A family is looking for a church to connect with. They are new to the community and are looking for a church family to grow with as they raise their children. They arrive on Sunday morning. After parking they get out of the car and there is no one to greet them or any signage to point them in the right direction. They see what appears to be the main entrance for the church so they head that direction. When entering the lobby it is obvious the children stay in the worship with their parents as they see children scurrying around the auditorium.
The family receives their bulletin and heads in to find a pew to sit in. It takes a few minutes to find a seat because the church seating is at around 85% capacity. After getting comfortable they look around and assess that there are a lot of children in this church. They are excited about that but also wondering if there a worship service for the children.
Soon the music starts. There is a struggle a time or two as the parents try to keep their kids from bouncing off the pew because they bored. As the worship in music ends the pastor approaches the podium and announces that all the children can go with Miss Nancy to children’s church. The majority of the children stand up and head out of the auditorium with “Miss Nancy”*. Their children want to go but the parents don’t allow them because they don’t know where the children are going and who is working with them.
Worship in an atmosphere with limited distractions is important to this family, as is worship for their children at their children’s level. The music came to a great point for the pastor to deliver the message and then the whole “mood”, if you will, is broken by the interruption and waiting for the children to exit.
At the end of a service where the parents didn’t hear the message the pastor preached because they were trying to keep squirmy active children entertained quietly the parents decide as they leave that this isn’t the church for them. As they exit the building they see the children running around the church lawn and parking lot without adult supervision.
This church wants to reach young families but they are not prepared to do handle what they expect.
Some thoughts to help this church in this situation:
>Have someone in the parking lot pointing parents with small children in the direction they should go with their kids. Have helpful directional signs around the building(s).
>Have a secure check in system so every child is accounted for. Use nametags and have a corresponding security tag for the parents. Even for the regular attendee’s so the guests don’t feel “pointed out”.
>Have parents drop off their child at the door of children’s worship and have parents pick their child up at the same place.
>Train a team of adults to rotate every other Sunday in leading a children’s worship time from start to finish. A place where children go and worship while there parents are in “big church”. This will keep Miss Nancy* from missing the sermon every week. Shoot for a ratio of one adult per six children.
>Go with a “plug and play” curriculum. If reaching families is important to the church then there has to be a financial investment. No “cheap” fixes. Most adults don’t want to lead children’s church because they don’t want to teach or they don’t have the time to prepare the lesson each week. Let’s face it in order to communicate with children and keep their attention you have to be good, really good. Most of us are not at that the level of “really” good. Many with the gift of teaching are more attracted to lecture style, which won’t hold a child’s attention. Children need interaction. The last thing you want is someone who glances at the lesson over their Sunday morning coffee and that is the extent of their prep time. At NHC we use Kidmo and Lil’ K and it works great at teaching Biblical truth to children while holding their attention.
>Do away with the parade. The parade of children leaving the auditorium is for the benefit of the older folks who like to look and smile at all the little children that are in their church. Meanwhile mom and dad would love a break where they can focus their hearts on worship, a time to focus on their own spiritual nourishment so they can be spiritually healthy in leading their family. Maybe even a few minute break before the service begins to have coffee with some other parents. Ask the parents; my bet is they would love to see their children engaged in a worship service that targets their child’s comprehension level. If the older folks want to see all the little children they get in on leading children’s worship or provide a Parent’s Night Out so mom and dad can have a date and invest in their marriage.
The result of these simple changes would speak volumes to the families checking their church out.
Imagine parents dropping their kids off in a kid friendly environment where children are playing games, singing, learning a lesson about God.
Imagine groups of parents standing around before the service with a cup of coffee and talking together and building those important relationships that act as a glue to keep them connected to their church.
Imagine mom and dad sitting in the auditorium worshipping without distraction. Their hearts and minds focused on praising and worshipping God and learning from His Word.
Imagine mom and dad picking up their children and receiving a worksheet to do at home with their child during the week equipping/resourcing mom and dad to be the discipler of their child.
Imagine the distractions removed from the corporate worship.
Imagine the extra seats the church now has in their pews to fill with more guests as they reach their community. This church would go from 85% capacity to 60%, plenty of seats for new folks.
What does your church expect in children's ministry and in reaching families and are you prepared for it?
*Miss Nancy is a fictional character any similarities to Miss Nancy and this church are coincidental. (Well almost coincidental)