May 1, 2019

Why Families Are Attending Church Less Often

For the last decade, there has been a shift taking place in how often families attend church. 

The percentage of families who say they regularly attend church has been declining. 

But the percentage of people who attend church a few times a year, seldom or never, has been growing. 

I often tell churches, if you want to know how many people you minister to over the course of a month, look at your Easter and Christmas attendance.  Easter and Christmas are the two times a year when everyone who attends your church (regularly or irregularly) shows up at the same time. 

In a recent Pew Research survey, families who attend on a regular basis, say they attend church for the following reasons.
  • to feel closer to God (81%)
  • so their children can have a moral foundation (69%)
  • to be a better person (68%)
Notice the second biggest reason why families attend regularly.  It's because they want their children to have a moral foundation.  As I saw that stat, I was reminded of the many times in Scripture, where people came to Jesus for one reason.  For their children.  They needed their child to be healed by Jesus and so they came to Him.

I believe the best way to reach and disciple families is through their children.  When kids attend a church and have a great experience, they will come back...dragging their parents with them.  I have personally seen this happen time and time again. 
When you take a child by the hand, you take a parent by the heart.
If you want to get my attention, do something nice for my kids.  And it's the same way for families who either never or seldom attend.  If you engage their children, you will engage them.  Children's ministry leaders, take note of this.  Your ministry is a key part of your church being able to reach families and see them attend on a regular basis.

But what about those who do not attend on a regular basis?  Why do they only drop in once or twice a year?  30% say they do not go on a regular basis because they are not believers.  They show up at Christmas and Easter not because they believe, but because it's expected of them by their family.  They are expected to attend church that day with their kids or grandkids, etc.

Here are some other big reasons why families say they don't attend church regularly.
  • They practice their faith in other ways. 
  • Haven't found a church they like.
  • Haven't found a church that makes them feel welcome.
  • Don't like the minister and his/her sermons.
  • Poor health.
  • Too busy.
When you create exciting, engaging and excellent environments for kids, you will see those excuses lessen.  If little Reginald or Alice loves coming to church and doesn't want to miss, parents will follow.  Today's young families with kids tend to parent as a democracy.  The kids have just as much say about what the family will be doing for the weekend as the parents do.  Make your children's ministry irresistible for the kids and mom and dad will follow them.

And then think about some ways you can see kids attend faithfully.  Use those methods with the kids.  Kids don't drive themselves, dad and mom will bring them. 

I remember when we opened a new indoor playground for our children's ministry.  Not long after we opened it, I walked in that area and noticed a mom crying.  I approached her and asked if she needed anything or if we could help her. 

She quickly pointed out that the tears were actually tears of joy.  She pointed over to the playground to a father and daughter playing together.  She said the two were her husband and daughter.  She shared with me that she had been asking her husband (who was not a believer) to come to church for 7 years.  He said "no" each time, so she went on with their young daughter.  She had been faithful to love him and invite him to church over the years. 

When the new playground opened, their daughter was so excited.  She started asking her father to attend with them so they could play together on the new playground after service.  How could dad say no to that?  And so he came.

Through her tears of joy, the mother shared how she could see during the service that God was working in his heart.  She believed he would soon become a follower of Jesus. 

Churches must understand the vital role that children's ministry plays in reaching families and seeing them grow in their faith.  And churches must understand the vital role that children's ministry plays in seeing families attend services regularly rather than sporadically.                                                               

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