Why Many Children's Ministries Are in Decline

Across the U.S. there are many children's ministries that are in decline.  

This article is not meant to be negative.  There are some children's ministries that are growing and we would do well to take a close look at what they are doing.

What we do know is for every growing children's ministry, there are hundreds of ministries that are in decline.

As we take an honest look at what is happening in churches, we can identify some of the reasons why ministries are in decline and seek to find answers that will turn things around.  Let's start the discussion.

Reason #1 - Families are attending less often.  Families that used to attend every week are now attending 2-3 times a month.  Families that used to attend 2 times a month are now attending once a month or even less.

Reason #2 - Families have different priorities.  Church used to be a top priority.  Families used to wake up on Sunday morning and it was a given they were going to church.  No discussion.  Church was their top priority.

Not anymore.  Families wake up on Sunday morning and if nothing else is going on, they decide to come to church.  If there's not a ballgame or an event or a trip to the lake or a new movie to see or dinner with grandparents or something else, they will show up.  Many times church doesn't make it to the top of the list.

Reason #3 - Work schedules.  The number of people who work on weekends has increased.  This causes parents to not be able to take their children to church.  And many times both parents are working this schedule to make ends meet. 

Reason #4 - The pace of life for today's families.  Life is busier than ever.  Families rush to work.  Rush to the ball game.  Practices for sports can take up several nights a week and then games on Saturday and Sunday.  Sit down dinners have been replaced by running through the drive through for dinner.  Families finally get home exhausted and start the pace against the next morning.

Sunday has become a catch up day.  Sunday rolls around and if they don't have a ball game or other event on the schedule, they use Sunday as a catch up day.  Catch up on the laundry.  Catch up with cleaning the house.  Catch up on rest.  Catch up on spending time together.

They weigh the time it will take out of their Sunday to go to church and many come to the conclusion that they need to stay home or run errands.  They deem that having to get the kids up and dressed, driving to the church and getting home after lunch is not worth it.

Reason #5 - They watch online.  The convenience of watching the service from home is just too tempting.  Why spend the time getting dressed and driving to church, when you can watch online in the comfort of your own home, sitting in your pj's and sipping a cup of coffee.

Now that we've identified some of the big reasons why children's ministries are in decline, let's discuss some strategies we can take to help families attend more frequently.

Offer services other than just Sunday morning.  Sunday night service?  Wednesday night service?  Saturday service?  This will enable parents who work on Sunday morning, more options to bring their family to a service.

Teach parents the importance of making church a top priority in their family's life.  One great opportunity you have to do this is when young parents are bringing their baby for child dedication. 

Attach a class to the dedication and in the class share the importance of making church a top priority.  If you need a child dedication class, then check out this one.  It is being used by many churches across the country and is making a big difference. 

Get families involved in serving together at church.  Families who serve, attend church more often.  Growth comes from engaging people in serving others.  Kids can take the lead in this, by asking their parents to serve with them. 

I remember the Sunday we announced that the next Sunday, we would have tents set up so after the service, families would have the opportunity to put together food supplies for families that were hurting.  The next weekend came and attendance spiked.  Why?  Because we gave families the opportunity to serve together. 

Make a list of serving opportunities that families can get involved in together.  Families who serve together are faithful and consistent in their attendance.

Get kids and parents in a small group where they will be missed if they are not at church.  They should be known by name.  They should be prayed for by name each week.  They should be missed when they are not at church and contacted by their small group.  Relationships are a key to seeing families come to church more often. 
Each week should be like a family reunion that families don't want to miss.
Get kids excited about coming to church.  When kids love coming to church, they will drag their parents with them.  I was recently talking with a father and he said, "Yeah...I didn't want to come today.  I was going to stay home and watch it online.  But my daughter kept begging me to bring her, so here we are." 

Today's kids have lots of input and influence when it comes to family decisions.  Get kids dragging their parents to church and you will see your attendance start to grow.

Your turn?  Why do you think many children's ministries are in decline?  What can we do to help families become more active?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.