When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . .

Children in church 1

Almost every church I’ve ever known has wanted to Attract Young Families.  The reasoning behind this includes the following:

  • If we don’t regenerate, everyone will eventually get old and die.
  • It’s energizing to have young people around.
  • Younger members can do the work that older members can’t/won’t do anymore.
  • Older members tend to be on fixed incomes and younger working members are needed for their pledges.
  • Young families (i.e. mom, dad, and kids) remind us of church when we were (or wish we were) part of young families.

There are a few things wrong with this reasoning, including the fact that “attracting” people in general feels manipulative – as if people are “targets” to be used for our own purposes.  Yuck.

Let’s be honest about the “why.  Are we saying that we want these rare and valuable Young Families for what they can give to us?

What if  – instead – the “why” of this demographic quest was about feeding souls and sharing authentic community?  I always hoped – as a young mom – that church would provide adults that could help me nurture my children.  I always wanted to know that – if my kids couldn’t come to me or HH with a problem – they would have other trustworthy adults to whom they could go (and they did.)

Young families are great.  Old families are great.  Families made up of child-free couples are great.  Families of single people are great.  Imagine if every church simply wanted A Pastor Who Could Bring In Broken People.  Now that’s a church.

Also, the days are gone when Young Families were present in worship every Sunday.  The statistics are in about how the definition of “regular worship” has changed since the 1950s.  (“Regular” used to mean weekly.  Now it means once or twice a month.)

Instead of seeking a Pastor who can bring in those vaunted Young Families, we need to call a Pastor who knows how to shift congregational culture.  The culture in which we live and move and have our being has changed, but we are killing ourselves trying to maintain a dated congregational culture.

News flash:  Most pastors will fail at “Bringing in Young Families.” Families of every kind are drawn to communities that are in touch with real life.  For example, check out Carey Nieuwhof’s recent post about why even committed Christians do not worship as regularly as they did in previous decades.  At least two of his “10 Reasons” specifically impact cultural changes connected to Young Families.

So how can we be the kind of congregation that welcomes Young Families for more than their energy and wallets?  We can:

  1. Be real.  Deal with real issues in sermons, classes, retreats, conversations, prayers.
  2. Listen to parents’ concerns.  Listen to children’s concerns.
  3. Ask how we can pray for them.  And then pray for them.
  4. Allow/encourage messiness.  Noses will run and squirming will ensue.  There might be running.  There will definitely be noise.
  5. Check our personal Stink Eye Quotient.  Do we grimace when a baby cries?  Do we frown when the kids are wearing soccer uniforms?
  6. Refrain from expecting everyone to be the church like we have always been the church.
  7. Help parents, grandparents, and all adults become equipped to minister to children and youth.  How can we learn to offer such loving hospitality to the younger people in our midst that they will always experience church as home?
  8. Do not use children as cute props.  Yes they say the darndest things during children’s stories, but they are not there to entertain us.
  9. Give parents a break.  Really.  Help struggling parents get coats and hats on their kids.  Hold an umbrella.  Assist in wiping spills.
  10. Give parents a break administratively.  Make it easy to participate. Minimize the unnecessary.

It’s also okay not to have Young Families in our congregations depending on the context.  Some neighborhoods have very few young ones living nearby.  But there are still people who crave some Good News.

I want a Pastor who can minister to whomever lives in the neighborhood in the thick of these cruel and beautiful times.

Image is a popular one that shows up in lots of random blog posts.


102 responses to “When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . .

  1. Yup. Authenticity is very important.

  2. I always challenge churches who say they want more young families and children to think about if that’s what they really want. About a third of our small church is comprised of children under the age of 14. It’s chaotic and loud and funny and cute as all get out. It’s also expensive (and those kids don’t donate much money). It presents challenges in finding leadership for the spiritual development of all those kids. I wouldn’t give one of them up for anything, but I think we often idealize the idea of children in the church.

    Love the idea of monitoring one’s “stinkeye” quotient.

    Thanks for this article.

  3. Yes,thank you!

  4. I love this, especially the idea of allowing the messiness that makes church feel like home.

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  6. Another thing that I’m aware of, now that I’m working in the field of senior services after being a youth minister, is that one reason our churches are full of more older people than they used to be is…there are more older people now than there used to be. And church is the one public place where they are visible to us. So I wonder if what we’re seeing as a problem is, in fact, the greatest thing our church has to offer our culture these days: a place where being old is no barrier to contribution. And if our temptation is to be co-opted by the culture that says there’s something wrong with us if there are few young people.

    If you haven’t seen this video, I HIGHLY recommend it:

    • Verdery Kassebaum

      Good point! There are indeed more of us “older people” than when I was a “young person”.

