Do You Love your Church, but Hate the Children’s Ministry?
What you do you do when you love your church but hate the children’s ministry? Have you ever been to a church where the sermon and worship were inspiring and rich, but the youth program was lacking? Or, a church that had wonderful Bible studies for adults, but the attention paid to the children’s program was an after-thought? What is a family to do?
Hate the Children’s Ministry? But You’re the Pastor?!
I know your struggle. I have been there, and we are a ministry family! As a pastor, my husband can’t always choose a church based off of which has the best programming for our children. (Frankly, a lot of churches out there do not do children’s ministry well.)
Even when you are the pastor in charge of the children’s ministry you can’t make it what you wish it would be, because you are working with a committee and with volunteers.
The challenge of a poor Children’s ministry can actually be a tremendous blessing and opportunity for you. Yup, you read that right.
Challenge of a poor Children’s ministry = BIG blessing & opportunity
Hate the Children’s Ministry? But who actually has the influence?
So many families drop off their children at Sunday School and evening church activities hoping and praying that their children will become faithful Christians. We have assumed that there is something special happening during these events that we as parents just are not able to do ourselves.
Have you ever watched the Wizard of Oz? The star foursome are on their way down the yellow brick road to see the Wizard of Oz who can fix all their problems. When they peeled back the curtain, they realized though that he was just an ordinary man.
Research shows that the rise of youth ministry has actually happened at the same time as we have had a massive decline in youth evangelism. The research studies are telling us that there is not a lot behind the curtain.
Parents hopes for what the youth programming or what the youth minister can do are misplaced.
Hate the Children’s Ministry? It’s Okay because Mom and Dad Matter Most
In fact, the research shows us that mom and dad are the number one faith influencers on children. Our family comes first on the top spots for those they have the most influence on our Christian faith.
The senior pastor makes it into the top 10. Eventually, the church programming comes along. The youth pastor comes in after the youth group, still making it into the top 20.
This is the blessing and opportunity of having a poor children’s program – you can peel back the curtain and learn that the children’s ministry is far less critical than you thought. Ultimately, mom and dad are far more important and influential than any programming that the church offers. This is both freeing and terrifying!
Hate the Children’s Ministry? Choose what works for Your Family
God gave your children to you, Mom and Dad. As parents, you are entrusted with their spiritual education and nurture. You and your spouse should seek God’s guidance in prayer, and never abdicate your responsibility for their spiritual lives to the church.
The programs that the church offers to your family are to supplement what you and your spouse are doing at home. There is no mention of children’s church in the Bible. You are not going to find any mention of a youth group either.
Discipleship is ultimately about relationships, not programs. The primary discipleship relationship is with parents. If taking your children to the programs of the church, takes times away from you spending intentional time with your children – then it is not the best choice for your family.
Hate the Children’s Ministry and Children’s Church?
If Children’s Church is not a good fit, keep your child with you. Just because all of the other parents are sending their children, does not mean that you have to do it too. You are making the choice that makes the best sense for your family. It won’t always be an easy choice.
If you are going to choose to keep your children in worship, you will need to train them. Find valuable tips in: “Help Your Child Sit Still in Church.” You can train them in how to listen during the sermon with: “Teaching your Child to Listen to the Sermon.”
Hate the Children’s Ministry and Youth Group?
If the Youth Group does not have the Christian culture that you are looking for – they can go to another church. Our church youth group has several students from others churches, and they are welcomed along with the rest.
Ask yourself, if your child needs to go to the youth group? There are many different approaches to youth group; many are not good.
- Is the youth group focused on discipleship or evangelism?
- Is the group focused on just having fun?
- Is the group led by seasoned Christians or a recent college-student?
- What are the values that are being lifted up?
Instead, you could use this opportunity to start a small group for teen girls or boys. This small group could study God’s word, provide accountability, form intentionally Christian friendships, and have service opportunities. The lack of a youth group could be the opening to create something far better for your child.
Hate the Children’s Ministry? Change it!
Be careful not to think of your church as a consumer. The church exists to evangelize the lost. If there is a program that your church is not offering, don’t immediately start looking at other churches for a better church or program. Instead, consider if God might be calling you to start something new at your church.
If I was going to start one new program at a church that was focused on reaching children in the church with the gospel, I would not start a program for children. Rather, I would start a program that reached out to equip the parents.
I would focus on a small group study that was geared toward equipping parents to be the primary disciplers of their children. If parents are the number one faith influencers, as God designed, then it makes sense that we get the best return on our investment by investing in the parents.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Hate the Children’s Ministry because the Youth Minister’s focus is all wrong?
Unfortunately, far too many churches hire out the shepherding of their young people to those who lack in parenting experience and Christian maturity. Our youth and children need even stronger leaders than our adults do!
Some programs fall into the fun and games trap of “feel good” youth ministry. Some programs are just seeking numbers and are not producing disciples.
Studies show us that upwards of 70% of our Christian young people are walking away from the faith by the time they are in college. Frankly, there is a big problem with our idolatry of youth group.
If your youth group or youth pastor is off track, pray for them. Share your concerns privately with your senior pastor. Then, remind yourself who really is responsible for your child’s spiritual education and nurture. It is you, mom and dad.
Embrace your Calling
Lousy programs or lack of programming is an opportunity for you to step up to the plate and accept your call as the primary evangelist to your family. These are the children that God has entrusted to your care, for not just their physical needs but their spiritual needs as well.
Anything that a church does for your children is just extra resources that should reinforce what you are already teaching. You, mom and dad, provide the main dish and the church provides the spiritual dessert. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with what others are doing at other churches or even in your own church.
It is your choice whether to keep your children with you in worship or to send them to children’s church. It is your choice whether to have your child participate in the youth group at your church, at another church, or to start a small group for them.
God has given your children to you, and you need to listen to what God is calling you to do for your children. When you choose a different path, you likely will get flack.
Stick to your convictions, with gentleness and respect. The right decision for your family may not be the right decision for another family. In the end, the goal is to have your children walk with God, and you have to be the one to lead them.