church is not relevant to me personally.” Additionally, in the past “regular attendance” was defined as those who attended church three or more weekends a month but now families that show up once every 4-6 weeks consider themselves regular attenders.
A lot of people have come up with a lot of ways to address these changing trends. May I offer just this suggestion?
Let us shift of vision from one of attraction to one of “going and making disciples”. Let’s refocus faith formation at home and building relationships between generations. Let’s concentrate on lifting Jesus up so all may be drawn to Him, not necessarily our brand, our building, or our band. Let’s meet families where they are and bring the church to the world instead of trying to get the world to accommodate the church.
And may we all live lives of worship, inside and outside of the building we call church.
For more information about
- 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.