    • I disagree whole heartily with your position as a young adult (YA) in my life i am surrounded by unstable YAs who are on the cusps of life, scared wondering if its all going to work out. We feel insecure about our jobs our love life and stress every time the offering plate comes around, the first and only time I pledged I lost my job a month later. I helped in the soup kitchen for that summer with two woman in their 80s and one in her 70s the comfort and mentoring (with the side-eye quota kept to a minimum) was amazing and something I needed it since my own family was/is 3,000 miles away. Its the only place still in our society where (or at least if you are doing it right could be) we are both treated as adults and encouraged if needed to not always have to take the lead. Now you were specifically talking about youth not the young family age group and duh youth don’t even want to be with the young adults as we don’t match the cool collected hip idea that the tv throws out. Youth are youth and are not the same as YA/Y families which is another important thing to remember there is such a radical transition from youth to young adulthood don’t ever count on the youth as being the future of the church and don’t ever dismiss a young adult just because you have never seen them or worse yet ask who they are “are you niece/nephew of xyz”, ‘are you…..” “how did you find us..” “what brought you to church today/” Why…?” that just makes us feel like if we didn’t grow up here then we don’t belong, the first time i started going to my church I felt like geeze sorry I know I didn’t grow up here but I promise i’ll bring my church credentials next time so you know if I am christian/church enough for you all.

      • Just a question. What is the best way to talk with and begin a conversation with a young adult visiting in church? As a middle-aged woman, I definitely want to be welcoming, but not intrusive. Young adults are at a very different place in their lives. Would appreciate your perspective.

      • Hi SP – I would simply be genuine. Look into the person’s eyes, not past them. Ask questions and care about the answers. Some people – of any age – will be happy to chat and others will not. Offer to walk the person to coffee. Introduce them to others with whom they might make a connection. (“You’re from Nebraska? Jane, over there, is also from Nebraska! Let me introduce you.”) Express your hope to see them again.

      • I found your article interesting and very constructive in many areas. Regarding the aspect of what you referred to as a pledge, I would not be concerned with the guilt of an offering plate but more so my understanding of the creator who loved me so much that he has give me me everything I have, everything I am and needs nothing from me but allows me to show my gratitude by accepting my tithe or offering back for the use of the ministry. Pledging support for the physical church should not be confused with tithing and offering to God out of love and respect for what he has done, not for what we hope he wil do! The Christian faith is not life enhancement but “true life”! John 10:10 reminds us of this fact.

      • I didn’t realize I was “checking the church credentials” of a young college age man who started coming to our church. I was looking for something to chat about and get to know him a little and connect. I asked “how did you find us?” Can you suggest another opening comment? I sure didn’t mean to put him off in any way…

    • Yes, there are more older people than there used to be. But in our Church the children and youth are isolated in their own area in the “Children’s” wing and their own children’s church. In other words, they are not coming to the adult services and so are not learning to be in Church. They are learning that Church is play and stories. We are losing a generation or more because of the isolationist policy of not having children in Church. We are a very segregated society, segregated by age.

      • Sandra Cadieux

        I like your post Martha, In our Church the children did go downstairs for the half hour of Childrens stories BUT always up for Communion or a Baptism,,,Just so they knew what was going on. But that has all died SO sad….

      • Are you wanting them to join your service, or are you willing to blend both services and meet in the middle with a preference towards the less mature?

  7. I don’t disagree with anything in the article. Being an “older” church member now and having been involved in several churches that were made up of a majority of young families, my observation is that there was a common denominator in churches that did well attracting young families. In my experience churches with pastors who had young families of their own attracted young families. They typically did the things in listed in the article better than churches with Pastors in other phases of life.

  8. Posting to Church Home page so it can be seem Mitch thanks for bringing it to our attention

  9. My biggest problem with this concept is that the pastor is not supposed to “bring in young families” rather the pastor is to build up the body of Christ. It is the role of the entire congregation to “bring in” young families – or to bring Christ to the young families.

    • I met a pastor (Christian Church) in Lexington, KY. He told me bringing in church members involved “shoe leather” and “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” He and those he “found” built at least three churches. He led and they followed.

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  11. It’s all so interesting. I’m an older single mother of a young child (five year old daughter). I’m in the search process, and, one would think, I’d be an ideal candidate to “attract young families” (as I HAVE one, and I’d be involved in PTA and every other local event/organization devoted to children/families)… Still, I’ve yet to receive a new call, after three+ years of searching. One search committee even asked my references if they thought I could actually do the job, since I was “a single mother caring for a young child.” REALLY? (Of course, when I was a single woman with NO children, people probably wondered how I could be a pastor to families, since I didn’t have one of my own). Needless to say, I’m tired of the prejudice and narrow-minded thinking. These people don’t know what they want/need!

    • Interested in a Lutheran church(ELCA) 50 miles North of Chicago. We will be looking in the next 5 mo. and many people have expressed interest in a female pastor! I am praying you receive a call!

