We’ve been hearing a lot lately about kids leaving the church. We read about the church exodus in books, in magazine articles, in surveys and online. We hear about it on talk shows. A lot of data is presented and a lot of reasons are given for why kids take off.
I would like to offer a reason for why kids STAY in church.
I don’t have an official survey, but I have grown up in a pastor’s home and I married a pastor and I have seen a lot of kids hit that “stay or go” age.
I don’t have statistics, but I have names.
And that’s kind of the point.
The closer the kids are to the pastor, the less likely they’ll be to leave. If they see the pastor as their friend and the church as a place where they can see and listen to their friend, they’ll want to be part of the ministry.
Now, I know there are many big churches and there is no way a pastor can get to know every kid by name, but there is a pastoral staff and you need to make sure your child connects with at least one of them.
Here are some ways to help your child connect.
1.Talk about your pastor positively. If you criticize your pastor for preaching boring messages, for allowing the deacons to paint the auditorium yellow instead of blue or for getting three weeks vacation – your kids will pick up on your criticism.
Even though your criticism might be about something physical (like paint color), they will begin to consider the pastor as a non-cooperative, not-too-bright guy or someone who only works on Sundays (instead of the 90 hours a week he really DOES work).
2. Treat your pastor as a person. Yes, the office of pastor deserves your respect and you do need to treat the pastor respectfully. However, he’s not in some invisible level closer to heaven where you can only approach him with a quiet, soft, reverend voice. He has a favorite sports team, a favorite food and might even participate in a church softball game.
3. Encourage your child/teen to ask the pastor questions about his messages. If your child/teen wonders about something the pastor said, encourage your child to ask the pastor about it. Most pastors enjoy talking to kids. (If your pastor or the pastoral staff is impatient and brushes him aside, you might want to evaluate the church’s priorities in relationship to kids.)
4. Ask the pastor to speak. If you’re in the position of Awana Commander, Director or even leader or in some other children/teen leadership role in your church. Invite the pastor to give devotions or answer questions. My husband visited Trek about once every six weeks for Ask the Pastor Night. The kids could ask him whatever they wanted about the Bible, culture, etc. Let the kids see the pastor as approachable.
5. Invite the pastor to dinner. What better way to get to know the pastor than by inviting him and his family to your house? Allow the kids to be part of the invitation (don’t have them eat before hand or in another room).
6. Encourage kids to be part of Pastor Appreciation Sunday. You might donate to a cash gift from the congregation, but encourage the kids to make him cards. Teens could write notes of appreciation. (I know how much these notes meant to the pastors in my family.)
7. Encourage your teen to help out at church. Is the church staff delivering food baskets or doing a mailing? Even if you attend a large church, teens can get to know pastors by helping out in the office during the week.
8. Encourage your teen and two or three of his/her friends to take the pastor and his wife out for coffee or a soda.
9. Regularly pray for your pastor and his family. Even when your kids are young, they can pray for Pastor Bryan’s family. Then introduce your child (if the pastor doesn’t already know him) to the pastor on the way out of the auditorium some Sunday. “Caleb, this is Pastor Bryan whom we pray for every night.)
10. Encourage your child/teen to interview the pastor for a school assignment or even for the church newsletter.
Do what you can to help your child become friendly with the pastor or someone on the church staff. This is not a guarantee that your child will continue attending church, but it’s a lot more difficult to leave when she feels part of the ministry and the person up front is someone she knows and respects.