Is Easter really the Super Bowl for churches? Does attendance increase enough to make a noticeable difference? You bet it does! So what are you going to do about it? How are you going to encourage those annual visitors to return more frequently? Do you need a creative give away, a bribe?
Well let me tell you, God doesn’t need gimmicks. He needs His church to act like a church. People need people. They desire friendships. Just go back to the garden to see this, “It is not good for man to be alone.” When you see a visitor, go to them. Talk to them. Ask them about them. Invite them to an Easter egg hunt or lunch during the week. Get their contact information and follow up! You do not need a gimmick to be a friend and this is what most people really seek!
According to a study by Barna Group, only 38% of Americans say they go to church weekly. Compare that to the many other studies showing over half the population of Americans attends church services on Easter. This tell me that Americans fell some sense of spiritual obligation, but they are not finding the piece that brings them back on any given Sunday, the piece that lets them know God’s church is a family they want to be a part of.
Many churches have tried creative ways to entice the non-church goers to return. They send home welcome packs, drop off a gift at their door or mail a postcard. These are great works and I think we should keep doing them, but I have yet to come across an outreach idea like these that consistently and effectively turned visitors into regular church goers. I will be providing all kids in attendance with crayons and a color sheet focused on Easter. We will have an Easter egg hunt following services full of candy and goodies! But I do not expect these ideas to be what draws families back week after week.
So what’s missing? Connections! Easter provides and incredible opportunity to put this theory to the test. Try it this Sunday! Talk to a visitor. Get their information and have coffee or send a note. Invite them to your small group bible study. If they have kids, send some stickers during the week showing you noticed them too. You are establishing a relationship. When people have friends they are more likely to participate. We love talking to and being with our friends. No, God does not need gimmicks. He needs us to show we are Christians by our love.
Have you noticed a real lack of respect from children these days? It used to be that a child appeared angelic everywhere but home, but that’s not the case anymore. Now, children not only smart off to their parents but to teachers, neighbors and other adults. They aren’t afraid, or too ashamed, to share their bad attitudes. Young children may stick out their tongues while older ones roll their eyes and smart off. What is happening in our society?
It starts with each one of us. The first step is to take a good hard look in the mirror, and be honest with yourself. Do you put down others? How about where kids can hear you? Do you call the policeman ridiculous for giving you a speeding ticket, after all, it was only five miles over the speed limit? Do you talk about your in-laws inappropriately? That means in any way other than positive. Do you leave worship services talking about the lady behind you that sounded like a freight train or the man who led the longest, most boring prayer ever? How about the cashier that wouldn’t stop talking? Do you roll your eyes? These examples may seem minor, like they are not a big deal, but they are. Our kids hear our words, they see our attitudes and emulate them. Often times, we are to blame, at least partially, for this disrespect. Well, us and a few million other very human parents out there.
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6
So now what? We know it’s a problem but how do we fix it. Again, it begins with each one of us and God’s church. And it’s not a quick fix. We need to stop immediately letting negative, worthless talk come out of our mouths. Can you imagine what our kids would sound like if they learned to find positive words to say all the time? If the church, that’s all of God’s people, do this I am certain we will see a huge change. It will take time to reverse the bad behavior, but consciously making this change in our own lives where we make it obvious to children will cause a change in behaviors. Stop yourself when you realize your doing it again and comment on your change. Let kids see you fixing a negative pattern.
Ministers, please begin teaching intentionally on this topic and change the world. Children’s ministers, share this, teach this to your parents. The earlier they start the more likely they are to see success. Parents and grandparents, take this to heart. It’s time to make a nationwide difference starting at home. Kids who feel loved tend to show love, thus, respect.
For teachers looking for solutions in the classroom, be firm, but kind. Don’t ignore bad behavior, but address it in the proper setting with the proper attitude. If a child is telling you no, they will not participate or sit and listen, have an assistant take them outside the room so they are not disrupting others and so the behavior can be addressed privately. Once pride kicks in, you’re not going to get far. It may seem strange, but pray with the child. Tell them the behavior is not acceptable. When they commit to behaving, let them rejoin the group. With a very patient helper it is effective. Give it a try and share your experiences.