  12. My church mirrors the one at the beginning of the post. Mostly elderly, few families, etc, etc. It strikes me that most families already have a lot going on Sundays. Instead of competing, why not look at alternative times for worship and programming with relevance.
    And remember that what you’re wishing for may not turn out to come the way you want it. We have a recent refugee congregation that every now and then hosts a regional program. They do fill the place up! Yes, you will see hordes of young ones moving about apparently aimlessly. Yes you may see breast feeding in the pews. Yes the musically talented teen may pick up any guitar in the music room, heedless that it may actually not be a “church” instrument, but belong to you!
    While you’re building, you will find you’ve new limits. For the first time in our congregation’s history, we will not likely be able to afford a full time pastor. We’ve a good intentional interim program taking place and have a better idea of where we want to head. But we know that it will be dependent on God’s will, prayer, and the talents we make available.

  13. I never cease to be amazed at articles talking about church without mentioning Christ… our primary roll is not to bring in but to take out… The Message that Jesus entrusted to us so He can reach young families, old families, everyone through our words and deeds… thank you pastor Wisneski for your comment…

  14. This is where my church is living these days. My favorite items on this list are 10 and 7. I’d love to hear some concrete descriptions of churches doing those two things well.

  15. Anthony Teigeler

    I know we don’t think of this as well, but all the stores are open on Sunday’s now where they use to be closed in the 50’s and 60’s and when the stores and the gas stations started staying opened it all changed


  16. Love, love, love the image of every church looking for a pastor who can “bring in broken people!”

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  18. This comes under being real.

    “Older members tend to be on fixed incomes and younger working members are needed for their pledges.”

    We are not a heavily unionized society anymore. Chances are, the parents and grandparents are making more than the young adults. The truly fixed incomes are the 20 and 30 somethings.

    Don’t want young families to balance the budget. They can’t. They are paying their student loans with jobs that paid less than their parents.

    • Also: “Younger members can do the work that older members can’t/won’t do anymore.”

      It’s been my observation in Jewish congregations, at least that (except maybe for things like the PTA that have to do with their kids) the Young Families are way too busy living their lives to contribute their time. Most of the work is done by people whose kids are older or out of the nest, single people who don’t have kids to take up their time.

  19. No discussion of the changing nature of families with kids? Single parents? (Divorced, never married, etc.) How does your church feel about that? Or do you just want nice middle-class two parent, two kid families?

  20. Patricia P. Felletter

    Families live differently now. Their children are programmed to be busy from early morning through early evening. Both parents often work. Churches need to rethink worship times. Churches need to rethink time they demand of their members and rethink their organizational models so people can participate for shorter periods of time in leadership. Children need to be included in every aspect of worship: taking communion, centering, sitting with mentors when parents cannot come. Parishioners need to be able to pick up children on the way to church when the parents are employed on the weekend. There is no perfect time for church. On our Ash Wednesday service we combined Fat Tuesdaywith Ash Wednesday; parishioners offered communion to each other and the children placed ashes on the foreheads of the two pastors. We don’t have lots of children but we have a minister of faith formation who guides the children and our ministers are part-time co-pastors so they alternate preaching and have more energy for this Community of God.

  21. A Pastor Who Could Bring In Broken People. Now that’s a church.

    I want a Pastor who can minister to whomever lives in the neighborhood in the thick of these cruel and beautiful times.


  22. As a parent in one of those ‘young families’ I don’t necessarily want a ‘pastor who can bring in young families’ – what I really need, and I think you’re hinting at it, is a ‘Church Family who can bring in young families’. I’ve know great pastors, but been ‘told off’ by congregation for letting the kids run round too much at coffee time. I’ve been in welcoming congregations with disinterested pastors. Don’t let the church demand miracles of the pastor without their support, nor vice versa.

    “Families of every kind are drawn to communities that are in touch with real life” – that hits it exactly – the times I’ve felt we were most welcomed were when the pastor had a young family, and the congregation were already accepting of the noise/mess/cheerios on the floor; when I can stand up to read with a toddler pulling at my trousers (yes, up ‘there’ for everyone to see us) and the ‘personal Stink Eye Quotient’ is just ‘seen it before, who cares’.

    Once both pastor and church family accept and embody the fact that inclusiveness necessarily involves the messy, the dirty, the broken along with the neat and tidy…. and in reciprocation the Young Family accepts the fact that some congregation will be like surrogate family and others will be more remote … then something special will happen in that place.

  23. One of the reasons I quit churching was that the homilies and sermons didn’t address the difficulties of my life. Such things as how do I deal with the guy who is chewing me out as I try to take his order or ring his order up. Or the idiot who cut me off in traffic. Or the fight I got into with my significant other. Or how come I didn’t feel anything when my brother died. Or how do I feed my family when I have been out of work for three weeks. Shit like that.

