I grew up in church. Sunday School was an important part of our lives. Our church met at 10 AM for Sunday School, followed by the “regular” service at 11. (And the pastor was required to be saying “Amen” by noon, or else!) The Sunday School was divided into age-group classes. For each age group our church provided a teacher’s manual and student manuals. It was very organized and built on the best of intentions.
Not only did I grow up in this system, but, after attending Bible Institute, I was elected our church’s Sunday School Superintendent. So naturally, when we pioneered our church, we developed a similar system for training our children. We were meeting in a home that was built to be a doctor’s office, so there were some available rooms. We assigned some adults to teach and sent the little ones off to their classes.
Having Sunday School and church requires a lot of volunteers and space, so we shifted quite easily into the Children’s Church model. We could then meet at 10 AM, and send the kids to Children’s Church while the adults had “big church.” Again, all this was done with good intentions. Plus we had some good results. I think I can truthfully say that we had one of the best ministries to kids in our area. Life was good.
However, there was one glaring deficiency to this model: when our kids reached 12 they graduated to “big church.” Sadly a huge percentage of these were dropping out of church all together. By that I mean that as soon as they could decide for themselves, they stopped coming. Church was no longer a part of their lives.
There’s a quote attributed to Einstein, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain which says, “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” Evidence can’t be found to prove any of these men authored the phrase, but the truth remains. Insanity for us would be to do children’s ministry the same, yet expect different results. Not being willing to give up on this generation, we began to look for different ways to minister to children.
Recently I came across a quote by Tim Wright in his book, Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church: “Kids who attend Sunday School but not worship are unlikely to be a part of a church as adults.”
Mark Holmen gave the following statistics in his book Church + Home: The Proven Formula for Building Lifelong Faith:
- 60-90% of children enrolled in church programs will disengage from the church when they become young adults. [70-90% of boys will leave the Christian Church in their teens and early 20’s and most won’t come back.]
- Only 12% of youth have a regular dialog with their mother on faith and/or life issues.
- Only 5% of youth have a regular dialog with their father on faith and/or life issues.
- The greatest faith shapers by large margins in the life of kids: Mom and dad, followed by grandparents.
We cannot overemphasize the importance of parents and grandparents in the lives of our youth. The truth is that, as parents, we are affecting our children wherever we are. Parenting isn’t limited to time at home. Our offspring are observing us always. They watch how we react to life around us as it transpires. And having them in the “adult” service with us affords wonderful opportunities to demonstrate what church is all about. They get to see us as we hear the teaching, sing praises to the Lord, and fellowship with the body of Christ.
As parents and grandparents we want the best for our kids. We want them to do better than we’ve done. We want our “ceiling” to be their “floor.” So we’re bringing them into “big church” with us. Our hope is that as they get older they’ll decide to continue with God and demonstrate genuine Christianity to future generations.