If you believe current demographic studies, Millennials—the age cohort born from the 1980s through the early 2000s—are more interested in pursuing their own interests and goals than in religion. I don’t buy into that line of thought at all.
I blogged a couple of months ago on how my experience has been quite the opposite:
I’ve found them to be among the most gifted, hard-working and, yes, religious of all the age-groups I work with as a local church pastor. I’ve discovered that Millennials are not only embracing biblical faith in large numbers but also that their leadership holds great promise in moving the American church in new and more promising directions.
I believe the problem traditional churches have in reaching Millennials has more to do with our approach to ministry than with their spiritual resistance. Our worship can become more concerned with keeping old traditions than experiencing new spiritual life. Our programs can be more focused on rehearsing former successes than in risking new ways of connecting people with the gospel. Our resources can become more devoted to internal maintenance than outward mission.
These kinds of priorities can make Millennials question the value of the local church. They’re not the only ones. The fact is that churches like this not only will struggle to reach Millennials, they’ll struggle to reach anyone.
More than anything else, Millennials are looking for great children’s ministries
But there’s one other piece of the puzzle. More than anything else, Millennials are looking for great children’s ministries. They’re not looking for entertainment or baby-sitting for their kids, they want the real thing. They want their children to be taught the Bible. They want them to connect with other children on the same path. They want them to learn to care for people in need. They want them to love the Kingdom and the church. They want them to have a solid spiritual footing so that as they grow up, they’ll remain in the faith and become spiritual leaders in their own right.
That’s why children’s ministries are key to reaching the Millennial generation.
It isn’t easy. The volunteer needs are great. Curriculum concerns can be overwhelming—some parents could care less, others want more Bible and less fun while other parents want just the opposite. Budgets are tight. Special events like Christmas programs and summer Bible schools wear and tear on leadership and resources. There’s rarely enough space or, in the unlikely event that there is, it’s often the wrong kind of space–too dark, too outdated, too inconvenient.
So with all the challenges, how can a church grow a great Children’s ministry? I think there are several keys that can help reach that goal:
Make children’s ministry a priority. It can’t be an afterthought or an add-on because it’s every bit as important as the other major ministries like worship, discipleship and missions. Give the Children’s leadership a major voice in congregational decisions.
Do whatever it takes to get great leadership. The best children’s leaders understand their role isn’t to provide baby-sitting in a church setting but to minister the Kingdom to the tender and innocent. They must be spiritually mature (the spiritually immature have no business in this kind of ministry because the stakes are too high). They must be personally resilient (because they will be subject to unending criticism). They must be strong and tenacious yet also have the capacity for great tenderness. They must have great organizational minds. And they must have such winsome personalities that volunteers are naturally drawn toward them.
Spend money. There’s no substitute for investing real resources in children’s ministries. Churches that spend the lion’s share of their ministry budgets on more visible and vocal ministries are robbing their own futures.
Be unapologetically biblical. Teach the Bible at all times. That’s why parents bring their kids to children’s ministries to begin with—they really do want them to learn God’s Word.
Children’s ministries need to be always striving toward more engaging ways to connect parents and their children to one another within the context of their faith.
Be fresh, creative and willing to risk new approaches. Children’s ministries—like almost every other area of church life—can get stale and ineffective when we rely too much on what we’ve done before. Children’s ministries need to be always striving toward more engaging ways to connect parents and their children to one another within the context of their faith.
Building a great children’s ministry isn’t easy, but churches that invest the time, effort and resources—and make the tough decisions necessary for success—won’t be disappointed. They’ll not only begin to reach the Millennial generation, they’ll also be building future leaders for the Kingdom.