Thanks to one of my local twitter followers, I came across this blog about how teens are disappearing from churches.
It got me thinking about my experiences about the church I attended as a youth and the churches I’ve attended with my own children.
When I was younger many of my classmates attended religious services with their families. For the most part, I didn’t mind “Sunday School” – when we had a good teacher or one who left us alone to chat with our peers. I do remember one particular horrible Sunday when, as pre-teens we were made to sit around in a circle playing a religious version of “duck, duck, goose” in Sunday school.
Now they told us that after you were about 12-13 years old, you got to be an adult and attend the full church service. The excitement of being an adult in the church wore off quickly. Most of the time the minister’s sermon was boring and it usually had no relevance to life, the universe or anything.
BUT the church is full of people, kind, generous and friendly people RIGHT? Well, that’s what I thought until…
Each time we are posted to a new city, we get out and meet people in the community. For the most part, church is a great place to start. We had just been posted to a new city and decide to attend a local church of our particular faith.
We called the church office and were told that there were two services on Sunday, an early service and a later “family” service with hymns. Because our children were small (3 years and 1 year) we attended the family service.
For the most part we were ignored by the regular parishioners and after attending one Sunday on my own with both kids (my husband was deployed) I was asked by one of the church “elders” if I could please leave my children at home because they were disruptive. When I mentioned that I attended the “family” service I was told that families were welcome as long as they didn’t have kids with them during the service. I never went back to that church.
If parents don’t take their kids to church then those kids will grow up and not attend church. So, here are my suggestions to get families to go to church:
- Stop preaching. Yes, there! I said it. NOBODY wants to be preached to. Watch a TED talk and do sermons like that. People will attend.
- Ban Sunday School. Kids have been in daycare and school all week. They just want to have some fun so offer youth exciting activities during the service so the parents can have some time with other parents. During the service, put the kids in the front row on comfy seats and entertain them. Make it a show and make it short. They’ll beg their parents to take them back.
- Keep it real. Make it relevant. Most people don’t fish and farm anymore so stop giving analogies about fishermen & shepherds. I know great religious figures did that kind of stuff but make it real with examples from today’s lifestyles.
- Offer food. Not crap cookies and fake juice — real food like home-made soup and sandwiches. Offer it for a price less than McDonald’s.
- Promote Networking. Get regular parishioners out into the congregation meeting people and hooking people up who have similar interests or similar jobs/businesses. If you’re not sure how to go about doing that, talk to my friend Greg. He’s got lots of great ideas.
- Use modern technology. Save the planet and stop printing “pew papers”. Buy a projector and put the music up where everyone can see it. Update your website regularly (like, weekly) and keep your parishioners up-to-date via email, blogging and YES social media like Twitter and Facebook. For those that cannot attend, record the sermon and offer it as a podcast.
Do you attend religious services? What improvements would make attending easier?