The idea of a church with a big children’s ministry — lots of programs and full-time staff — is relatively new and relatively confined to American Christianity. At the same time as youth and children’s ministries have become more popular, even expected, the church has failed tremendously to keep those children as they grow up.
A great children’s ministry is not the answer to bringing the next generation along in their faith.
A note before I’m taken the wrong way here: I’m not saying that church children’s ministry programs are bad. I am saying, though, that they should be a nice supplement, at best.
It seems that the professionalizing of children’s and youth ministry has communicated the wrong thing to parents. It worries me when I hear parents say that they’re part of a particular church because of its great children’s ministry. That statement tends to mean that the parents will make sure their kids are dressed and fed and will leave the faith upbringing to the church.
Parents: The best children’s ministry in town… is in your living room. Your children need to see YOU — not a church staff-person — as their spiritual leader. Your children need to see things like prayer, Scripture reading, singing, and serving others as a natural part of life, not just as a programmed thing led by someone hired to do it.
Most importantly, they need to see you doing all of these things.
I worry that the programmed, professionalized children’s ministry we promote today has made parents feel inadequate. A lot of parents worry that they don’t know enough, or that they don’t know the right ways to teach their kids the faith. As a result, they shy away from it entirely.
See my post on Family Worship. I share some of what my family is doing to try and take our kids’ faith development seriously. It doesn’t require a lot of materials, doesn’t require extensive theological training, and has been very easy to begin using with our family.
And after that, you should read “Why we’re teaching our kids a catechism.”
What do you do to promote faith development at home? What difficulties or questions have you had? Use the comments section to share.