Expert tips from a church that's effectively reaching
Joe and Marsha had searched for a new home church for five months.
When they visited our church, umbrella-toting ushers greeted them
in the parking lot. Once they entered our building, they looked at
our maps and a classroom directory posted with grade and room
locations to find their kids' room. Then our children's department
ushers guided them to their classroom. A classroom assistant
greeted each child.
Immediately, the children got involved in a group game. Through
a series of activities and a discussion, kids discovered how God
directs people. Soon the musicians arrived with guitars and a
keyboard to lead a children's worship service, with music from Amy
Grant to the Donut Man.
By the time class was over, the two children didn't want to
leave. On the drive home, the children excitedly chattered about
their experience and wanting to return. Joe and Marsha were so
excited about their children's response that they turned the car
around and headed back for our church. That's when I heard their
Dozens of similar stories exist at our church-all from parents
looking for something to give their kids significance and meaning.
Who are these baby boomer parents? What makes today's families so
unique? And how do we meet their expectations?
The boomer family is returning to the church, and its needs are
different from its parents' generation. The boomer family is very
complex: divorced, single parent, remarried, blended. Moms' and
dads' roles have changed drastically. Today's parents have moved
from a laissez-faire parenting style to a very protective style, no
doubt because, for the boomer, children are the most prized
Boomer parents want to know if your church is ready to care for
their precious treasures. If the boomers are going to stick around,
then your church had better invest a great deal of energy into
their children. You can meet boomers' expectations through
appropriate staffing, training, programming, cutting-edge methods,
*Staffing-Boomer parents feel more comfortable leaving
their children with more than one adult in a classroom, so more
staff are required. And your staff must be trained in Christian
education and know the difference between teaching and learning.
Your staff must demonstrate a deep desire to love and teach kids
and possess cutting-edge methods to do so.
We staff our children's ministry with teams of teachers.
Developing teams with a passion for kids is an important step in
reaching boomers and their children. Team members have far more
care to extend than an individual does. They're able to care for
one another also.
In your teaching teams, give each teacher a specific role such
as greeter, small group discussion leader, transitional activity
leader, special event coordinator, and crafts leader. Our classes
with teaching teams are our fastest growing in attendance. They
also have the fastest growing volunteer crew! Our fourth-grade team
began with 10 teachers and assistants for three services. This team
has now grown to 21 and shows no signs of slowing. These team
teachers are committed to each other and to the children.
*Training-We train our teachers and assistants through
regular training sessions called Focus. These small Focus meetings
are by invitation only, and lunch is provided. We focus our
training on the context of our church's vision. The volunteers see
how they specifically fit into the vision and are able to measure
*Programming-Create, create, create! Boomers expect new
and highly creative activities for their children. But they also
want the traditional programs they had when growing up, such as
VBS, the Christmas musical, and the Easter pageant. Adjust these
programs to today's family. Boomer parents want great programs, but
they still desire simple things for their children.
*Cutting-edge methods-Focus on learning rather than on
teaching. Too often we think that if we have a teacher telling
stories, learning must be taking place. Take a closer look and
evaluate with a critical eye. Are kids "getting it"?
Transform your classrooms with active learning and interactive
learning. These methods are sensitive to a variety of learning
styles. The advantage of active and interactive learning is that
all learners participate equally. No one is disqualified because he
or she may learn in a nontraditional manner.
*Facilities-Today's moms and dads expect something
better from the church than they perhaps experienced during their
childhood, and well they should! Are your facilities ready for the
boomers and their children? How do your classrooms look, smell,
feel, and sound? The very walls of the children's department should
express a genuine interest in children. The children's department
especially should have a child-friendly atmosphere. Visually appeal
to children with murals, decor, a festive environment, and
cleanliness. Provide bright lighting with lots of windows for
THE BOOMLET'S ROLE
In the past, the parents brought kids to church, to choir, to
Bible club, and eventually mom and dad ushered their child to
Christ. But the reverse is happening with this generation of
boomers. Children are bringing their parents.
Design special events that kids can bring their parents to. One
of our most successful programs was our Thanksgiving celebration.
We held it outdoors during a mildly cool evening under the stars
around a big bonfire. The kids were encouraged to invite their
friends and family members-churched and unchurched-to this outdoor
celebration. We enjoyed live music, storytelling, skits, a
Thanksgiving snack, and a Bear Hunt. Through word-of-mouth and a
few fliers, our turnout was triple our average attendance.
Weeks after the event, I met Paul and Jill. Their daughter
Rachel had been a guest and a first-time visitor at our special
event. Rachel had begged the family to come back, and finally Mom
and Dad couldn't take it anymore! We met on their third consecutive
Sunday, and Paul had just made a commitment to Jesus during the
service! Paul wanted to meet someone from the children's department
to express his thanks. He realized that Rachel's first-time
experience was what caused them to return as a family and
eventually to discover Jesus.
"A little child shall lead them" is true with the boomer
generation. Boomer parents evaluate the church by how much it
values their children. How much would boomer parents say your
church thinks a child is worth?
Sharyn Spradlin is a Christian education director in
READ ABOUT IT
For more information, check out:
The Baby Boomerang by Doug Murren (Regal Books).