Can I make a confession?
Before I had kids, I could never understand comments from parents that getting to church on Sundays was “hard.” I honestly wondered – how hard can it be? When my kids came along, I discovered the answer: getting to church with kids is really, really hard. At times, it feels nearly impossible.
While I can’t prove it scientifically or with stats, I am convinced that Sundays are THE most difficult day of the week with children. Talk to any parent, and they will tell you about the disasters that are bound to happen on Saturday nights & Sunday mornings as they rush out the door.
Whether you have children of your own or not, let me just tell you – Sundays are really hard for families with kids. While families believe that church is important, it doesn’t change the facts:
- Getting everyone ready & into the car leaves many parents on the verge of tears.
- Temper tantrums and arguments are a near guarantee.
- When they get to church, they often forget why they are there in the first place.
I am convinced then, that it is important to ask ourselves this question: how can we best serve the young families who are a part of our church family and make Sunday mornings a little less chaotic?
This doesn’t require a full overhaul of your Sunday mornings or programming. In fact, I think there are five simple things EVERY church can do to welcome and serve young families with open arms.
- Greet families warmly. Even though I’m the family pastor in our church, I feel important just as a parent when people in our church family take the time to say “Good Morning!” to me and my kids. I believe this is true for all young families – and it is so simple to implement. Ensure that your ushers and greeters make a special effort to welcome young families into your church service. Give them a warm smile, get down at eye level with their kids, tell them how glad you are they are here today. Enlist people in your congregation to remember the names of kids, slip into rows before the service starts to ask parents how they’re doing, or to shoot a knowing smile when a child starts crying for more Goldfish or fruit snacks. Even if it’s hard to get to church, it makes all the difference when someone intentionally takes the time to let you know they are happy you are present.
- Be clear that you are a family-friendly church. It is one thing to say your church is “family-friendly” on a sign, bulletin, or social media post, but it is another to be clear about it week in and week out. Here are some simple ways you can do that:
- Say it from the front! When you make your morning announcements or welcome people to the service, simply say “We’re especially glad to see all the families here today! It means a lot to us that you’ve joined us!”
- Make ‘noise’ an accepted part of your church culture. It’s just a fact that children are not made to be perfectly still and silent. So, if children are present during a part of or all of your worship, embrace it. Accept the movement, whispers (and sometimes not-whispers), interpretative dance, snack wrappers crinkling, and crying as a normal part of your church.
- Say it whenever you get the chance – “We are a church for families.” Communicate it on the platform, when you speak, at special events, on your church sign, in weekly social media posts, in one-on-one conversations – whenever you get the chance.
- Ask families what they need from your church. If you want to truly serve young families, ask them what it is they need from you. You may not always be able to provide it, but asking at least lets families know what they have to say matters. You can do this through personal conversations, a church-wide survey, social media polls, an email ask – the possibilities are endless. Simply ask parents the question – “How can we serve you better?” and “What do you need from a church family?” I also like to accompany these questions with “What do you love about our church right now?” This helps me see what we’re already doing well – sometimes things I don’t even see! Where I thought parents may have needed another program or ministry, they just needed someone to be in their corner. They had – and still have ideas – on how to best serve them, because well, they are them! (Check out this Family Ministry Survey to help you collect feedback from your families and use it effectively!)
- Make it a church for their kids too. Children’s ministry can be a lot of work – but I believe it is some of the most worthwhile work a church can do. Regardless of your church size or staffing, I believe you can offer a ministry for kids that makes them feel like a valuable part of your church family. You don’t need a huge budget or volunteer base to do this. While I love our children’s program on Sundays, people are often surprised to find out it isn’t elaborate or high-tech. It is simply kids in a room with screened volunteers learning about the Bible through teaching and hands-on activities. What it is, however, is designed to be about kids and to allow them to learn about and experience God in an age-appropriate way.
- Involve families in your services. Beyond our kids’ programming though, I want kids to feel like the main church service is for them too. That’s why every single Sunday, even when it is chaotic and messy, we take time to have a “kids’ time” before we dismiss the children. That’s why we take time every once in a while to have our kids sing on the worship team, take up the offering, or hand out bulletins. That’s why even when we don’t have regular kids’ ministry, we do something – even if its as simple as handing kids a coloring sheet and crayons or a Church Search sheet when they come into church – to make sure they know “Hey! We didn’t forget you today!” When church is a place kids want to come to, it makes it easier for their parents to come too. Check out our Guide to Family Worship resource or Including (Not Just Occupying) Kids In a Family Service Online Training for more ideas to involve kids and families in your main service.
It may take effort, but it is so worthwhile.
A church filled with families is one that has life, is growing and can make an impact for generations to come.
Author Bio: Julia Ball is the Owner & Creator of Equip Family! She is a pastor to families in Newfoundland, Canada, and is passionate about seeing kids become lifelong followers of Jesus. Julia is married to Andrew, the mom of 2 lively little ones, and her secret kidmin superpower is memorizing kids’ names! Find Julia’s resources on DKM here.