Over the last few years I’ve noticed a pretty significant change in the way people are involved with their church.  When I was a kid and young adult, “regular” church attenders were involved in Sunday School, a Worship Service, and generally the Sunday and Wednesday night services.  Your most faithful attenders would miss perhaps one or two weeks a year for vacation and then another one or two weeks a year for sickness or special events.  This meant that the core of your church came together at least 100-130 times a year.  Between Sundays and the evening services, your “average” church-goer was still there 75 times a year or so.

The times they are a changing.

Now, as I look through the attendance patterns of our teens (and by extension, their families), I see that the people we consider the most plugged in average around three Sundays a month and perhaps two or three Wednesdays a month.  We don’t have Sunday night services any more (we do have Life Groups that meet in homes, but they take seasons off).  Based on the sample size I work with, I would estimate that our “average” teen makes it to two Sunday services a month, and then one or two Wednesdays a month.  The “average” family hovers around two services a month and maybe one other meeting that month.  This is confirmed nationally in several articles I’ve read.

Why is this the case?  I see a few factors involved:

  • Jobs have changed
    • Most jobs I know now are not Monday-Friday 9-5.  The hours our weird, expectations are different.  Sunday is just another work day for much of the world.
    • Many jobs aren’t confined to an office any more.  The laptop can go anywhere.  People can work as they travel.  This means they get to travel more.
    • Despite the perpetual doom and gloom about the economy, many people are doing well at work.  They work hard, they want to take advantage of that by doing fun things with their family.
  • Culture has changed
    • Sports seasons don’t seem to ever end now.  If your child is more athletic, many of the sports now require weekend-long tournaments.
    • Through the advent of social media and mobile technology, we’re always aware of someone going on a trip or vacation.  It makes us feel like we should too, far more often than we might have as children.  Plus living in South Florida means you can take a mini-vacation with a 1.5 hour drive every weekend if you want.
    • People just seemed to be committed to more things, but less committed to any of those things in particular.
    • Consumerism has been a driving force my entire life, but it really feels like it’s taken hold in the church in the last couple of decades.  When everything in marketing is bent around saying that you should get exactly what you want, people have learned to “shop” for churches that best meet their needs, and then only consume the parts of it that meet those needs, and often only in the moment when those needs are particularly felt.

Now some of these characteristics are unavoidable and benign, some are potentially harmful, and some are spiritually dangerous.  I am trying not to be the grumpy old man who wants everything to be like it was in the olden days.  At the same time, when the average member of the body of Christ meets together half as much as before, it’s foolish to think there are not consequences.  Relationships take time.  And they also take intentional time together.  Imagine how your child is going to feel about the church as an adult if the bulk of the commitment their younger years was based on feelings and commitment.  And I’m not just talking about the institution of the church.  I’m talking about the body of Christ.  Your love and commitment to the church is directly related to your love and commitment to Jesus.

I’d like to offer three suggestions for how you might best set your children up to love and commit to Jesus and His Church.

  1. Make meeting with the church a priority. 

Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I see from this that my family is to draw together with the body of Christ for the celebration of what Jesus has done in our lives, but also for the sake of investing and encouraging in others.  Teach your family that “we go to give, not to get.  When we give to others, God makes sure we get what we need.”

2.   Commit to a specific small group.  

The church isn’t about a Sunday Morning production.  It’s about a group of people who identify under Jesus, who live, love, and learn together.  If you expect your kids to commit to specific people that will encourage and hold them accountable, you’re going to need to model it.

3.   Identify how you specifically serve your church body.

Meaningful service is the fuel for discipleship.  We were built by God to pour out.  Your kids need to know how you’ve sacrificed and committed to serving your church family on a regular basis, so that they will see it’s normal.  Service is not an event, it’s a lifestyle for those who follow Jesus!  If possible, bring your family alongside you in the service roll with your church.  Then help them identify and own their specific ways of serving based on how the Spirit has gifted them.

Culture is going to continue to change.  We’re never going back to the olden days.  If we did, I bet we would see that they were full of problems too.  But purposeful parenting in regards to commitment and connection to the Body of Christ is one of the most important steps you can take to build kids that are a blessing to the world!