Curious about the true power and effect of children’s ministry’s impact on your church growth? Look no further—we’ve got exclusive, hot-off-the-presses research that’ll rechart your thinking.
Any advocate of children’s ministry can attest to the value of good programs, people, and support in a child’s life. But so often, children’s ministry is viewed as a background ministry…not a core function of the church. This can have substantial impact on your ministry in terms of budget, staffing, and flat-out respect. If decision-makers in your church believe that children’s ministry is of no or little import in your church, then that translates to low budgets, struggling programs, and discouragement.
Things don’t have to be like this. In an effort to uncover the true impact of your ministry, Children’s Ministry Magazine dug deep into the influence and effects of children’s ministry. In research with nearly 600 churches and families, we uncovered some eye-opening information.
We’re happy to report that our research unmasked some of the most vexing misconceptions that have plagued children’s ministry. For years we’ve heard children’s ministers struggle against obstacles such as:
Our church thinks children’s ministry is really just babysitting.
We have no budget because the church doesn’t believe our area is a key focus of the church.
Our ministry is an afterthought—rarely acknowledged or even noticed by other ministry areas.
Children’s ministers aren’t viewed as “real” leaders in the church; we often aren’t paid like other staff members or our role is diminished in other ways.
Our church leadership—and therefore the congregation—doesn’t see the value of children’s ministry.
These are tough obstacles to overcome, indeed. And people in the trenches of children’s ministry know just how damaging such views can be to the health of a program and the people working hard to deliver it. That’s why several findings from the research are so heartening: The truth is that the families in your ministries see the value and importance of your programs, and the result is their very tangible impact on churches. Let’s take a look at the research.
FINDING #1: Children’s ministry is a major conduit for getting families involved in ministry.
Families in our survey indicated that they’re tuned in to the presence and role of the children’s ministry. They also assess it as a high-value ministry, with 76% stating that children’s ministry plays a key role in their church. Not only does the children’s ministry get kids involved in church, but it’s also a significant influencer in getting parents involved in ministry, too.
Children’s minister and author Henry Zonio resonates with this finding: “When it comes to impact of children’s ministry on the overall church, I’d like to believe that in the churches I’ve been part of that the children’s ministries helped create a culture that elevated the importance of children and families in the over-all church body,” he says. “I also hope that a culture emerged (and I believe it did) where church became less of a social club or a detached organization and more of a family.”
Consider these remarkable stats—and how your ministry can serve as a gateway to getting parents involved in the overall church for healthy church growth.
■ 65% of parents say they’re regularly involved in the ministry as volunteers who help out monthly or weekly.
■ 20% say they’re occasionally involved and may help out during special events and programs when asked to.
■ 12% say they’re moderately involved, and they typically help out with special events and programs or as fill-in teachers.
■ Just 3% say they’re not involved in ministry at all.
FINDING #2: Families with kids in the children’s ministry are some of the most active and committed members in a church.
When we looked at the characteristics of families, three significant characteristics stood out: long-term commitment, financial investment in the church, and loyalty to the ministry. We found that 52% of families have been members of their current church for 10 years or more. In addition, 57% of the families surveyed said they tithe weekly and 24% say they give financial support when they can. Sixty-three percent of families said their financial support of the church has increased since they began attending.
The families also indicated a strong attachment to the children’s ministry, with 62% saying the ministry is very important to whether they’ll remain involved in their current church. In a nutshell, these statistics show that families with kids in the children’s ministry are more likely to be committed, loyal, financially supportive participants in a church.
LENGTH OF MEMBERSHIP
- 52% of families have been members of their current church for 10 years or more.
- 7% have been members for 8 to 10 years.
- 13% have been members for 6 to 7 years.
- 10% have been members for 4 to 5 years.
- 10% have been members for 2 to 3 years.
- 3% have been members for 1 year.
- 6% have been members for less than 1 year.
■ 57% of families say they tithe weekly.
■ 24% say they give financial support when they can.
■ 13% say they give through other avenues in addition to or aside from the church.
■ 6% say they aren’t able to financially support the church.
■ 63% say their giving has increased since they began attending the church.
■ 26% say their giving has stayed the same.
■ 11% say their giving has decreased since they began attending.
FINDING #3: A healthy children’s ministry attracts families to your church.
“We have a lot of parents who say they chose our church for what it has to offer their kids,” says Pamela Hudson, volunteer coordinator at Christ Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Kids a lot of the time lead their parents to a church. God uses children’s ministry to minister to the whole family; a quality kids experience will help the church grow.”
