When There Are No Children in Church

These are the days when little children dress as sheep and shepherdselderly congregants in Church Christmas Celebrations. They are cute and inspiring and – for many – they “make” Christmas. In yesterday’s traditional Children’s Pageant with HH’s congregation, one woman said to me on the way out, “We just couldn’t have Christmas without the kids, could we?

Actually, some of us could and do.

Maybe we would like it to be different, but the truth is that the majority of our congregations in the United States cannot field a full nativity cast from our own rolls of children and youth. According to Research Services in my own denomination, 54% of our churches have 100 members or less. Chances are the majority of those small congregations have a handful of children. Or no children.

I regularly worship among churches with 0-4 children. They are often the grandchildren of longtime members. Occasionally a family with children or youth will visit a congregation for the first time and never return because – while they might find spiritual nourishment for themselves – they long for “something for the kids.”

Frankly, most of our congregations have no idea how to minister to 21st Century families, much less people who have never been part of a church culture. If people have never been part of a church community but now have children and want to expose their kids to Jesus, most of our congregations have no idea what to do with them.

In the words of George Bullard explaining 60-40-20 churches:

“Congregations where 30 percent or more of the active membership is at least 60 years old, and they have been professing Christians for at least 40 years, and they have been connected with this congregation for at least 20 years, are myopic regarding the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. When 50 percent or more of the active membership is 60-40-20 people, they are not only myopic, but now blind to the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons.”

Congregations can be and are vibrant without children as much as families can be and are vibrant without children. What every church (and family) needs to thrive is

  • childlike wonder,
  • opportunities to learn and
  • the freedom to figure out who God created us to be, both individually and as a community.

I love the innocence of children who look wide-eyed at the musicians in worship. I love the effervescence of children who freely express their joy like the little girl who exclaimed, “Yay!” after one of the anthems yesterday.

This is what all who gather in the name of Jesus need. It’s just that children remind us and if they are not present we forget. If we have been at this Christ-follower life for a long time, we might have long forgotten what it’s like to be God’s child.

Congregations where 30 percent or more of the active membership is at least 60 years old, and they have been professing Christians for at least 40 years, and they have been connected with this congregation for at least 20 years, are myopic regarding the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. When 50 percent or more of the active membership is 60-40-20 people, they are not only myopic, but now blind to the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. – See more at: http://columbiapartnership.typepad.com/the_columbia_partnership/2013/12/can-congregations-stuck-in-an-overly-churched-culture-change.html#sthash.OCHEGvek.dpuf
Congregations where 30 percent or more of the active membership is at least 60 years old, and they have been professing Christians for at least 40 years, and they have been connected with this congregation for at least 20 years, are myopic regarding the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. When 50 percent or more of the active membership is 60-40-20 people, they are not only myopic, but now blind to the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. – See more at: http://columbiapartnership.typepad.com/the_columbia_partnership/2013/12/can-congregations-stuck-in-an-overly-churched-culture-change.html#sthash.OCHEGvek.dpuf
Congregations where 30 percent or more of the active membership is at least 60 years old, and they have been professing Christians for at least 40 years, and they have been connected with this congregation for at least 20 years, are myopic regarding the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. When 50 percent or more of the active membership is 60-40-20 people, they are not only myopic, but now blind to the spiritual needs of non-churched culture persons. – See more at: http://columbiapartnership.typepad.com/the_columbia_partnership/2013/12/can-congregations-stuck-in-an-overly-churched-culture-change.html#sthash.OCHEGvek.dpuf
Advertisements

One response to “When There Are No Children in Church

  1. Children at worship often are regarded as their parents’ or grandparents’ trophies rather than as young persons in their own right. And the kids usually are overprotected and dumbed down by CE curricula still born in the 1950’s. I’m getting flack for bringing kids up to the communion table and “employing” them as helpers in the service. They like the job, even if they just stand there behind the table. Moreover, they want to come to church because they mean something to the rest of us. Now that has to stop because kids aren’t “ready.” Really? So instead of giving kids responsibilities that enable them to “give” something to the congregation during a regular service, we wrap them up in spiritual diapers so that they are always at the receiving end until they’re old enough to realize that the church really doesn’t want them, never did care at all what they thought, felt or needed on their own terms. Heck if I were treated like that as a child, much less as an adult, I’d find any excuse to go somewhere else and be a “somebody” instead of an “anybody,” just there for a head count.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s