CHURCH GROWTH (VII)
Factors in Church Growth (4)
There are many congregations today which have very few young people. When a congregation starts to dwindle, often it is left with very few children. Some young people grow up, get married, and move to another area. Others remain in the area but may not be faithful Christians. Sometimes, almost a whole generation of children from a congregation either never obey the gospel or become unfaithful Christians when they leave home. This can have a definite effect later on the number of young people in that church. If these young people had remained faithful and stayed with the congregation, in later years their children and their grandchildren would have perhaps also been there.
With few children, a church is at a great disadvantage in trying to grow. A family with children, for example, may visit looking to place membership. If that congregation has very few (or no) young people the approximate age of their children, the family will often immediately eliminate that church as a place to place membership.
In investing, it is sometimes said that it takes money to make money. Congregations without young people face a similar dilemma, which is it takes children to get children, but how do they get children when they don’t have children? It can be a never-ending cycle.
Having a number of children in a congregation is certainly desirable. When this situation exists, the future of the church would seem to be very bright. Someone once referred to the sound of babies crying in the assembly as music to his ears because it indicated a congregation with a future. Although babies and young children at times may be distracting to others in the assembly, it is a sad situation when no children are present.
What is a congregation to do which has, for whatever the reason, few or even no young people? Is that congregation doomed? It may be unless additional growth can take place. A congregation lacking in young people must begin working on that problem immediately. Consider some avenues to help alleviate this problem.
- Members of the congregation who have grandchildren (who are not already attending services at a sound congregation) should do all they can to bring them to services on a regular basis, even it means making a special trip to get them. These children need to be getting teaching anyway; in addition, their being there can give the congregation a start for getting more young people.
- We should do all that we can to covert people from the community (Mt. 28:18-20; II Tim. 2:2). We should do this anyway, but when we convert people from the area, some of them will have children, and these converts are more likely to place membership with the congregation where they were taught.
- We need to have teachers ready to teach any young people who might visit. If visitors come with children, and if classes don’t exist for every age group, someone needs to be prepared to teach them when they do come. It is very embarrassing for a congregation when parents of young children come as visitors and their children must sit in the adult auditorium class. The chances are the visitors will not return.
- When families visit who have children, members should not approach them with a pessimistic, negative and apologetic type attitude. Emphasize the positives of being a member there, not the negatives.
A congregation with a number of children may not necessarily be as good a situation as it may at first seem for parents contemplating membership. Sadly, the children in some congregations may not be the type of influence parents want their children to associate with. From a character standpoint, they might be better off not being around the children in some congregations. Next, age differences with young people can be very important. A man of 25 might appropriately choose to marry a woman who is 22 years old. But, a teenager of 15 years old will not likely want to “hang around” with a child of 12. The value of having a number of young people attending a particular church may be overestimated by some parents if the congregation does not have children close to the age of their own.
The positive side of few children attending at a particular place is the few who are there will usually get a lot of attention from the congregation. This would also be true in the teaching program of the church. In secular education, small classes are supposed to be better for the children. This is no doubt true with Bible classes, as well. Further, there is much for young people to gain from being around older, wiser people who are often happy to encourage and help them out in a variety of ways.
When people are looking for a congregation, they often ask, “What can this congregation do for me?” Very few will ask, “What can I do for this congregation?” On the other hand, “Does the congregation where I am contemplating placing membership really need me?” is a question, I am afraid, that is seldom asked. Some people like to attend a larger congregation where they can slip in and slip out without really being noticed, where they will not be expected to be very active, and they avoid a congregation where they will be expected to really roll up their sleeves and get to work.
For a young person to attend at a congregation surrounded by a number of other young people who are being raised by godly parents is obviously the best situation. But, this should not be the only factor for parents in choosing a congregation for themselves and their children. Small congregations, even with few children, can have a lot to offer for everyone in the family.