Lost in Transition – or Not?
by David Goodwin
~$25 at Koorong
If you knew for sure that 50% of your church membership would leave in the next 15 years and not go to any other church, what would you do? Something similar is happening in churches across Australia, but not with adult church members, with kids. The fact is, we know statistically, that a full half of the kids who are raised in churches, will leave before they reach adulthood, and won’t come back.
There are thousands of kids in our churches now who will soon be gone forever. It’s a fact. Look around on Sunday morning. Every second child will be a stranger to church 20 years from now. But there is now good news. Research has unearthed at least some of the factors that increase the chances of those kids staying.
David Goodwin’s recently published book Lost in Transition – Or Not? shares some very specific findings based on his 2012 Australian work for his Masters of Ministry. Here are just a few of them.
Children who attend all, or part, of the adult service on a regular basis are twice as likely to make a successful transition to adult church.
Adult church members who ignore children, or have mainly negative contact with them, are likely to be contributing to their decision to leave church.
There are positive effects when children and young people are able to participate in the adult service in a genuine way.
Children benefit from meeting church members in inter-generational settings outside the
Sunday services such as church social events.
If children enjoy their time in Children’s Ministry, they are more likely to continue to adult
These facts shout that church leaders must be aware of, and interested in, what happens in Kids Ministry. Also, what happens in church needs to be planned with everyone in mind, including the kids. If research shows that kids who are regularly in for at least part of the service are twice as likely to make a successful transition to adult church, can we afford not to include kids in our services? If kids who enjoy their time in kids ministry are more likely to continue into adult membership, church leaders need to make sure that children are having a positive experience in the kids program. They need to take an active role in ensuring that the best volunteers are involved and that those volunteers are prayed for, encouraged and supported to attend conferences and seminars to grow their skills.
Lost in Transition – Or Not? is just 64 pages and includes 30 very specific recommendations, all of which pastors and leadership teams should familiarise themselves with, but the following seven cover it broadly.
1. Ministry to children needs to be given greater priority in our churches.
2. Children need to be included by the adult members of the church and be given meaningful involvement in church services.
3. Churches need a viable youth group where children are encouraged to attend.
4. Faith development needs to be a strong focus in how and what children are taught.
5. Children need to be better prepared for challenges to their faith that will inevitably come.
6. Children benefit from Christian activities in addition to church services.
7. Churches need to strategise to make transitioning an easy progression.
So the ball’s in our court. We know the results of what we’re doing now. What will we do
differently to ensure that half our kids aren’t lost forever?
Lost in Transition – Or Not? can be ordered via firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phoning 1800 082 106 $24.94
David Goodwin has been in various leadership positions in children’s ministry for 40 years.
He is an ordained pastor with the CRC Churches in Australia. His home church is the Wesley International Congregation in Sydney NSW. This book was written as the result of his PhD studies.
Book review by Sally Smith, Children and Families Coordinator, Baptist Churches NSW and ACT