Sunday School is Closed!

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Thanks to Covid 19 Sunday School in most churches is closed and so are various types of kids ministries around the world. Every nation is being impacted. So what affect is this going to have on our kids long term and where do we go from here?

At this moment we are now in our sixth month of complete and partial shutdowns because of Covid 19. Sixth!!! What????? No one dreamed it would drag out this long and we’re still not sure what the end game is going to look like or when it’s going to be over. There are some who have suggested that church as we’ve known may never be the same again, that there are some changes that might be permanent. Others have suggested we’re going to have to start all over again and completely re-think kids ministry going forward!

Kids Out for a Year

I recently read an article that really challenged my thinking about the long-term effects on children and children’s ministry due to Covid 19. First, we should note that while a lot of churches started opening again for the adults, kids services in a huge number of places have remained shut down and, in some cases,, they don’t plan on reopening again until 2021. One kids pastor wrote me on Facebook and said, “I’m in San Francisco, it’s possible we are not going to open until a year from now, and that’s just for the adults, so who knows for kids.” Are you serious? Kids won’t be able to go to church again for a year? Don’t try tell me that won’t have long term spiritual repercussions on these children. Talk about a strategy from the enemy to steal a generation!!!

Parents, I hope you’re listening to this, because it means you are going to have to seriously step up to the plate and make up the difference in your home! You are now the kids pastor! So, act like it! There’s no way your kids are going to survive spiritually healthy if they can’t go to church and you are not teaching them in the home! So, if it doesn’t bother you that your kids will walk away from god and the church when they become teenagers, just keep on selfishly feeding yourself and ignoring the spiritual growth and development of your kids. You need to feed them spiritually to the same degree-time wise and financially—like you do yourself.

Disciple Your Kids

Are you going watch some Christian conference online? Then find something significant for your kids to watch as well, and make sure they do it. Make it a family event. Are you spending money on Christian books and videos and other Christian material? Then invest an equal amount of money on Christian books, videos etc. for your kids. Are you reading your Bible every day? Then make sure your kids do the same. Talk to your kids everyday about the lord and the bible. Get your head out of the sand and realize, at least for now Sunday School is closed and your kids spiritual growth is up to you!

Wow! Becky you sound upset! You know what? I am upset because I am just flabbergasted at how many Christian parents are just out to lunch when it comes to passionately taking charge of the spiritual growth and development of their children. Long gone are the days when taking your kids to Sunday School once a week would guarantee they would grow up to be Christians. Dr. James Dobson has said, “the greatest delusion of Christian parents is to assume their children will grow up to be Christians just because they are.”

A Reality Check for Christian Parents

Real statistics tell us less that only one in ten Christian parents ever pray with their children once a week, less than one in ten ever read the bible with their kids on a weekly basis, and less than one in twenty every have a worship experience with their kids regularly in the home.

Here’s a scary fact – the Barna research group just released a statement this week that nearly two-thirds of U.S.A. 18–29-year-olds who grew up in church told Barna they have withdrawn completely from church involvement. And that was before the pandemic when traditional means of ministry was still possible. And while that is not the same group as our kids who are 12 and under, it’s a trend we can’t ignore because our kids age out of kids ministry faster than you can blink an eye. If our kids lose that personal one-on-one connection now with real people at church, it will be that much easier for them to disconnect from an impersonal church as they get older. You think oh, but things will be back to normal by then? Will they now….?

So while churches decided not to do kids ministry because “you can’t make kids do social distancing” or their states or countries forbid them to do it, the immediate logical reaction was, well, we’ll just start putting our kids sermons on video and post them on the internet and we’ll minister to the kids that way.

Videos Are Not the Answer

But the reality of that was, in many cases the parents watched the videos more than their kids did. Once it became apparent that being trapped in our homes meant there was nothing to do but watch tv and your smartphones, and kids even had to do their school classes online, about the last thing kids wanted to do was watch one more thing in the internet!

Plus, unless you belonged to a big church with a big media budget and manpower, small churches just could not compete quality wise. And kids today are accustomed to quality. And when video makers looked honestly at the stats of how many viewers they had, almost nobody was watching their kids videos longer than 10 to 60 seconds! So, the stats might show 1,000 tuned in, maybe only 20 or 30 actually watched the whole thing. So “E” for effort, but this is not a long-term solution for discipling kids! Nothing can replace that human personal touch, not even zoom!

As I mentioned, I read an article this week by pastor Sam Luce, who has been the pastor at Redeemer Church in Utica NY for the past 21 years. 14 of those years he served as the children’s pastor. His article was considering what was happening in their multiple church campuses as a result of Covid 19. He wrote “in times of prolonged uncertainty people don’t want a new normal. They don’t want digital everything. They want the comfort of old truth.”

I agree. For kids familiarity with everything is extremely important and very comforting in unsettling times like we’re experiencing now. This whole Covid thing has turned everybody’s world upside down, especially theirs.

