I went out for lunch with my family after church on Sunday to celebrate the last few days of freedom before school started. While we were eating, I couldn’t help but listen in on the conversation happening at the table next to us. The lady was telling her friend about her experience growing up in a church. The now grandmother age lady recalled a building with hard pews that were uncomfortable to sit in, a pastor who spoke long, and a Sunday morning experience that was extremely boring. The religious experience was all about rules & consequences for breaking the rules. When she was old enough, she decided that she had no interest in this thing called church. The church has a challenge currently facing them. How do we keep kids from leaving church when they are grown up?
As she told her story, I couldn’t help but think about how many other people have grown up with this same experience. During their formative years, their experience of church was irrelevant & boring.
Parents, Teachers, Pastors & Volunteers wish there was a simple answer to the question: How do you keep kids from leaving church when they get older? Although there is no secret formula, I do think there are several factors that increase the chances of them sticking around.
Relationships – As I think back to my own experiences growing up in the church, I had many people who greatly impacted me and were great role models. My parents, my parents’ friends, Sunday School Teachers, one-on-one buddies, midweek leaders, youth pastors and summer camp leaders. Note: People who invest time in kids may not see the reward of their investment until many years later.
Regular Attendance – My parents believed in going to church EVERY Sunday. Not just once in a while, or when it worked for our schedule. EVERY Sunday. This taught me that church was a priority, not just optional when it worked for us. We planned our family schedule around our church schedule.
Relevant – I went to Sunday School. I went to the mid-week program for kids. I went to youth. During each stage of my life there was a program available for me to attend that was fun & taught lessons that were appropriate for my age group.
Real – My family didn’t grow up in a perfect bubble. We had our share of challenges. My dad died of cancer when I was 16 and that left my mom to raise 5 kids on her own. The church surrounded our family with love & support. They prayed for us & helped in practical ways. They were doing what Jesus would have done. It taught me that the church sticks with each other through the good times & the not so good times.
Serving – (sorry I couldn’t think of a word that started with ‘R’) – From the time I was a young teenager I was given opportunities to serve. I helped in Kids Ministry & was involved in music. It took the focus off of myself and helped me focus on others. I was using my gifts & talents in the area of my passion. Church was about giving, not just receiving. In those serving roles I built relationships with people of all ages who were happy to spend time with me and encourage me as I served along side of them.
As I look at the lives of those who grew up in the church with me, many of them are still connected in a church today. Many of them would list the same list of things as I did. It’s probably not a complete list, but it’s a good start. Hopefully we can try to do better to think of ways of how to keep kids from leaving church when they are living on their own.
For more information on similar topics, you might be interested in:
Click here for more information about how to get volunteers to serve weekly.
Click here for ideas on celebrating birthdays in Kids Ministry.