    For a long time I was a practicing Catholic, but all the priests gave me was abortion is murder, abortion is murder, abortion is murder. I am sitting in my pew and just about freaking out because the woman I had dated for nine months just dumped my rear without a reason.

    So I don’t do church anymore. And I am not really impressed with the Christians I see out there. So I don’t do Christian anymore. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

    • Don what is sad is that from your description, it sounds like the church you were in didn’t do church! I am truly sorry you were not more effectively and gracefully discipled in the congregation you used to attend.

    • Yes, it’s very sad, Don. The Bible is relevant in answering all of those questions that you have had. There is no perfect church and no perfect person. However, Jesus was perfect. He loves us so much that he died for us. It doesn’t stop there. He can transform our lives, and help us in every situation in life.
      I have a challenge for you. If you post your zip code or city here, I will do my best to find a church in your area that is relevant to life. Then, I’d like you to go to this church and talk to someone to see if you can get the answers you are looking for. If not, then you lose nothing but a little time. If they can help you, then there’s much to gain!
      God bless!

    • Don’t give up! Keep looking and you will find a community of faith.

    • I had a terminally I’ll baby and not one person from the large church I went to ever phoned or called by to see if they could help, or just see how I was. I was told by one person he died because I didn’t pray hard enough. After the funeral, no on called to see how I was coping. I stopped going, and no one called to see why. Churches need to go back to the drawing board and get real. It’s not about wearing your Sunday best and being seen to be the perfect gawking. Real life is messy, untidy, dirty and unpleasant. Churches are so sterilized now, in my experience. I haven’t been to church in 20 years, but wouldn’t call my self an unbeliever. I think if Jesus came back for a visit, he wouldn’t go to most of the churches, his clothes are too casual and his hair too long, and don’t forget he snubbed the rich and opted for the poor.

      • I meant perfect family not gawking!

      • I’m so sorry for your loss, Adele. People can be so thoughtless and cruel. I agree that Jesus wouldn’t be welcome in a lot of churches today. Ironic….peace to you and your family.

      • Adele, I am SO sorry for what you’ve been through! I too have had a Church tell me that if I had enough faith, my problems would go away. It’s not true! God often lets us go through heartbreakingly difficult things, regardless of how much faith we have. Jesus even told us that we would have trouble! I don’t know why He let your baby die, it’s horrible! I can’t even imagine… I do know that He loves you, and even when no one came, He was there. I’m glad you have held on to Him all these years; I don’t know how I would ever make it without Him! Hang in there, Lioness of God! (Adele, in Hebrew. I know because it’s my niece’s middle name.) I’m praying that He will lead you to a church that is real, that welcomes you, cares for you, and where every person knows their own humanness, for every one of us is broken. May you feel a sense of family in God’s house, and may you be able to be there for others who need you. And, yes! I agree that Jesus’ candid, everydayness would shock many churches and religious people! Jesus is REAL!!!! 🙂

      • virginiasusan

        Hi Adele,
        Your post caught my eye because I lost my daughter at 8 months. She was stillborn. I am a Christian and my pastor his wife and a Christian friend were at the hospital with us and our church ministered to us in a beautiful way. Look for a better fellowship and don’t give up till you find people who love God and love one another. It is a false teaching to say that if we have enough faith bad things will not happen to us and our children will not die. In this world we will have tribulation, but Christ has come to gather all His elect and make them one. The Lord Jesus Christ has broken the curse when He died on the cross so that we might know Him and have true life in His name. He will restore the whole creation one day. We live in a fallen world.
        God has a right to pick his fruit early if he so wishes. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Yes I cried many tears of sorrow and my heart was broken like yours, but one day I will have the joy of meeting my daughter in heaven and all the sadness will be gone.
        I read this quote recently in the book “Hot Tub Religion” by J. I. Packer. It gave me much comfort. (He is speaking about what is wrong with the modern church)
        “Does the world around us seek pleasure, profit, and privilege? So do we. We have no readiness or strength to renounce these objectives, for we have recast Christianity into a mold that stresses happiness above holiness, blessings here above blessedness hereafter, health and wealth as God’s best gifts, and death, especially early death, not as thankworthy deliverance from the miseries of a sinful world (the view that the old Anglican Prayer book expressed), but as the supreme disaster, and a constant challenge to faith in God’s goodness. Is our Christianity out of shape? Yes, it is, and the basic reason is that we have lost the New Testament’s two-world perspective that views the next life as more important than this one and understands life here as essentially preparation and training for life hereafter. And we shall continue out of shape till this proper other-wordliness is recovered…p. 91”
        abebooks.com has it used for cheap.

