I’m not sure if there is an official definition for “church kids” but I think most local church ministry workers understand.
They are a unique bunch. They most likely have families who are integrally connected to the church. They have been around since they were really young. They know the church building inside and out. They’ve seen the good and the bad.
And in many ways, they are harder to reach than kids who just show up off the street.
Here are some reasons it’s difficult at times to break through with church kids:
- They most often have to be there (for which I’m grateful to the parents who make it a priority).
- They feel like they should know (and many times do know) all the right answers.
- They know how to act in church.
- They look like they have things together.
But, like every teenager, kids growing up in the church also need to be discipled, challenged and loved. They need grace. They need a place to be themselves.
The statistical number of “church kids” who are actively involved in ministry all the way through 12th grade and then drop off from the church is astounding. What is it about the transition to college that makes it so tough on students’ faith? We must do all we can to help grow those kids into faithful disciples.
Here are some ways to minister to church kids:
Challenge Them to Serve and Lead
Ministry is about giving. Most church kids will stay more connected if they have a role, especially as they get older. I have discovered that most of our older students either lead or leave. Those that have some kind of role – large or small – stick around and serve faithfully.
Teach Them Flexibility
Church kids, whether they admit it or not, get caught up in traditions just like other church folk. Help them learn to be flexible. Try new things, invite them to help plan for something new – a new schedule, a new event, a new theme for a season. They also need to experience ministry to others, not like themselves. Help them learn (and experience) ministry that is focused on others, not them.
Let Them Have Their Own Identity
Being a church kid, with the added ingredient of being a preacher’s kid, I’ve had my fair share of conversations that started with, “You should have known better than this – you’ve been around here your whole life….” or “What will your mom or dad think about this if you… ”
Help Them Experience Mission and Ministry
Being connected to the structure of the church won’t do much for anyone in the long haul. Help these students experience mission and ministry – formally and informally. The institution isn’t attractive, but giving your life to the ministry of the Gospel in the name of Jesus is powerfully motivating for students.
Create Space for Outside Relationships
I remember being invited to a weekly breakfast each Wednesday of my sophomore year of high school. During this meeting, with the student ministry leader and four or five other guys, I had a great opportunity for spiritual growth and relationships happening outside of the church building and my family. This could easily happen in home meetings, small groups or others settings too.
Help Them Forge Their Identity in Christ
It’s been said that God has no grandchildren. Every person needs to understand his or her place in the kingdom – as a child of God. A church kid can’t live off the parent’s faith. Help them to make their decision to follow Christ. Additionally, like Timothy who came from a faithful family (2 Timothy 1:5) your testimony doesn’t have to be sensational – it can be as simple and profound as, “I grew up in a Christian home, in the church, and discovered that I wanted to follow Jesus like my parents and my grandparents do. I wanted to be a Christian and to know Jesus.”
Tell stories of faith from older generations
Church kids, like all the other children and students, need to hear the stories of people who were faithful. Stories of their own family members who have helped build the church. Stories of others who grew up in faith and continued following Christ.
Keep them included
It’s easy to assume they should know everything that is going on in the church. We figure their families will tell them or they would just show up either way. Keep them in the loop with special invitations, texts, and connections. When church kids feel included and needed, they can have a huge impact in helping you lead.
Like student ministry and children’s ministry, kids are kids. Everyone is unique and there is no cookie cutter approach. But these ideas might help as you minister to students who you would consider “church kids.”
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