If your house were on fire, would you want a neighbor to tell you? If your tests from a recent physical showed a fatal disease, would you expect a call from your doctor? If your son was doing dangerous things, would you hope someone noticed and let you know? How about your church… If there were a crisis in your church that threatens its very existence would you want
to know about it? I'm your neighbor. I care. I'll tell you.
My ministry with Awana puts me in conversation with many Senior Pastors. For the last several years one thread almost always works its way into the conversation. It goes something like this…
Ed - “So Pastor, how are things going in your ministry?”
Pastor - “Well, Ed, things are OK.” (That is code for “things are lousy in kids and youth ministry, since kids ministry is why you, the Awana Missionary, are talking to me.”)
Ed - “So are you reaching more kids than last year?” (That is code for “I understood what you really meant, and want to know how I can help your ministry.”)
Pastor - “Well, you know, we have more young families, but our kids and youth programs are declining. You know how busy kids are today. They are involved in so many activities that it is just tough to work everything in.”
Ed – “Boy we sure hear a lot of those comments nowadays. So I wonder what we can do about that.”
Pastor – “Yep, you are right. We sure hear a lot of those comments nowadays.”
That is it. The conversation typically stops, usually followed by a tour of the new education wing or multi purpose building. The problem remains, and worse, it remains unaddressed.
Your church will close in less than a generation if misplaced family priorities remain unaddressed!
Sometimes I tell my kids “Slay the dragon in front of you.” In other words, sometimes you have to deal with the problem that stares you in the face and leave the other problems for later. This is not one of those times. The dragon lurking in the background can, and has, closed many churches. Congregations inadvertently have allowed kids and youth to slip away, to be lured from the things of God to the busy-ness of the world. Then they realize in a few short years that everyone in the church has grey hair and there are no children in the nursery. Eventually, the last of the old guard turns off the light, locks the door, and the church is no more.
Pastor, I pray you have the courage to stand before your congregation and say “THIS MUST STOP! I love you and want the best for your families. If God is first, make him first. Be sure that your family’s calendars reflect that God gets your best. Baseball doesn’t last forever. Soccer is for but a season. Eternity lasts forever.”
Pastor, no one has the ear of the parents in your church like you. You are in a unique position. You alone have the calling to both encourage and admonish in love. Someone must stand and proclaim with passion that families must put God first, and guard the hearts of their children. Common sense tells us that if we spend more time and energy on “X”, we have less time and energy for “Y”. Every time a parent fills out the form to sign up for a traveling soccer team, they make a choice. Each commitment takes time, and forces choices on our kids. If young people are spending all their time in sports, dance, music, acting, etc., by definition they have less time to spend reading their Bible, praying, and simply reflecting on the wonder of God and His Son, Jesus. Pastor, your loving admonition may help one or two families change course, maybe more. They listen to you.
But what happens when you shout this notion from the mountaintops and families respond? You must arm the parents in your church with tools and training to advance the Kingdom of God in their children’s hearts. You must implement programs that promote Bible study, Scripture memory, and Christian service. When you call parents to action, give them what they need to succeed. If our children spend more time and energy learning about Jesus, they will have less time and energy to spend on other things. That’s not such a bad thing.
This challenge is not easy. If you choose to slay this dragon, some will misunderstand and mistake it for meddling. Some will be unwilling to change direction with their families. But some will understand, and some will re-prioritize their lives and their children’s lives. It will all be worth it.
The picture below is of a church building that used to do great ministry with both kids and adults. It may still have an Awana game square in the fellowship hall for all I know. It is now a Buddhist temple. They lost a generation, then they lost their influence, then they lost the church. By God’s grace may that never happen again.
Have a great day serving Jesus
PS – For the brave – If you aren’t the Sr. Pastor, forward this to him and share it with others with the link at the top of the page…