8 Reasons Your Children's Ministry is Not Growing (and how to change that)

Do you see the flower in the picture?  It's wilting.  It's not vibrant and colorful.  It's not fresh with a beautiful aroma exuding from it's pedals.

It used to be new, fresh and beautiful.  But not anymore.  It has become barren. Soon the last few petals will fall to the ground and it will officially be pronounced dead.

Unfortunately, for many churches, this is where they currently find themselves.  Old and tired.  Hanging on til Jesus comes.  Not bearing fruit.  Just a small amount of time left before they have to close the doors for good.

I have identified 8 reasons why churches find themselves in this situation.  Let's talk about why churches end up in this scenario and what we do to change it. 

Your ministry is not concerned about growing by reaching unchurched families.  You are content with where your church is at and are okay with existing instead of evangelizing.  You can't remember the last time your baptistery actually had water in it  You rarely venture outside the four walls of your church building.  You are content.  You are comfortable.  You are not consumed with reaching the unchurched people in your community.

The answer to changing this is by asking God to renew your passion for reaching people and then taking bold steps to reach the unchurched.

See...here's the deal.  It's not about how many people you have inside your church right now. It's not about having 50 people...500 people or even 5,000 people.  What should keep us up at night is how many people in our communities don't know Jesus.  That is where our focus must be.

I'll never forget how I saw this lived out in the most unlikely place...Las Vegas.  I was a children's pastor there.  Yes, there are churches in Vegas, believe it or not.  Our pastor was consumed about reaching people far from God.  When we were reaching 8,000 people a weekend, I remember how consumed he was to reach 10,000 people a weekend.  We began to work and pray for that goal to happen.  And it did.  Soon we were reaching 10,000 people a weekend.  And it didn't stop there.  We went on to reach over 16,000 people each weekend...and the vast majority were unchurched families. The church continues to grow...now reaching over 21,000 people each weekend.

Want to start growing?  Want to reach more families?  Then it's got to start inside you.  Get fired up and passionate again about reaching people.  Get outside those church walls and make a difference in your community for Christ.     

You don't have any room to grow.  Are you familiar with the 85% rule?  Once your rooms are 85% full, you will stop growing until you make more space.  This applies to your kids' area as well as your adult auditorium.  You can have an auditorium that has room to grow, but if your kids' area is over 85% full, then the auditorium attendance will stop growing.  Kids don't drive themselves to church. To grow, both the adult auditorium and the kids area must be under 85% full.

The answer to this issue is to build more space or start more services.

Your ministry is boring.  If you want to grow, then you must make sure your services are engaging and relevant to children's lives.  If kids are saying your services are boring, then guess what?  They are right.  Your kids' services are boring and it's time to bring fresh ideas, excitement and programming to the table.

If your kids' ministry is boring, then you'll have parents having to drag their children to church.  But if your kids' ministry is exciting and engaging, you'll have children dragging their parents to church.

Have you ever had someone say to you, "I'm not going to church, because I was made to go as a child?"  Here's the deal.  You don't have to make someone go where they enjoy being.  I've never heard anyone say, "I'm not going to Disney World, because I was made to go as a child."  The reason they say that about church is because it was boring and wasn't relevant to their life.

If you want to grow, then make your ministry an exciting, engaging place to be.

You're not attracting new families.  How many new families walk in the doors of your church each week?  If the answer is very few, then it's time to ramp up inviting people to your church.  This can be accomplished by creating a culture of "invest and invite."  Teach your families to invest in relationships with their neighbors, family, co-workers and other acquaintances.  This will give them a door to invite them to come to church.

And get kids excited about bringing their friends to church.  You can create excitement for this by having special days and events where kids are encouraged to bring their friends. 

You're not keeping new families. If you want to see your ministry grow, then you must close the back door.  Do you have clear next steps for families who want to be a part of your ministry?  What percentage of guests are coming back for a second visit?  What is your assimilation plan?  It starts by getting them back for a second visit.

The national return rate for guests is only about 7%.  That's very low, isn't it?  We can do better than that.  One thing that I have personally seen work is this.  Send the family a handwritten post card after their first visit.  Let the kids know that when they come back for a second visit, they will receive a free t-shirt with the name of your ministry on it.  When we did that, our return rate jumped to over 30%.  Yes, it is an investment, but the result was well worth it.

You're not getting families involved in serving.  There is a group of people who attend your church faithfully.  They are there nearly every single week.  Who are they?  People who are serving.  If you want to see families connect and become faithful, then provide them with opportunities to serve from the get go. Engagement rather than attendance is what will cause your ministry to grow. 

You can accomplish this by setting the expectation that everyone who is part of our church is expected to serve.  Teach this in your new member's class.  Emphasize "every member is a minister. Give them a handout that lists all the serving opps that are available and have them sign up for one of the opportunities. 

You're stuck in 1970.  Today's kids are not yesterday's kids.  Today's music is not yesterday's music.  Today's family dynamics are not yesterday's family dynamics.  Today's way of doing church is different than yesterday's way of doing church.

Things have changed and this means you must be willing to change as well.  You must lay aside your preferences and create ministries that will reach today's kids and families.  Churches that are afraid to leave their comfort zone and set aside their own preferences will not live beyond their current members' life span.  

Children's ministry is not a priority at your church.  If you want your church to grow, then you must make children's ministry a top priority.  This includes funding, promotion, physical space and staffing.  You can talk about your children's ministry being a priority, but the claim must be backed up with physical proof.

A growing children's ministry will lead to a growing church.  An exciting children's ministry will lead to an exciting church.  A prevailing children's ministry will lead to a prevailing church.

Here are some questions based on the 8 reasons that you can discuss with your team.
  • Is our ministry concerned about growing by reaching unchurched families?  How can we start reaching out to the unchurched families in our community? 
  • Do we have room to grow?  Any areas that are at the 85% mark?  How can we create more space?
  • Would kids say our ministry is boring?  What can we do to make it more exciting?
  • Are we attracting new families?  How can we encourage our church to be intentional about investing and inviting?
  • Are we keeping the new families that visit us?  What percentage of families are returning for a second visit?  What strategy can we implement that will help shut the back door?
  • Are we encouraging new members to get involved in serving?  Do we have a culture that says every member is a minister?  Do we have a clear pathway to move people into serving roles?
  • Are we current with how we do ministry?  Are we stuck in the past?  Unwilling to make needed changes to reach today's kids and families?
  • Is children's ministry a priority at our church?  Does our budget say this?  Does our staffing say this?  Do our ministry priorities reflect this?  
No matter where your ministry is now, there is the opportunity to turn things around and start making an impact in your city.  It's time to stop merely existing as a church.  It's time to be a proactive force that sees families changed.  It's time to start growing again as a ministry.  You can do it.  God is with you.