I recently read an article called, “Are Your Cute Lessons Turning Kids Into Atheists?” As you can imagine, when I read the title I had to see what it was all about. It shares Barna’s latest statistics on the Gen Z generation (those born from 1999-2015). Sadly, they found that Gen Z does not associate with any religious identity more than any previous generation. This is very disheartening! But, I dare not limit God. He can do anything including take a deprived nation and turn it around. Let us be the hands, feet and mouthpieces of God allowing Him to work through us to reach our children turning the church around.
Let’s take a look at some of the survey results for the cause of this depravity:
- 29% – I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil and suffering in the world.
- 23% – Christians are hypocrites.
- 20% – I believe science refutes the Bible.
- 19% – I don’t believe in fairy tales.
- 15% – There are too many injustices in the history of Christianity.
- 12% – I used to go to church, but it’s just not that important anymore.
- 6% – I had a bad experience at church or with a Christian.
- 37% believe it is not possible to know for sure if God is real.
- 58% believe many religions can lead to eternal life.
- 46% say they need factual evidence to support their beliefs.
- 49% says the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.
- 27% say the church is not a safe place to express doubts.
- 24% say the teaching they are exposed to is shallow.
This is an eye opener for sure. As we minister to children, we need to stay focused on the truth. There is no need to sugar coat God’s word. Life isn’t all sweet and pretty. People are in it so it is quite messy. Let’s teach our kids how messy people are and how much God steps in to help us. As our kids get a little older, let’s remember to teach them Christian apologetics. Let’s show them how we can know that the bible is truly the inspired word of God and how it doesn’t contradict science, but constantly proves it is in line with it.
Are you wondering now if your curriculum fits the bill? Is it too”cute” to raise kids rooted in truth? I venture to guess that your curriculum is probably good. We want kids to hear God’s word come to life and most of the time the curriculum does a good job of this. I would bet that all that is needed is a tweak or two. The easiest and perhaps the most relevant, you just need a brief time to ask kids to wonder, making them walk in the bible person’s shoes for a moment. What do I mean by this? This week I am teaching our kids the story of the bronze serpent. As the Israelite’s are traveling through the desert, being forced to go the long way to their destination on account of the King of Edom, I wonder what they thought. There’s not any water, they don’t get a bunch of food choices, it’s probably hot and definitely dirty. I wonder what they were thinking and feeling. This makes it more understandable when they complain. But now let’s look at it from God’s perspective. He’s rescued His people from slavery, taken care of them and they are complaining again. I wonder what God was thinking? Now they understand the snakes. The Israelite’s are told to simply look to the bronze snake if they are bit and they’ll live. I wonder what they were thinking. This brings bible history to a level we can relate and not some shallow faith where we just can’t believe the Israelite’s kept turning their backs on God.
If you are looking for a change in your curriculum, I highly recommend a chronological study helping our kids see God’s word as one big giant story with a purpose. As the “plot” develops, it takes us to the cross. Let our kids see this. In the story of the bronze snake, did you know Jesus referred to this very story in the New Testament? Yep! He sure did. He compared himself to the snake when talking to Nicodemus. See for yourself in John 3. (Or watch here.) Help kids see how the Old and New Testaments work together, that the Old Testament isn’t a gigantic boring history book, but full of thrills and meaning. There are a number of curriculum you can turn to for this. I’ve heard good things about The Gospel Project. I personally write my own and even create 3-5 minute videos. Kids use hands-on items every week to keep them focused, having fun and remembering the lessons. Feel free to use them in your classes (all free and on this website).