    • Mr. Royster, I am SO sorry for the lack of relevancy and genuine caring that you have experienced! All I can say is that Christians are still broken, messed up people, who still fight sins and temptations. We ought to know that better than anyone else, since we’ve had to ask God to forgive us and change us. Believe me, changing into who God wants us to be is a loooong process,with many failures along the way. I pray you will discover, or rediscover, the amazing, humble, passionate love of Jesus! I was born with a rare genetic disorder that, over time has left me with a moderate to profound hearing loss, blindness in one eye (I would be blind in both, if God hadn’t given me a miracle!), and arthritis in many of my joints. I have had 15+ surgeries, and am wheelchair-bound. I am quite young, but my body is old. Yes, there are many hard days, and sometimes hope is difficult to find, but Jesus has never left me. He has always been with you too, even if you couldn’t feel Him. His heart broke when yours did, and He wept right alongside you. He loves you more than you can ever imagine!

  24. I agree with your point. We should really care & love people. See & meet needs. But I think this is also difficult if the message will be coming from one sermon every Sunday because people have different needs. That’s why small groups are a big help where someone could really relate to & help them apply biblical truths to everyday or personal situations.

  25. A Pastor’s sole duty is to preach The Word of God to everybody and anybody at every given opportunity.

    • Yikes! No. Pastors have so many other duties. Listening. Praising. Simply being present in good times and bad. Knowing when to shut up. Being a good mother or father to their kids, if they have them, a good spouse if married, a good son, if parents are in their lives. Teaching. If my pastor spouse only ever preached, I’d be divorced.

  26. When I started my current call we studied the area in several ways. It became clear that the young families the congregation wanted to attract would need to drive farther than was likely to attend our church so we began working with the population in the close community. 12 years later we are an intentional older adult congregation with programming that makes it easy for fragile older adults to worship. Here’s the odd thing…we discovered that making the grandparents welcome and involved led to their children and especially their grandchildren worshiping with us. Families with special needs children found a place where the same techniques that help fragile older adults help their children. The flexibility of the congregation that was attractive to older adults is also attractive to younger families’ schedules. And while it is not an easy call, I have yet to be bored.

  27. We need to learn to “church” differenly. Church facilities
    need to be open for community needs, ie, AA meetings, after school tutoring, place for aspiring musicians to practice, CPR training, music lessons, occassional child care so parents can go out, monthly or weekly dinners, etc. Maybe have mini services on day’s other than Sunday.
    Probably many struggling church have tried this. How or why not did this work.
    Tellus know what worked for your church.

  28. I am a 60 something parishioner currently on sabbatical from organized religion after watching the church I loved evolve into a train wreck. It started with the pastor who was going to attract young families. And change the church culture. I now understand that when we discuss changing church culture we need to use discretion, and take the time to assess what is already in place that works. When I was young, a minister told me that church membership is an investment in a community, a church family who will be there for you when life happens, if you show up, engage and participate. I believed it. I have now learned it is not true. In the rush to change church culture to attract young families, the older members have been in some cases invited to leave and, depending on financial status, marginalized. People who have participated for 50-60 years have left the church. Funny, though …. When we were a young family, we gave to the church, but carefully. One kid needed braces. One kid needed math tutoring. They needed day care, they outgrew their shoes, we had a house note. Etc and so on. I said when my kids were grown I would give more generously. And I do. The house is paid off. Kids’s college is behind us. We inherited a bit. We still work. Now is my time to give. But as church has been increasingly unwelcoming and difficult, I investigate other charities, and give there. The traditions that fed my soul have been replaced with flashier events. Friends I worshipped with for years have left. The theology veers more away from my denomination and more toward nondenominational theology. The atmosphere is angry and pain filled. Attendance is emotionally exhausting for me.And as my age group leaves, the church is in trouble financially. It is rumored that a few wealthy donors keep it afloat. And those young families? They have house notes, and kids who need braces…. My view of community was a church nursery, a chance to hold someone else’s baby, and helping someone on a walker to their car after service. The noise of kids does not bother me, I love seeing kids in worship. Recently our family had a series of crises, and I really would have loved to have a minister I trusted enough to call, but I didn’t. Although that was the bargain I thought I made years ago when I joined, the current minister is about change via wrecking ball and attracting young families. In the ICU waiting room I thought things were already hard enough without having to deal with him, so I didn’t call, which is typical of my age group still in this church. We try to take care of each other like we always did, but now it’s email and phone calls instead of the church prayer list. I feel I have lost something very central and important, but the message I get is that it really doesn’t matter. We need to attract young families. The end.

