The Quest

YOUTH: Leaving Before Arriving

iStock_000004433475Small Where does the youth group in your church start? More specifically, at what age?

More than likely, you would say seventh grade, or maybe your church is following the recent school trend of middle grades. Maybe you’ve adopted fifth and sixth graders. However, you probably don’t think of your youth group as starting at two or three years old.

It’s quite possible that when it comes to youth, the children are the most often neglected by the youth leaders and even the church itself. Sure, you have Sunday School, possibly a midweek youth program and a VBS, but what is done for the kids outside those traditions? Many churches leave the area of children’s youth ministry to the Sunday School teachers and midweek workers, and there is nothing wrong with that. Is it all a church can do?

We’ve talked a little bit before about teenagers leaving the church after high school, but what about those who leave the youth group before they are even in it? Surely some things can be done to make an impact on children to stay involved within their group of peers and even in their local church.

Here are a few foundational ideas:

  1. Offer activities for children just like you do for the teens.
    Have a monthly event for the kids (and their families). Water games, gym nights, scavengers hunts (treasure maps? for kids? score!), kite flying, pumpkin painting, bicycle runs, art bazaars, cookie decorating, and other such things can go a long way toward establishing relationships between youth leaders and children. Think outside the box in terms of activities. Some churches already have been running with ideas.
  2. Work with the families.
    Ministering to the children is really ministering to their parents. Get the parents involved in everything—before the parents are involved in everything else the world offers for children. Make the activities family events. Parents are continually looking for things to do with their kids outside the ordinariness of home life.
  3. Get to know the kids.
    Don’t be the pastor on an unreachable pedestal. At this point in many children’s lives, the role of pastor is held in high regard. What type of impact would it make if the pastor or youth pastor knew the children in the church—more than just by name or whose kids they are?
  4. Involve the children in church.
    Find areas of responsibility that they can fulfill within the church and even in the church service. Changing their focus on church to be “What’s in it for God?” instead of “What’s in it for me?” can make a huge impact on how they approach church in the future. Sadly, too many people today come to church with the second question in mind.
  5. Have an educational plan.
    Make sure as a youth leader you know what is being taught to the kids. That way you can build upon it when they move up. Many Christian companies offer curriculum and plans for churches. Most deal with just children, but some are church comprehensive. I can think of one. You don’t want children to have six years of David and Goliath. Many churches are starting to dig deeper in what they are teaching their kids. Doctrine? For children? Why not?

I’m curious as to what ideas you have or things that your church has done to work with kids. Let us know.

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One Response to “YOUTH: Leaving Before Arriving”

  1. Nat,

    I just had an interesting conversation with a friend who ministers at a large church. They are in the midst of attempting to hire a children’s director/pastor. They have had an exceptionally hard time in finding a qualified candidate. This strikes me as an evidence of the lack of thought many (most?) churches invest in children’s ministry. Thanks for the thoughts.

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