Why churches are failing their children
One of the most startling statistics I have ever seen is the following…
When asked in a survey, “How often in the past year has any church leader made any contact with me to help me to engage actively in my child’s spiritual development?”
68% of respondents indicated ‘Never’ – and here's why I find that so shocking.
I'm not surprised as a parent
The question is a broad one – ‘...has any church leader made any contact’.
It allows for both formal questions by my minister and informal conversations I might have with my children’s leaders at church. Yet nearly seven out of ten people say they have never experienced such discipleship.
As a parent this rings true to my experience. I have been in a range of churches across the breadth of Sydney and would answer the question in the same way. Perhaps it is assumed that I am just doing it. Perhaps it is not ranked an important priority in the many ministry and discipleship conversations I do have. Whatever the reason, I'm not surprised many others seem to have a similar experience. And we could all feel like the church has failed us here.
But I am shocked as a minister
It's as a minister that I feel most startled about this statistic. In my ordination, I was charged “to serve the church of God and to work with its members in sharing with the community the love of Christ and his gospel of reconciliation and hope”. I figure the contact covered in the question above fits pretty simply under this.
So how often have I ever done it? How often have I ever asked this question of my Small Group members? How often have I met with parents to discuss how they are going with the ongoing spiritual development of their children? How often have I ever offered training courses on raising children in the faith? And I'm a Children’s Minister!
If such conversations get neglected in the busyness of my ministry life, I shouldn't be surprised that it appears to happen so regularly also in the ministry of others. Perhaps the failure is my own. Indeed, the failure is mine, for I am part of the church whether I'm a minister or just a parent who has not asked other parents such questions.
A chance for change
With all that in mind, I find myself greatly encouraged by the prospect of Growing Faith Week and all that it entails:
- As a Children’s Minister, I want to be equipped to do better under the Lord in this area; this can happen at ‘House’ conference.
- As a minister, I want to be challenged again to be like Paul in prioritising both public preaching and ministering from house to house (Acts 20:20). This can occur at the Intergenerational Forum for ministers.
- As a parent, I want to experience intergenerational ministry and explore what this might look like in my different community networks. This too I can do at the Growing Faith Family Conference.
I'm excited by the many opportunities this week will bring to address my shortcomings.
But most of all I admit I am excited that as a flawed, yet forgiven, child of our Heavenly Father, I'm given another chance to seek to better serve the people of the Lord.
In his grace and mercy, I would like to do better in encouraging and equipping parents to actively engage in the spiritual development of their children. Whether you're a parent who has similarly not experienced any such contact, a minister who may have neglected this ministry, or a Children’s Minister distracted by other more pressing concerns, will you join me at one of these events?
I look forward to seeing you there and working together to start turning the statistics around.
Matt Keller is Children's Minister at St Paul's Castle Hill