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.