Are Kids Lonely at Your Church?

Kids who hate going to school are often bored or lonely.

The same could be said about kids who hate going to church. 

Boring lessons and no friends are a recipe for disaster at church.

A 2020 survey found that students felt stressed (79.8) and bored (69.5) at school.

And research has revealed that for many children, school is very isolating.  80% of students say they face loneliness at school.  

The same could be said of many children's experiences at church.  It is boring and they don't have any close friends.  This can become toxic and cause children to bolt from church when they are old enough to have a say about it.  

So how can we help kids feel loved, accepted and excited about being at church?  How can we help them make friends?  How can we make our lessons engaging and exciting?  Let's talk about this. 

Pre-service interaction.  This is a critical time.  Kids are normally playing a game or talking or doing a craft project with a friend.  It can be scary for a new kid to enter the room when this is going on.  They are thinking...

Will anyone talk to me?

Will they let me join in the games?

Will they let me help with the craft project?

Will I be able to make a friend today?  

Look for kids who are alone during this time.  Introduce them to some of the other kids and help them get involved.  Ask your volunteers to keep an eye open for kids who are alone.  Encourage them to talk with new children and help them get connected with other kids. 

A caring leader.   Help your volunteers see the vital role they play in making kids feel welcome and valued.  Instead of standing in the back talking or drinking coffee, ask them to be among the kids.  Looking for new kids.  Watching for kids who look bored or lonely.  All it takes is for one caring volunteer to show they care and it can make a big difference in the life of a lonely child.

Create opportunities to make friends.  Start off your lesson with an icebreaker.  The icebreaker should involve all the kids and give them opportunities to talk with other children.

Circle up.  When kids are sitting in a row of chairs, it naturally can cause them to feel alone.  They are facing the front of the room versus looking at other children face-to-face.  For a big part of your lesson, get the kids out of rows and move them into circles.

Circles are more conducive for helping kids feel part of a group.  It can make even the biggest of rooms more personal as children are part of a small group with 6-8 other children.

Guest hosts.  Enlist and train a team of kids to be guest hosts.  They wait by the door and when a new child enters, they connect with the child and stay with the child for the entire class.  The kids serving in this capacity should be friendly, confident and outgoing. 

Watch the edges.  Lonely kids normally hang out on the edges.  They sit in the back or out on the edges whenever they can.  Be watching for these kids.  Go to them and make them feel welcome.  Help them get integrated into a group of children.

Make church fun for kids.  Loneliness and boredom often go hand-in-hand.  When you are bored, your mind starts wandering.  You start thinking about the negative elements of your situation.  When you're bored, you get restless and want to leave.  

Church should be fun for kids.  Hang on a minute.  I know what some of you are thinking.  Kids should be serious at church and focus on learning.  

By "fun" I don't mean playing games with no larger purpose.  Nor do I mean laughing for the entire service or class time.  

What I do mean is engaging lessons that capture the attention of kids and that add something meaningful to their life while they are at church.  For kids - the way they express engagement is by calling it fun. And that's what parents mean when they ask their children "Did you have fun today?"