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Bringing Children To Jesus: How to Cast Your Nets for a Fruitful Ministry- First Steps To Rebuild

Many church members have watched as the children in their congregation drifted away toward secular pursuits. What precisely can we do to bring them back to our faith communities? Just a few committed people in any church can effect change in the lives of families and children. Here are some concrete ways to do that.

Recently, I was asked on social media how to engage children in a faith community, and it made me realize that many churches wonder how to encourage children to attend.

I began to break down the practices we have used in the past to accomplish this. It was hard to identify the overlapping and multi-faceted activities that worked together to invite children and their parents to experience the joy of life in Christ. Still, as I thought through it, I smiled at the memories. Many things didn't work, some did, but it was all fun.

If you follow this space regularly, you know that I consider children the most important people in any faith community. They are worth the effort, the energy, and the investment. If your faith community misses the joyful sounds and excitement of children in the halls, you can change that! You can gather a team of people who want to do ministry work.

Here are some things you can do to jump-start your efforts.

  1. Talk about and pray for children. If children are few in number or absent altogether, discuss this issue without letting the conversation devolve into a gripe session. Gather a team of people who are ready to talk about solutions. It is so easy to let this discussion become a time where we reminisce about when "parents dragged children to church," "back in my day," "this culture hates faith," or "kids hate church." or "parents are lazy" Set those topics aside. It doesn't help. Besides, this is oversimplifying the problem. Start a positive conversation, and bathe the little ones in prayer.

  2. Own up to the failings in this area of ministry. Congregations without children should look honestly at how children's ministry has been conducted for the past three generations. We must recognize that we haven't always done this vital work well. Then, we should determine together how to improve. This is self-awareness in its finest hour.

  3. Gather and commit. Set up a team, even if it is only you and one other—covenant together to work tirelessly to invite children. Trust me. It will take more than one event, week, or year to improve a situation that was long in the making.

  4. Create a series of events. My rule of thumb for children's ministries is to hold one significant community event each quarter, one church family event every other month, at least one weekly meeting for children, including recreation and education, and a few weekday ministries during the summer. Here are some specifics: a. Hold seasonal events and invite the community: Fall Festival, Advent Activity Day, Resurrection Celebration, and Summer Splashdown. Make sure that these events appeal to today's children and youth. Planning a Gospel Sing will not draw children or any community families not already in a church. b. Hold family events every other month. Examples are a comedy show where the children do simple skits and tell jokes, a family talent show, a family scavenger hunt at the church, a cookout with wacky relay races, and a concert of modern Christian music featuring a local band. Not a Gospel Sing. Apologies to all my friends in the south. c. Consistently offer a weekly recreation and education program for however many children show up. If it is only one child, give that child your very best. Have a plan and a trajectory for the education, and plan the recreation as carefully as the lesson. And remember: never cancel youth group. Never. Cancel. Consistency is key.

  5. Be visible. Place flyers in local stores and the public library, put a large, bright banner in front of your building, set up bounce houses where the whole community can see, use social media, free radio spots, and anything else you can think of. Tell the world that your congregation loves children and has activities to share. Use social media. It is the market square of the 21st century.

  6. Consider what else you can offer. Hungry children are everywhere. Rural poor children have a challenging time finding food when school is not in session. Can you provide a free lunch program during the summer? Choose one day a week, and invite other churches to choose other days. Buy good food and prepare it well. (hint: do not use government funds; their rules are onerous) Put up a banner, advertise every way you can, and proceed to feed the poor families in your area. It's not easy, but it is worth it. Free after-school homework one day a week could work. What can you do?

7. Be realistic and cover the children with prayer. Children will not attend churches that are not serving them. It takes a lot of energy and resources to serve them well. If your church does not have enough volunteers with the health, energy, or ability to welcome children, perhaps you can hire someone. If you can't do that, you can pray for your community. Gather together and specifically pray for the children of your community. Focused and fervent prayer still moves mountains.

If your church is too small for these activities, now is the time to join forces with another church with the same concerns. Join with your brothers and sisters. Perhaps together, you have the strength to reach the children in your community.

If we don't do this, secular coaches, teachers, and others who do not love Jesus are going to step up and teach our children to disregard Jesus and the church.

It is hard to be a child today. They lack community support, they are bombarded with negative social media messages, and many families are fractured beyond recognition. If you want children in your church, offer the love and stability they need. Children need to be heard, seen, welcomed, encouraged and offered the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we don't do it, there is no place where they will hear it. We are the Church. This is our mission. This is our work to do. Let us do it with joy!

Click here for a video link to part 1 of this series.

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