Children's Ministry as a Way to Reactivate Adult and Family Attendance
In his recent article, church growth expert Thom Rainer reminds us that it is often through CHILDREN & YOUTH that families find their way back to church, parents meet and make friends in the church, and adults are evangelized.
Of course, this is something children's ministers have known forever.
a. Kids don't drive themselves.
b. Adults are much more inclined to say "yes" when it's for their children's benefit.
c. Many adults crave fellowship and children's ministry can offer many opportunities to meet and get to know other adults in the congregation. (Indeed, we should create such opportunities!)
Challenge #1: In my experience, pastors and church leaders outside of children's ministry are largely UNAWARE of this potential, or dismissive of it.
Challenge #2: Coming out of the pandemic, the connection between attracting kids and also attracting their parents means that we're going to have to have our "A" game going, or we may miss the "window of opportunity" of so many people returning to look for what they think they've been missing.
the "window of opportunity"
members returning to look
for what they think they've been missing
The psychology behind the concept of "Windows of Opportunity" is that the human brain is wired to "move on" from past behaviors once they are stopped, or no longer meet our needs, or get replaced by something new and different.
This is why diets don't work once you stop them, and why AA does if you keep going to the group. This is why "former" members are the hardest to reactivate, and why church membership experts remind us of the importance of caring for and feeding our members, instead of taking them for granted.
For most churches, the "window of opportunity" will be Fall 2021 when the pandemic is (hopefully) behind us and "fall programming" starts up with all of its expectations and excitement (hopefully). And because of our psychology, it's a window that won't stay open forever.
It's also a wide open window! Read Barna's Research quoted below in this forum about "What People Say They Miss About In-Person Church," --especially YOUNGER adults. It's not the sermon or choir music.
according to Barna what the parents of our Sunday School kids (Millennials) have really missed during the pandemic are the social aspects of going to church, being with people like themselves.
The challenge may also be greater than expected, in part, because the pandemic has likely accelerated church disengagement trends that have growing for decades according to researchers and pollsters (many of which I've quoted and linked in this forum). What this means is that some of our impending challenges, if not outright "losses" were in the works BEFORE COVID and that offering "more of the same" isn't going to help.
So let's take seriously what we know works and what people say they want -- meaningful relationships through meaningful participation, learning, and leadership opportunities.
The time to begin addressing the fall and coming "window of opportunity" is now.