    • Elaine, I am so sorry for how your church family has changed and let you down. This happened to my parents as well; a new minister at their church did not value the existing older members or their needs and talents. As a parent of an 11 year old, I can attest to the fact that older church members like you contribute and “minister” more than I do in every way, and I am very thankful for them. I discussed this issue with a friend of mine at our church; we realized that one of our most adored members who contributes the most time and care, supporting us all, is a single, middle-aged man who struggled with, and rose above, a history of drug use. We may never have sat around wishing for his demographic, but what we would have lost in our ignorance, had we turned him away! He is such a treasured child of God, and so are you; I pray that you find a church that recognizes that in you! 🙂

    • I am 77yrs. old and have been a church member at my current church as a teenager and left to return 44 yrs . later. I was divorced with 4 children and a victim of an abuser. I have been at my old church for 12 yrs. now. In the past 3-4 yrs. I have felt unwanted as the expansion of the young families has become a priority! I have been active-taught Sunday School,ushered. went to Adult Sunday School, joined the “Prime Time+ senior group, volunteered as a”shepherd” for four individuals to check in and see how they were at least twice a month and if they need aid to refer them to church facilitators. A Young family member and Mom of this church read the above article and responded by saying that the “grey hairs” needed to read this. I didn’t take it as a compliment or feel welcome. Some day she will be a “grey hair” too!
      She needs to think before she speaks-eh?!

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  30. A previous church in which we served (we left 3 years ago- good terms) has only withing the last 18-20 months really begun to integrate “those” kids into their ministry. I say that not to denigrate them, but because it literally takes YEARS for it to happen. Most of their parents however, will likely never darken the door of that church; their kids will be first-generation Christians. Some of those kids were introduced to that church 6 or 7 years ago.

    My question is this: How many churches have the patience to wait this out?

  31. Don, I don’t blame you a bit for feeling the way you do. I can relate to having felt discouraged by and disappointed in Christians and the church (and my husband is a pastor). My prayer, regardless of whether you ever go back to “churching” or not, is that you will know in your heart of hearts that our Creator loves you and is on your side.

  32. The church is broken and will be. We have to move on beyond that out of love and embrace people who are broken in our own brokenness. We get put out with the church and then practice a “churchless Christianity.” We might think through the theological, spiritual, and psychological implications of that before we embrace the notion, since the NT describes the church as the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Bride of Christ.

  33. Reflects also a multigenerational assembly, not one partitioned so that children are out of sight and thus also out of community.

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  35. So many things to say.

    First, about not mention Christ at all in the article…you know, in some venues, certain things are just assumed. Like gravity…we don’t talk about it a whole lot, but we know it’s there, and interact with it all the time. And like language…I don’t have to keep telling you that I’m speaking English in order for you to know that I’m speaking English. And if we’re talking about church, I’m betting that most people assume that Jesus is the reason we’re doing this, whether or not we make a point of mentioning him 40 times during the conversation.

    About asking “who you are” when you show up as a new person…we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we don’t ask, we’re perceived as being uninterested, uninviting, and unfriendly. If we do ask, we’re invasive and nosy. How about not taking offense where none is meant, and understanding that it really is a crapshoot for everyone?

    As far as pastors visiting people at home, how about considering that times have changed, and that most people don’t want someone to just drop in on them, but want to be able to schedule the visit on their terms? I know one family that was upset that they had to *make an appointment* for their pastor to visit them, and would not understand that this was how everyone else in the area worked these days.

    And let’s not forget that pastors only know what’s going on in your life if someone tells them. They don’t have some special radar that alerts them to the crises in your life. So if you’re suffering through something, and your pastor hasn’t called you, and you haven’t let the church office know you’re suffering because “you shouldn’t have to,” well then, guess whose fault it is that no one has called or visited you. Also…with HIPPAA, hospitals aren’t as free to give out information to clergy as they used to. So if your pastor is doing rounds at St Elegius Hospital, and you’re there, she won’t know unless you or a family member have specifically told her.

    More later.

  36. As a mom with young kids I can say, it’s not the pastor or the church that stops us from going. It’s the times of services. My husband works rotating shift work (12 hour shifts) and bounces back and forth from days to nights. A midnight or late night mass/service at Christmas doesn’t work for a 3 year old. We have to get up early all week to get the kids off to school, go to work, etc… then with after school activities, Dr appointments, and homework we have late nights. So we want to sleep in on the weekends. An 8:30 or 9 am service on Sundays is just too early for any of us. (When I was growing up, my church had 2 services: 8:30 and 10:00 am. We always went to the 10 am service, so we had time to wake slowly and relax a bit in the morning.) Instead of going to church, we teach our kids about Jesus and God in our everyday lives. I’d say focus on those that are lonely, broken or in need…

  37. 3 things never to say to a single mum turning up late for morning Church with a toddler (I’ve heard all these):
    1) Good afternoon, glad you could join us … 😉
    2) You really need to make more of an effort to turn up on time. If you can’t make it on time then don’t come at all.
    3) Late again… tut tut
    Better response is…
    “Welcome, you look frazzled, well done for making it to church! Come in and pop in at the back, you haven’t missed anything. Do you want me to get you a glass of water or a cup of coffee?”

  38. Thank you for this very profound blog. The truths resonate with me as I co labor with the elders, congregation, and staff in these matters of church growth and “being church” as opposed to “doing church.”

