The church is an organization that exists for those not yet in it.
The very reason for the church is to connect with people, preach the gospel, and be the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
The single largest organization on the planet is by far the Christian Church with approximately three billion of the world’s seven billion people. Some of the world’s largest organizations don’t even come close to reaching those numbers. As an example, the largest organization in the US, The United States Dept of Defense, employs 3.2 million. An impressive 2.1 million people work for Walmart, and 1.9 million work for Mcdonald’s, all a drop in the bucket, even combined, to the number of people working in the church. Even the world’s largest religions are billions of people behind in numbers.
In the church, every age is represented and every person is important. But one crucial aspect of the ongoing strength of the church is the ministry we have with the next generation. We must nurture, call, invite, equip, and invest in children and students. It’s the call of every believer to pass on the faith and to be a witness.
Indeed, the church must fight for the next generation. We’re fighting against schedules, against apathy, and against culture. We fight for connection, engagement, discipleship and commitment.
There should be no excuses. The church, living in power through Jesus, should do all it can to reach out and connect with the next generation.
Here are seven ideas of what fighting hard looks like for local churches:
Make room in the church, make room in your hearts, make room in the schedule, and make room for ministry to families and kids in the community. Before you even get to thinking about physical space in the church building, make room in your hearts for the next generation. Your church is called to raise up disciples – and you need to grow in passion to reach out to the next generation. Then begin to take on the infrastructure. Do your best to make the nursery ultra-safe and amazing. Make the children’s ministry area enticing. As far as middle and high school students, don’t get too worried about a room; one philosophy might be that the whole church building can be used to minister to them, especially if they are meeting another time besides Sunday mornings. One thing our church did was to stop the Wednesday evening worship (which had been meeting for decades) and the youth began meeting in the Sanctuary on Wednesday evenings. We don’t have one specific “youth room” in our facility. I think youth rooms are cool, and I’ve seen some great ones, but don’t stress out if you don’t have a space; just use the whole building to meet with and minister to students. Make room in worship for a little more chaos as families, children and teens connect and engage.
Extend invitations to students and families. Every church can invite. I was recently part of a country church where two people in their 50s joked that they “were the youth group.” About two weeks before that experience, Harvest was leading music for an event at a church with 300-grade school kids. The spectrum is wide – but both can reach out to kids and young families. Confidently invite. Set up a special event. Have worship under a tent outdoors some morning. Give away something free some Sunday morning. Have a one-day Bible School or child care day. Volunteer to be hall monitors or cross guards for the local school once a week and get to know kids and families. Build a culture for your church to invite people of all ages to worship and to participate. Begin an after-school program. This can be the first Wednesday of each month or as often as once a week. Have some snacks, call in a program of some kind, and connect with kids. Go big on social media. Use any school connections you have to invite kids to a sports event at church or another special event. Teach your people how to engage confidently with friends and neighbors. Inviting someone can be as natural as other chit-chat you have while waiting for ball practice to end on a Tuesday evening. Get focused on reaching out!
You must fund ministry to the next generation. I realize kids aren’t usually the “big givers” in church but ministry to and with them must be supported. To the degree you are funding the ministry you will see some fruit and success (however, there may be times when you bump against a wall with staffing or other issues – figure those things out quickly). Typically, a student/child will “cost” an average of about $800 to $1000 per year (taking the expenses paid to youth workers, budget for trips, etc, and then dividing that out by the number of active students). Too often, we feel like the action is in “big church” when in reality, most people who choose to follow Christ and start a new faith are below the age of 18. Dwight Moody once said, “If I had it to do all over again, I would work strictly with children.” We must be sure ministry to the next generation is funded well.
To the church that has some money ready but no students, pray for ways to invest. Set up a fall event each year where you supply things for kids for school. Host something like a breakfast at school, buy donuts for everyone, be sure the pastor is there and connect with students. Think of ways to invest. To the church that is having trouble raising funds for student ministry – here are some tips.
Build a Structure (For Kids, Students, and Families)
What kind of avenue is your church creating for kids, students, and families to connect? You may need to create some spaces for people to know there is a place for them. Other ministry situations may need to consolidate and focus on what they have going – there’s too much happening. The structure might be as simple as children’s message or children’s worship. But it might be more complex, like making sure there is a good check-in process for Sunday School or Children’s Ministry. Parents feel best when they know the details – in fact, without a conscientious effort to make things excellent, most families will begin to shy away. Get the structure in place and then make sure it’s well documented and known by all. Good organization and communication are key to effective ministry.
Secure and Equip Good Leaders
We need leaders to reach students. The leaders help the church minister to the next generation. Who is leading the way in your church? Whether it’s volunteer, part-time or full-time, keep growing your leadership. Here are Five Ways Senior Pastors Make A Difference In Student Ministry. If you are looking for a youth worker for your church, here are some ideas about where to find someone. We’re Hiring A Youth Worker! Where Do We Look? If you are a church staff leader (in student ministry, children’s ministry, or family ministry), part of your job is to allocate 20-25% of your time to the building of adult leaders. You must become intentional about helping people get involved, growing them in leadership, and building a team to serve and minister with you.
Start Where You Are (And Work With Those Who Respond)
If you have only a handful of teens, then begin there. If you only have one or two families, that’s where you start. If you have a group of 40 students but want to grow, you still begin right where you are – and reach out. Minister to those who respond – keep inviting – but be faithful in connection and ministry to kids who are there. You can’t force people to be connected, but you can be ready to be faithful as they begin to show interest.
The church should be on its knees praying for the children, students, and families, in our communities. Some things can only happen through prayer. Print something about praying for the next generation in every Sunday morning bulletin. Pray during meetings. Invite the prayer team to pray for the next generation. Get a list of everyone in your church under 18, divide up those names and pray for all of them as a congregation. Pray for students in your community to discover and follow Christ. Pray for them to respond to God’s call. Pray for the needs of students. Pray for revival in this generation!
The word “fight” in the title of this post may seem a little strong – until you begin reading through the list. Life isn’t easy these days for children, students, and families, and for the church as we try and reach out. But we must continue to figure out ways to connect and minister. Offer them Christ! Keep up the good and hard work. It’s worth it.
If Harvest can be of help to you, please connect with us!
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