Kid’s church is a great place for a child to learn about God, Christ & faith. Obviously, as a children’s pastor, I wish that every kid had the opportunity to come to church to hear about God. In the end though, I know that a church service is only one of the many experiences that a child needs in order to grow in their relationship with Christ, and ultimately to have their faith stick with them for a lifetime.
What else do kids need to grow up following Christ into adulthood? Well, for one thing, opportunities to serve. Diana Garland in Inside Out Families writes,
Community service was significantly more closely related to the faith development of teens than attending worship services. Service appears to be more powerful than Sunday School, Bible study, or participation in worship in the faith development of teenagers.
Giving kids and youth the opportunity to live out their faith in practical service increases the likely hood that the child’s faith will stick with them for a lifetime. This is why I get so excited when parents get their kids involved in serving, and even more excited when parents serve with their kids.
At Calvary, we have a dad who has taken, or is going to take, all of his kids on their first missions trip with the church. We have a mom and daughter that volunteer in our wheelchair van ministry, faithfully serving together to go pick up our shut-ins for church on Sunday. We have had families that serve at the local soup kitchen, My Brother’s Table, together. Every year we have parents participate in our Christmas and Easter productions with their kids. All of these parents, and the dozens like them, are giving their kids a chance to grow in their faith outside the regular Sunday morning classroom.
I wonder if the statistics showing how many teens walk away from their faith after high school would diminish if every child were given opportunities to serve and put their faith into action? What would happen if parents invested the time and energy to get their kids plugged into church beyond the classroom?
My church has one, and odds are yours does too. Most churches have a set ratio of the number of teachers/leaders/volunteers they require in a classroom for every certain number of kids. In my church the ratio is 1 teacher for every 7 kids (except in the nursery where it is 1 nursery worker for every 4 infants).
Churches recruit for their ministries based on ratio’s like these. “Parents, we could really use some help in kid’s church. We have 30 kids coming, but just two people helping out…so we are reeeeaaaaally short staffed. We need at 2 or 3 more people. Can you help out?” The trouble is using a 1-to-7 ratio is far too low, at least if you want the kids in the church to be lifelong followers of Christ. According to Lifeway Research:
Teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives….were more likely to keep attending church. More of those who stayed in church – by a margin of 46 percent to 28 percent – said five or more adults at church had invested time with them personally and spiritually.
Did you catch that? The more people who invest in a kid from church, the more likely that kid is to stick with their faith. We live in a day and age where countless teens are walking away from their faith after high school. Could one reason be because we (the church & parents) have left our kids spiritual formation entirely to one person in a classroom, who is already distracted by 6 other kids, and only given them 75 minutes a week to speak into our children’s lives?
What would happen if we changed the ratio? What if rather than trying to get one teacher in every room for every 7 kids, we made it a point to try to help parents find 5 mentors for every one of their kids? What if every kid got more than a teacher for a single Sunday morning service, but beyond that had multiple people who were investing in “them personally and spiritually” throughout the week, the month and their life?
Don’t get me wrong, I think 1 to 7 ratios are important and needed. They provide structure and safety for classes and ministries. I also think that every single Sunday school teacher, kid’s worker, youth staff member plays a pivotal part in a kids’ spiritual growth. I also think they by themselves they are insufficient. I think that a childrens or youth worker can, and should, be an important voice in the life a kid, but it should only be one of the voices that that child hears. The reality is though, many kids are only hearing one voice, and so many are walking away from the faith. To put it another way, 1-to-7 ratios are killing the next generation of the church.
For the past 9 weeks we have been working through Faith Case: Investigating the Truth in Kid’s Church at Calvary, and it has been a great experience. This curriculum which walks through the 16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God in 12 lessons, has been engaging for the kids, easy to teach, and just might be some of the best curriculum to come out of AG headquarters.
One example of the kids liking it…. I was recently over at a family from the church’s house and asked the kids what they enjoyed most about KidZone. One kid gave me the typical “I love the games!”, another said she loved the songs (i.e. worship), but the third said she loved Mr. Trench from the videos. When she said she loved Mr. Trench from the FaithCase videos, both her siblings said “Oh yeah, we love him too!” I even pressed them to see if they remembered some of the lessons, and they were able to recall everyone of them that they were there for.
If you want to pick up a copy of Faith Case, it is available from Gospel Publishing (www.gospelpublishing.com) for $120.