  39. Pingback: When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . . | bm2driskell

  40. Pingback: The Rev. Dr. Jan Edmiston: “A Pastor Who Could Bring In Broken People” | In A Spacious Place

  41. Is it true your faith only has two sacraments baptism and communion?

  42. We should be trying to lead everyone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The church should welcome the people to church and show that everyone young and old are important to the work of Christ. The people of the church are too critical of each other, instead of showing the love of Christ. I still go to church, all though I have been tempted to leave, but I have felt that is still where God wants me. Many people in the church are there hoping to get the material and worldly things they want and not to serve Jesus Christ. It is the responsibility of all church members to invite people to church, visit the sick, help those in need and whatever else God wants you to do and not just the pastor.

  43. People bailed on the Church because they wanted to believe without the restraints of organized religion; and are further marketed away from a viable church. Why not be as reactionary as possible? That will bring in those left out for a long time and revive those that never knew.

  44. Great Post! I agree that we should all desire to be a congregation that can bring in broken people. Being able to continually bring in, minister and disciple to those that are hurting in the community is the best method to ensure the sustainability of the church. If that were to happen, the testimonies of the church members, by themselves, would intrigue others to come and see what is going on.

  45. Hmmm, would Jesus go into churches today? Interesting thought. I suspect yes. He’d probably turn over the tables of most, walk out in disgust of some, and before moving on, he might even bless one or two who are giving themselves away to serve the poor and broken.
    One thing seems certain, he would spend much time in any of them. Buildings and institutions seemed to be at the heart of many of his condemnations.

    • Jesus does come into our Church every time Mass is celebrated. What he sees is the same thing he saw while walking the Earth, a lot of broken people trying hard to make it through life and hoping in his love and mercy. He takes us as we are and doesn’t expect us to be perfect. In this era of constantly being entertained, a sacred, solemn worship experience is too boring for most people. The Mass is not meant to be a social time, but interaction outside of Mass should be welcoming and charitable. Our parish has had many tragic events in the past few years. In all my life I have never seen such love and compassion from virtually all the members of our Church.

      If like some, you are going to church to get something out of it, you might be left wanting. However, if you are going to church looking to give you will receive much.

  46. Pingback: Not All Churches Are Broken (But Some Are) | achurchforstarvingartists

  47. Dorothea Jurgenson

    My husband’s family all belong to very conservative Lutheran churches. His brother is disappointed that three of his four adult children have either left the church entirely or attend other churches. I suggested to him that rigid structure, legalistic preaching (important to him!) and pat answers to complex questions were driving away young people who do not relate to ideas of ‘denominational purity’ and exclusionary practices. My husband and I long ago stepped out of that milieu; our children, especially the oldest, were exposed to a pastor who, instead of repeating a lot of platitudes, used the Bible and youth group to teach them how to treat each other and relate to others in society. Youth group was social, educational, fun and a safe place to explore feelings and relationships without being judged or riidiculed. I long to see more of that, but it seems rare.

  48. Pingback: When churches want a pastor who can ‘bring in young families’ | Baptist News Global Perspectives - Conversations that matter

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  50. Pingback: When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . . - Brett.Ullman

  51. It is truly s conundrum, but this is a voice to be listened too. We seniors don’t have the answers. I like the do things for moms and I think if we go out and provide service to them that would win them over.
    I think we can look to Burning Man principles for help: e.g. Gifting – giving someone something without expectation of return. Radical self-reliance – means I have to do this myself and not wait for you to do it. Immediacy – lets do something today about it and don’t wait till tomorrow. Radical inclusion – let everyone know they are welcome, no exceptions. Etc.
    We know how to do it, but we want others to provide the answers and do it for us. This suggests either we don’t really want it or that we want it to look like we want it?

  52. This is exactly what happened at our church, even worse. The new pastor said he wasn’t interested in being a pastor and that he was unwilling to talk to the “old people.” I don’t think anyone would believe what that man did to our church, which was disbanded and sold lock, stock and barrel to a different denomination. The things I endured at that church led to my decision to return to the Catholic Church. I won’t go back to the Evangelical Church that runs chasing every new fad or rainbow, making things up on the fly and being the church of “Pastor Bob (Gary, Don, Joe).”

  53. Hi, Who can I ask for permission to reproduce this in our church mag please? I found the article very helpful. Of course it doesn’t cover everything but I think it’s great.

  54. Sorry about your church.Mine is full of children, thirty somethings and in fact the full age range…Prayer ministry,good sermons ,funny worship leader who pulls the ministers leg , house groups,lots of talented people for children’s services that are regular rather than the exception., a protected zone that is safe for children, and a place I regularly spend an hour at after the service drinking tea….Its by no means perfect but i wouldn’t consider going anywhere else…Its full of people some of whom like structure, others who welcome holy spiritual flexibility: a place where people can stand up, sit down pray or not depending on their personality.It was a traditional church with what felt like unswaying trees :until the minister told those griping about the young people to change or get out…and i can still remember that distinctly.I remember how upset he was and I remember the silence after.From that day on it started to change…..Boy, it can be noisy on sunday morning , but I wouldn’t have it any other way…I’m sixty one.