It’s a new year and with every new year we set goals with plans to be better people and accomplish more in our lives. As Christians, we plan to be better servants of Christ. This may mean studying more, putting more focus on our prayer lives, being more hospitable, attending worship more often… the list goes on. As Christian parents, we may set goals to help our children become more spiritual, to love God more deeply and to learn more so they are prepared for the struggles in life that lie ahead. We want them to be more involved with their Christian friends. As children’s ministry leaders, we set goals to more effectively reach the children in our church and community with the word of God, praying we will make a big enough impact that it becomes ingrained in their hearts. We want to prepare them for life as well. This means intentional parenting and teaching. I would like to take a moment to reflect on what God says about our children.
Matthew 18:1-6 (NASB): 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Probably was not the answer the disciples were looking for as they wondered which of them was greatest. A child is humble and innocent. In the first few verses, we see that Christ expects his servants to be humble like children. Look at how he sees children, as valuable and having the right nature of a Christian, humility.
In the second set of verses we see that Christ understands a child to be innocent and believing. They will continue to learn more and more about God, developing a deeper love for God… unless someone gets in the way. Anyone causing an innocent child to doubt and take the wrong path should be concerned. It is obvious from these verses that God seriously frowns upon this. Think about it. This is the time when our children are most open to God. This is the time when we need to consistently teach and reinforce our mighty, loving God to our children. In fact, studies show that by the time a child is 13, he or she has already decided who they believe in and what their values are. So, those of us who believe it’s not that important to attend bible class and talk about God daily at home while our kids are young may want to reprioritize.
Matthew 18:10-11 (NASB): 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 [For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.]
I love these verses. God really believes children are valuable, after all, they are the next generation of His church. He has angels watching over them, over their souls. But remember, God gave us free choice so as parents and ministry leaders, we choose whether or not to lead a child to God and we know too well what happens in most instances where parents did not choose to make it a priority to lead their children to God. Often times it’s not even that parents don’t believe in God, it is that they did not show their children that God is the most important part of life and nothing comes between us and God. Actions don’t line up with God being most important.
It takes raising children with intention. We can’t sit back and go with the flow. No! Our children’s spiritual welfare, their souls, are important. Think about how much effort is put into making our kids believe in Santa Claus. Now think about how much effort is put into making sure our kids believe in God and know who He is. This can be very convicting. It is a new year, a new start. Begin this year with your number one goal to be raising kids for Christ. Do it with intention and see how much it impacts your family.
Need a suggestion? Here’s a simple, 365-day devotional book you can read with your kids. They are short, but powerful devotionals and remind your kids daily that God is an important part of your lives.
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As a kid in bible class each week, did you ever wish God would talk to you like He did with Adam in the garden? Or like Moses from a burning bush? Or perhaps like Jesus did with the 12 apostles? These people got to talk to God and God worked through them. I admit, I also wished I could be an angel at one point and wondered if there was a way. My point is, God did great things through these people! As I got older I remember learning how God used normal people, people with fears and deficiencies ti love out His plan. Why couldn’t that be me? Then, as I was working with kids at church, I realized He was working through me. This was empowering and an answer to my prayer. There is a point to my ramblings.
Christmas is around the corner and then it’s time for those New Years resolutions. Will we go into 2018 with big dreams for the spiritual welfare of our children and their families? As children’s ministry leaders we can’t help ourselves. We want great things for our children. Like the great leaders of the Bible, hopefully like them, we begin with God. This is His church after all and we are merely allowing our amazing God to work through us to shape His children, the future of His church. What an awesome thought! Think over scripture and remember the men of the Old Testament, how they went to God before tackling problems. When they did, God gave them success. When they didn’t start with God, they often failed. Let’s learn from them. Let’s begin with prayer and let’s remain humble. God is using us and it’s not to the reverse.
I will leave you with this thought from 2 Kings 6:17 – Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Can you imagine Gods church, its unshakable faith, when God answers our prayers to open the eyes of our children to see and know Him, to know the love He has for us and what that means for them? We serve an amazing God and I believe He will guide us in our endeavors as children’s ministry leaders.
I love these wall decals!