Last week I addressed the question that I am asked more than any other: How large is a small church?
This week I want to address the second mostly commonly asked question:
How can a small church consisting mostly of seniors attract young families?
I don’t have a sure fire, three-step, quick and easy answer to that question but I do want to share some ideas that are worth considering.
It’s all about relationships
I have bad news for anyone who is looking for an easy three-step program guaranteed to have young families flocking to your church in droves. Such a program does not exist.
Please note carefully what I am saying!
Such a program does not exist.
We have been brainwashed to believe that the answer to every problem is a new program. If we can only find the right approach, our problems will be solved.
Again let me repeat myself.
There is no program that will bring young families flocking to your church!!!
In a small-church setting the only thing that will attract young families is relationships.
You can’t offer a better Sunday school or a better youth group or a better nursery program than the large church down the road. They have the people, the finances, and the staff to offer the best programs available. You can’t win if you focus on programs.
What you can offer though is a church family built around loving the children and teenagers who attend.
One of the best youth programs that I have ever personally experienced consisted of a couple in a small church inviting a half dozen teenagers for supper. Every Wednesday evening that couple spent several hours with those teenagers talking about how the Bible applied to their lives.
It really is all about relationships.
It’s all about change
I know that for some of you, change is a dirty word. You are all about tradition and keeping things as they have been for the past fifty years.
Let’s think about this for a few minutes though.
You have a church that consists mostly of seniors, not an uncommon state of affairs.
You want to attract young families with children because you think that your church is going to die without a new generation of young people.
The very fact that attracting young families is a problem is a strong indication that what you have been doing has not been working.
Someone has defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
There are too many churches that are practicing a type of spiritual insanity in their response to this issue.
We have a shortage of young families.
What we are currently doing is not attracting young families.
We will continue doing everything exactly as we have done it in the past hoping that young families will attend.
It isn’t going to happen. Any church with a preponderance of seniors is going to have to change something in order to attract young families.
For too many churches attracting young families isn’t the priority that determines what they do.
Attracting young families that will fit into their way of doing church is the priority. They want to attract young families without having to change anything in order to attract them.
I am not calling for immediate wholesale changes in your church. I am suggesting that if what you are doing hasn’t worked in the past, you will probably have to change your approach if you expect any results in the future.
It’s all about serving
Too often churches would like young families to join so that the young families can fill needs that exist in the church. There is this hope that these young families will add children to the Sunday school or teenagers to the youth group, or workers to the church.
If churches are honest, too often this desire for young families is a desire to add fresh vitality to the church.
Let me suggest a radical new approach. If your church would really like to attract young families, how about looking for ways in which you can serve those families in your community.
There are probably young families in your town who are alone. They are away from their extended families and don’t have a lot of people who can offer a helping hand when things get a little bit hectic.
I realize that this is radical.
Don’t look for families who will come to you and serve you.
Look for families to whom you can go and serve them.
What might this look like?
This isn’t a definitive list. Just some ideas that you might be able to use.
- babysit their children one night a week and let them have a night out
- act as substitute grandparents if their grandparents live far away
- help the young mother with some aspect of house cleaning if her children are very young
- invite the whole family over for a meal
- phone the mother up to see how she is doing
Be creative. There are probably dozens of ideas that you could implement if a few seniors put their minds together.
If you want to reach young families, show Christian love through serving.
My grandparents had all died by the time that I was in my mid-teens. One of my grandmothers died ten years before I was born. I have always felt a little cheated because my grandparents didn’t play a bigger role in my life.
Maybe that is the reason why I think that there is a place for seniors who will fill that role in families that don’t have grandparents living close by. I can’t help but wonder what might happen if a group of seniors went looking for young families whom they could serve.
It’s all about being yourself
If you are a church made up mostly of senior citizens, that is who you are. It is highly unlikely that that is going to change over night.
My advice to any church in that situation would be to be the best church of seniors that you can possibly be. You can do that by looking for creative ways in which you can use your special skills and experience to serve young families and in doing so you just might find that some of those families become part of your church community.
If what you have been doing isn’t working, it is time to try something else.