  55. I love the “Stink Eye Quotient.”. Ha ha hah! I’m sure everyone who read that immediately saw someone in their minds.

  56. Pingback: We’re back! | Red Oak Grove Lutheran Church

  57. Thank you for speaking this so eloquently. May I share your message with my Church Council. It helps for people to hear the same message I have been giving them from some one else. Thanks for speaking out!

  58. Pingback: Hilltopics – March 2015 | Church on the Hill, UCC Lenox

  59. Pingback: When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . . | "…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" – (2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT))

  60. Thanks! As a parent of of four lively children I’ve recently been wrestling to find an objective answer to “why do we want kids in church?” that is consistent with the way church is often done.

    On those occasions we find people being church the way you suggest, it’s like a breath of heaven.

  61. I’ve been a children’s minister to elementary kids for 7 years now at my current church. I can tell you this. If you want younger families in your church you need three things. 1. Servants whose divine calling, and passion is ministering to children. – They need to have a real passion for it. Not just to check off a box saying “yeah, I served”. You need teachers that really get joy out of ministering to children, ones that care deeply about the children the see every weekend. Do they know that little Ella lost her Mom to cancer last week, are they ministering to Ella or just babysitting her while she glues glitter to a piece of paper for an hour. 2. A children’s program specifically designed to offer real relationships, guidance, and biblical instruction in a way that engages them at their age level. Children don’t learn like adults, you have to engage them in a different way. Bible stories told with vivid excitement and ways for them to apply it so that they understand its a lesson for life, and not just entertainment. 3. A safe and secure place for children and their parents to worship. Kids need to be safe, and feel safe. What are your procedures for ensuring that kids are protected. If you laser focus your attention on these three things….build it and they will come.

  62. I’m going to sound like my 14 year old daughter right now but OMG thank you for this. As a children’s pastor at my church my mentality has been focused on how to “get” young couples to church for all the reasons you stated, I think sometimes this is what we say, but you eloquently stated what my spirit wants with the last half of your post. Thank you for this and helping me connect the dots and steering me to focus on what’s really necessary and important.

  63. Pingback: The Mother of All Culture Shifts | achurchforstarvingartists

  64. Pingback: It’s Not About Getting Younger Members | achurchforstarvingartists

  65. see and feel God’s love by everyone in the church.

  66. I am sorry my whole message did not get on. We should want all ages in church. We should display God’s love to everyone and show compassion towards everyone. We are suppose to be Jesus disciple and love as Jesus does.

  67. You made the point about having a pastor who brings in broken people and that would be true. However, I find here as with everything else, a total lack of concern for men. If the men are broken, then so will the families be as well.

  68. Pingback: When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can "Bring in Young Families" • ChurchLeaders.com

  69. Bruce McKillip

    Our family once (when our kids were little, grade school) visited for Sunday service, on spontaneous impulse, a lovely old Reform church in a slightly run-down urban neighborhood, mindful of course of the relationship between Reform and our UPC, but largely on the strength of the outer beauty and setting of the building. Inside we found a handsome sanctuary well maintained but in need of restoration, and a congregation of about 12, perhaps 1/10 of capacity, and not one under 60 or so. There was an organist but no choir. The sermon was surprisingly good but the pastor seemed tired, as though she had taken on the duties of several. And after the service we found that the fellowship hall was being shared with another community that did not yet have a church of its own.
    Of courses we were treated like visiting royalty. These people were so very kind to us, so very welcoming — they invited our little girl to ring the steeple bell! — and so very obviously, very desperately, in need of new, younger members, for good legitimate reasons both spiritual and practical and mostly by no means having to do only with the collection plate. It’s a sadly common situation nowadays.
    We happily consented to join their mailing list and even enjoyed a brief personal correspondence with the pastor, but I am sorry to say we never returned.
    You see, everyone likes to be appreciated, even needed, and should welcome an opportunity to join a community where there is work to be done, a call to share and to serve. But in choosing a church for our family, we would hope for a more equitable balance of need and potential; one shies from being needed too much, and fears falling short. Church should be a place where I can also rest when I am the one feeling weak and in need of comfort and strength.
    The memory of this visit is still, for me, an occasion for remorse. It should not be so. I wish we might have chosen otherwise, but don’t see how. And I have no answer.

  70. Pingback: If You Ask the Wrong Question You Will Always Get the Wrong Answer | achurchforstarvingartists

  71. Pingback: 3 things the church could be more mindful of: introverts, singles, and the coveting of young families  – SPINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

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