One of the biggest misconceptions in the church that is repeated over and over again is that children are the future of the church. But if it is true that children are the future of the church, and stats tell us that anywhere between 50 and 85% of youth leave the church when they turn 18, then how are we, ministry leaders and parents, preparing them to be “the church of the future”.
Personally, my view is that they leave because the “church” is not preparing them for the future. They do not view them as valuable assets to the Body of Christ. The typical church will tell youth that they must be in the youth group and they can “serve” during VBS (because we are desperate for people) or on a mission trip somewhere else, but otherwise, there is no place to serve or be a part. Once they reach the age of 18 they then ask them where they want to serve when for 18 years they have in essence said there is no place for you to serve here. What message are we really sending when we do that? (I must mention that this is not true of all churches, but is a common theme among many.)
Whether you attend a small church or a large church, I believe that the “formula” to engaging 5th & 6th graders in your Awana T&T Club (or any ministry) is to give them opportunities to serve.
Rebecca Davids replied to my weekly e-mail stating:
… when we began our Trek program, we didn’t want to lose our student leaders so they did the handbook time and lesson time and instead of game time, they went to help out in Sparky handbook time. The first several years of that program, we had almost 100% attendance and book completion from the Trek clubbers.
She gave them a chance to serve and they responded!!
I was facing 5th & 6th graders losing interest in children’s church and Awana. In children’s church, I began to allow them to serve by running the very basic audio-visual portion of children’s church. I also enlisted some older youth to help lead the songs with motions.
In Awana, I gave the 5th and 6th graders the option to be student leaders. They and their parents signed an agreement that the child would work through the handbook and then once a month, they could serve in Cubbies or Sparks. Parent and child were excited about this opportunity. It again engaged them by allowing them to serve in a way that they could see the impact that they were having on others. Serving in an area of value.
It is a lie that the children are the church of the future. If they are following Jesus, then they are a part of the Body of Christ, they ARE the church today. If you want to engage the 5th & 6th graders who are beginning to lose interest, then show them they are a valuable part of the Body, and give them an opportunity to exercise their part of the Body so it will grow well past their 18th birthday as they continue to serve.
So often we treat their disengagement in our ministry as a discipline problem, when it is more often a discipleship problem.
Jesus said to let the children come to Him, we need to let them serve Him as well.