How to keep kids from leaving church

leaving-church

I went out for lunch with my family after church on Sunday to celebrate the last few days of freedom before school started.  While we were eating, I couldn’t help but listen in on the conversation happening at the table next to us.  The lady was telling her friend about her experience growing up in a church.  The now grandmother age lady recalled a building with hard pews that were uncomfortable to sit in, a pastor who spoke long, and a Sunday morning experience that was extremely boring.  The religious experience was all about rules & consequences for breaking the rules.  When she was old enough, she decided that she had no interest in this thing called church.

As she told her story, I couldn’t help but think about how many other people have grown up with this same experience.  During their formative years, their experience of church was irrelevant & boring.

Parents, Teachers, Pastors & Volunteers wish there was a simple answer to the question:  How do you keep kids from leaving the church when they get older?  Although there is no secret formula, I do think there are several factors that increase the chances of them sticking around.

Relationships – As I think back to my own experiences growing up in the church, I had many people who greatly impacted me and were great role models.  My parents, my parents’ friends, Sunday School Teachers, one-on-one buddies, midweek leaders, youth pastors and summer camp leaders.  Note:  People who invest time in kids may not see the reward of their investment until many years later.

Regular Attendance – My parents believed in going to church EVERY Sunday.  Not just once in a while, or when it worked for our schedule. EVERY Sunday.  This taught me that church was a priority, not just optional when it worked for us.  We planned our family schedule around our church schedule.

Relevant – I went to Sunday School.  I went to the mid-week program for kids.  I went to youth.  During each stage of my life there was a program available for me to attend that was fun & taught lessons that were appropriate for my age group.

Real – My family didn’t grow up in a perfect bubble.  We had our share of challenges.  My dad died of cancer when I was 16 and that left my mom to raise 5 kids on her own.  The church surrounded our family with love & support.  They prayed for us & helped in practical ways.  They were doing what Jesus would have done.  It taught me that the church sticks with each other through the good times & the not so good times.

Serving – (sorry I couldn’t think of a word that started with ‘R’) – From the time I was a young teenager I was given opportunities to serve.  I helped in Kids Ministry & was involved in music.  It took the focus off of myself and helped me focus on others.  I was using my gifts & talents in the area of my passion.  Church was about giving, not just receiving.  In those serving roles I built relationships with people of all ages who were happy to spend time with me and encourage me as I served along side of them.

As I look at the lives of those who grew up in the church with me, many of them are still connected in a church today.  Many of them would list the same list of things as I did.  It’s probably not a complete list, but it’s a good start.

 

 

 

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