Only 10% Have Returned

Pastor Sam disclosed the frightening truth that in his main campus in NY only about 10% of their kids have came back since services have resumed, and only 10% of their volunteers have returned. He went on to say there are lots of legitimate reasons for this. Many in isolation have reevaluated priories and have moved elsewhere to be closer to family, some are still scarred by the daily barrage of media, still, others are waiting for a cure to Covid before they assemble again. It’s just shocking the amount of fear people have given into – people refusing to leave their homes!

He mentioned that their church went immediately to zoom meetings and videos for kids and youth too and it was okay for a season. But he too felt this was not a long-term solution. This is when he said, “i think the reality is that we’re going to need to just start over!”

Wow! That’s a heavy thought. And what did he mean by that? Pastor Sam listed a few things that in his opinion are going to need to change in the average church to overcome this once in a life-time shake up.

Starting Over

#1 – he says in the past there has been an over abundant focus on excellence in kids and youth environments (that is facilities, equipment, décor, etc.) at the expense of not enough on how to create lifelong followers of Christ. He said going forward it’s the later- making lifelong followers of Christ – that need to consume our thoughts and drive our budgets.

The Barna research group wrote “With the best of intentions we bubble wrap our kids and create Disney world like environments for them in our church, and then wonder why they have no resilience in faith or life. Students are entertained but not prepared. They’ve had a lot of fun but are not ready to lead.”

#2 – I personally have never been on staff at a large megachurch. The churches’ I’ve been a part of were between 200 to 300 people. So I can’t speak into what Pastor Sam mentions next. But he says we are going to have operate more like a small church rather than a megachurch in our children’s ministries. And this was fascinating – he said our bigger campuses have a return rate of 10% but at our smaller campus kids are coming back at rates like 80%.

Small Churches Are Best Right Now

It seems like for the moment people are more comfortable in smaller environments than they are in larger ones. In his experience we smaller churches have tended to look at the kids ministry experts from the largest churches in America for direction. And many of these people are amazing leaders. But our solution going forward does not seem to be bigger and better but intimate and intentional.

So smaller churches, this should be extremely encouraging to you! You now have the greater advantage of being able to provide closer, more personal, intimate environments that people are hungering for right now. Smaller churches. This is your moment to shine!

#3 – Small groups are going to be more important than ever! Small group leaders are going to have to get to know their kids better. When difficulty hits it’s the small group leaders that know their kids well who are going to be better equipped to reach out to hurting families. There is going to be a need to create opportunities for them to connect more intentionally with parents and look at their small group as a little church within the church and not just as childcare during the service. Pastor Sam says we are going to need a better structure for coaching small group leaders to spiritually direct kids rather than to simply disseminate religious information to children. In other words, relationship is going to make all the difference in the world. More of us are going to have to do what Bill Wilson of side-walk Sunday Schools trains his leaders to do – literally visit the home of every child once a week to get to know them better and build meaningful relationships.

We Need Biblical Depth

#4 – Pastor Sam wrote something we’ve been saying in our ministry for years – that our preaching and teaching to kids needs to be more biblically driven and less topically driven. And I couldn’t agree more! In fact, this has been a driving theme in our ministry since we started in 2001. In most kids ministries (Mom and Dad, you need to know this) we have not been giving our kids spiritual meat. We’ve just given them a constant diet of repetitive Bible stories until they hit their teens and feel like they know everything there is to know about God and the Bible, and they have no more need of going to church! It’s actually a statistical fact, not my opinion.

Our kids need to know what the Bible is all about. They need to know how to defend their faith. They need to know something besides the armor of God because as important as that is, it actually does not help them to intellectually defend their faith when they are standing in front to atheistic Marxist teachers and professors! Discipleship is not telling kids one more Bible story! They need to know the Bible is true and how they can know for sure! Honestly, we’ve been a little lazy in kids ministry with what we’ve been feeding kids for decades! We’ve had creativity on steroids! But creativity does not keep them connected to God. Kids cannot live on Bible stories alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Pastor Sam so rightly says kids need spiritual fathers and mothers in the faith to proclaim biblical truth far more than they need cool older brothers and sisters to hang out with. And it’s true—if our kids’ lives are going to be transformed by the power of the gospel, we have to have both a strong biblical approach in addition to great relationships.

Going Forward

Going forward during and after Covid 19 may involve a little bit of going backwards to simpler less complicated days. This is a great time to re-evaluate our approach to ministry, our motivation in ministry, and ultimately what the fruit of our ministry should look at. What are the spiritual goals you have for the children in your home and in your church, and what is your strategy to get there?

Church, we’re in this thing together. Covid 19 didn’t take God by surprise, and he’s got a plan to help us navigate this new era. But we’re going to have to do our part to listen to his voice and adjust to the new normal.

Thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and share this teaching with your friends. Till next week let’s keep praying for our kids to be overcomers in Christ Jesus!

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