There is a lot of concern today in most religious denominations about shrinking membership, with the age demographic of congregations on the plus side of 50. How can we attract young families? Is it possible we are missing the “fishers of people” boat by overlooking some obvious answers?
I have some ideas that just might bait them like never before.
- Offer naptime for parents. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Let’s convert those empty nurseries and Sunday School rooms into a parental flophouse where they can take power-naps during the service. How can people focus on matters of the spirit when their eyes can’t focus for lack of sleep?
- Exemption from committees. Along with offering them a blanket and a pillow at the door, let’s give them a free pass on committee assignments. They are exhausted, so overcome the temptation to salivate, while you size up their ‘gifts and talents.’ Maybe with this new relaxed approach, they will be willing to serve in the future just because they want to.
- Allow children in the worship service. With the nursery full of sacked out parents this will be a natural consequence. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Many congregations could do with some livening up, and children need to learn how to worship with the flock, developing skills that will carry over into adulthood.
- Babysitting outreach. If we are sincere about strengthening the family unit, we need to offer free babysitting so parents can have a night out. How many churchgoing grandparents would enjoy some time with young ones, especially if their grandchildren live far away?
- Lose the praise band. I know this hits a nerve since some churches consider the praise band as sacred as the sacraments, but it has to go. Families are bombarded with booming video games, talking toys, and sibling rivalry, so the last thing they need is cymbals during worship. Let’s get back to some solid Charles Wesley hymns accompanied by piano with four-part harmony, and a timeless message.
- Relax the dress code. Why should the choir be the only ones to wear jeans and a stained t-shirt securely hidden under the Christian Kilt, aka the Choir Robe? Let’s not judge families for showing up in sweatpants, or even pajamas. The effort of showing up in clothes proves their commitment.
- Budget for paid attendees. Temporarily pay some young families to attend your church. This way when new families come through the door they will see other members of their age group, which will immediately set them at ease. I predict that once they taste and see that the Lord is good, the “families for hire” will keep coming back even after their stipend expires.
- Foster a culture of acceptance. Role play with the congregation to help them replace judgmental phrases like, “Where have you been? We haven’t seen you in months!” to “How nice to see you today!”
By following these suggestions I believe we can darken up the hair color of our congregations without mandatory use of Clairol, and make churchgoing a meaningful and beloved tradition for future generations.
What ideas can you add to this list?