5 Big Challenges Facing Children's Ministries

We live in a day of unprecedented challenges for children's ministries.  Challenges we must navigate if we are to continue building thriving ministries that effectively reach and disciple kids and families.

Let's take a look at the 5 of the biggest challenges we are facing. 

Children and parents attending church less frequently.   This challenge continues to grow as kids and families are less consistent in their attendance.  The average family has gone from attending church 3 times a week to attending 3 to 4 Sundays a month to now attending once every 3-4 weeks.

Millennials, who are the newest generation of parents, go to church less than any previous generation.  While 51% of older generations attend church, only 28% of millennials do.  And one-third of millennials now say they are unaffliated with any faith, which is up 10% since 2007.

Due to this, children's ministries are struggling to maintain their attendance, much less grow.  Children don't drive themselves to church and more and more can be found at the ball field, on a weekend road trip, at the store or simply sitting at home on Sunday morning.

The challenge is to help parents grasp the importance of consistent church attendance and commit to it.  We must also find a way to get their children, Gen Z, so excited about coming to church that they drag their parents to church more consistently.  We must also engage kids in significant relationships at church so they are personally, individually known, loved and missed when they are not present.  We must make church so irresistible for kids and parents that it is more appealing than sports or a trip to the lake.

Consumer Christianity.  The legitimate push back and polar opposite of the first challenge is it can lead to consumer Christianity.  Kids and parents become only interested in "what's in it for me."  They make the decision of where they will attend church based on which ministry has the best children's facilities, coolest worship services, events and programs.  This results in shallow commitment and church hopping.

The challenge is to help families see that the Christian life is about following Jesus' example.  His life was characterized by two words.  Serving and giving.

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Matthew 20:28

I believe kids can lead the way in this.  They naturally respond when asked to volunteer.  Children's ministries that engage kids in serving and invite their parents to serve with them can help families move from consumerism to commitment.   

Volunteerism.  Enlisting and equipping volunteers ranks high in challenges for all children's ministries.  There seems to never be enough volunteers.  And without enough volunteers, children's ministries struggle.  Often this is due to misconceptions about how to build a volunteer team.  You can build a thriving team of volunteers if you go about it the right way.

In the book, The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams, I share proven principles that you can use to build a great volunteer team no matter your church size or current culture.

Sexual Identity Issues.  This challenge has gained momentum in recent years with more and more people approving of LGBT rights.  Children's ministries must navigate questions like...

Can a homosexual serve in children's ministry?

Will we allow same-sex couples to participate in child dedication?

Will we allow a transgender child to use the bathroom of his or her choice?

Can a transgender person lead a small group?

How do we balance truth and love when addressing LGBT issues?

There are questions children's ministries must face and make a decision about.  If you haven't had situations arise that cause you to work through these, your turn is coming...so get prepared.  I talk more about issues like this in this article.

Biblical Illiteracy.  The final big challenge we are facing is Biblical illiteracy.  A recent study found that only 45% of people who regularly attend church read their Bible more than once a week.  Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible. And what we don't read...we don't know.  And we are not effectively teaching kids the Bible.  In a survey among children...

1 in 3 didn't choose the Nativity as part of the Bible.

59% didn't know Jonah and the whale was in the Bible.

27% think Superman is or might be a Biblical story.

1 in 3 think Harry Potter is or might be a Biblical story.

54% think The Hunger Games is or might be a Biblical story.

Biblical illiteracy often doesn't show up until kids get into high school and college.  It is then their shallow knowledge of the Bible is exposed by peers and teachers.  Without answers to the hard questions that are raised, their faith is destroyed and they walk away from it.

The challenge is coupling sound Biblical doctrine with relevant, fun, engaging styles of teaching.  Both what we teach and how we teach it are vital.  Boring teaching of great Bible doctrine will not get through to kids.  And fun, relevant teaching without solid Bible doctrine will leave kids without a strong faith foundation.  It takes both working together. 

Closing thoughts...
It's easy to be discouraged when facing these challenges.  But be encouraged.  These challenges are really opportunities.  Opportunities to make a significant impact in the lives of kids and families.  Seek God.  Ask for His wisdom.  Take a hard look at what you are doing and how you are doing it.  Be courageous enough to change what needs to be changed, stop what needs to be stopped and start what needs to be started.  Face these challenges head on.  And watch God use your ministry to change the lives of kids and families for eternity.