Most families agree with Hudson. Our research revealed that families place a premium on their kids’ children’s ministry experience. The majority (66%) said the children’s ministry program was “very important” in their overall consideration when they chose their current church. Your children’s ministry is a growth engine for church growth. Parents also ranked “the children’s ministry” as the third most important reason they joined their current church—only marginally behind “the church’s emphases” and “preaching.”
We asked: “How important is the children’s ministry in whether you remain involved in your current church?”
■ 62% said it’s very important.
■ 25% said it’s moderately important.
■ 13% said it’s slightly important.
FINDING #4: An unhealthy or declining children’s ministry program may result in families leaving a church.
A weak children’s ministry impacts church growth. Make no mistake: The quality and health of a children’s ministry program strongly influences families’ views on staying—or leaving—their church. The majority (69%) said that if their current church didn’t have a strong children’s ministry program, they would’ve had second thoughts about joining in the first place. Sixty-one percent said that if the current children’s ministry program ever diminished or died, it would definitely influence their decision to stay at the church.
A whopping 66% of parents said the children’s ministry was a very important factor in whether they’d stay at the church, and another 24% said it was moderately important.
“These findings underscore how important children are to families—so important, in fact, that parents will sacrifice other priorities to ensure that their children have positive, nurturing experiences in their faith community,” says Gene Roehlkepartain, president and CEO of Search Institute. “I would expect that if we dug a bit deeper, we’d find that a key factor in whether parents believed their church has a strong children’s ministry would be the ways that churches reach, support, and nurture both children and their families. Parents welcome partners in helping their children develop in their faith and in their lives.”
ON SAYING GOODBYE
We asked families how they’d feel about leaving their current children’s ministry.
- 40% said they’d feel a personal sense of loss and would only leave if there were no alternative.
- 32% said they’d be concerned about finding a children’s ministry that was comparable in quality and benefits.
- 16% said they’d feel bad for their kids leaving behind friends.
- 8% said they would have mixed emotions.
- 4% said they wouldn’t feel anything at all about leaving that particular children’s ministry.
FINDING #5: Parents say children’s ministry makes a positive impact in their child’s life.
As we delved into children’s ministry’s impact in kids’ day-to-day lives, parents had positive things to report. Forty-six percent said they frequently participate in the children’s ministry activities and their kids look forward to and typically attend programs and events. They also said they were mostly aware of what’s happening in the ministry. Forty-one percent said the ministry is a central component in their family’s discussions, planning, and activities and that their family is very aware of what’s going on in the ministry. When parents ranked the three greatest benefits their current children’s ministry offers, by far the number one benefit was this: “It helps my kids develop a personal, growing faith.”
Three other closely ranked benefits were:
• “It gives my kids the tools to deal with real life from a Christian perspective.”
• “It gives my kids exposure to positive Christian role models through the volunteers and staff.”
• “It educates my kids on the tenets and beliefs of the Christian faith.”
Parents said the two most important attributes they want their children to leave the children’s ministry with are:
1. A personal relationship with God.
2. A strong faith foundation.
By parents’ estimation, children’s ministries are delivering on those attributes: 58% of parents said their ministry does a good job, followed by 28% who said the ministry was delivering with excellence.
FINDING #6: Parents say children’s ministry has changed their family’s behavior at home.
Here’s some news that may pleasantly surprise you. All those take-home papers, newsletters, emails, and projects don’t go completely unnoticed by parents!
Overall, 60% of families told us that the ministry has impacted them moderately or somewhat and that they have done some or many of the at-home activities suggested by the ministry. Another 20% said the ministry has impacted their family significantly and that they regularly incorporate ministry suggestions into their family life. (Side note: 63% of parents described their relationship with their children’s minister as close, saying, “We have a very good relationship. I have or would feel comfortable asking for advice on issues with my child.”)
It’s likely you’ve intuitively felt confident about some of the information uncovered in this study…but then again, maybe you didn’t. Now you know. Now you’re armed with great stats on the importance of what you and your team do day in and day out. Now you know that the families you serve not only deeply value what you do, but they also view you with a steadfast loyalty and dedication that, until now, you may not have realized.
There truly is no higher calling than children’s ministry. You know it, and your families know it. Now spread the word!
Jennifer Hooks is managing editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.
Is your church experiencing healthy church growth? Why not ask these same questions in with your congregation. Download a copy of the survey for use in your own church.
ABOUT THE SURVEY
Children’s Ministry Magazine surveyed 586 churches and families who attend those churches regarding the role children’s ministry plays in their church experience. Participants represent areas all over the United States, but the large majority comes from suburban areas (55%), followed by rural areas (24%) and urban areas (21%). There were numerous denominations represented in the study.