To me MISSI ON is much more than just attracting people to the faith. It involves discipleship, a continuous process of moving people closer to Jesus, starting from where they are.
If you knew for sure that 50% of your church membership would leave in the next 15 years and not go to any other church, what would you do? Would you let them go, believing that after all, it’s their choice? Or would you attempt to identify that 50% and put strategies in place to disciple them more intentionally?
For at least 40 years now in churches across Australia, a full 50% of a certain identifiable demographic has been leaving after spending 10 years or more in church, leaving and never coming back. That identifiable demographic is not found among adult church members. The group that is leaving in those alarming numbers are children.
The fact is, we know statistically, that a full half of the children who are raised in churches, will leave before they make the transition to adult church. In Australia that is 30,000 children every year. If we were simply a commercial concern we’d be taking steps on the grounds that ‘it’s easier to keep a customer than to go and find a new one’, but most churches either don’t realise that it is happening or don’t know what to do about it.
Thousands in our churches will soon be gone forever. It’s a fact. Look around on Sunday morning. Statistically, every second child will be a stranger to church 20 years from now.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Research has unearthed at least some of the factors that increase the chances of those children staying.
David Goodwin’s recently published book Lost in Transition shares some very specific findings based on his 2012 Australian work for his Masters of Ministry. Here are just a few of them.
- Children who attend all, or part, of the adult service on a regular basis are twice as likely to make a successful transition to adult church.
- Adult church members who ignore children, or have mainly negative contact with them, are likely to be contributing to their decision to leave church.
- There are positive effects when children and young people are able to participate in the adult service in a genuine way.
- Children benefit from meeting church members in inter-generational settings outside the Sunday services such as church social events.
- If children enjoy their time in Children’s Ministry, they are more likely to continue to adult membership.
Church leaders, you need to note this. What happens in church needs to be planned with the whole church in mind, that is, adults, kids and teens.
If research shows that kids who are regularly in at least part of the service are twice as likely to make a successful transition to adult church, can we afford not to include kids in our services?
If kids who enjoy their time in kids ministry are more likely to continue into adult membership, shouldn’t church leaders make sure that children are having a positive experience in the kids program? Shouldn’t they take an active role in ensuring that the best volunteers are involved and that those volunteers are prayed for, encouraged and supported to attend conferences and seminars to grow their skills? Without it, half those kids will probably never be part of any church as adults.
The book Lost in Transition is just 64 pages and includes 30 very specific recommendations that pastors and leadership teams should familiarise themselves with. The stakes are high. We know the results of what we’re doing now. What will we do differently to ensure that half our kids aren’t lost forever?