What Families Need Most From Church

When our church was in the “church plant” stage, we had a total of five children in our midst (three infants, one toddler, and one elementary-school student). Needless to say, building a strong children’s ministry was not a priority for us at that point. But it wasn’t long before our church needed to create a children’s program, and I imagine other church planters may feel similarly overwhelmed as we did by this task.

After all, what do most families with children want to see in the churches they attend? Usually, a strong children’s ministry. And I used to feel this way myself, after I started having kids. I thought that such a ministry would help our kids understand and embrace the Christian faith in a deeper and more tangible way, and that this would be even more important as the years go by.

But I no longer hold this to be a major priority for me and for my family. (And yes, I do still have young children–three boys, 9 years and younger!) Here is why. A study conducted by the Search Institute a number of years ago identified the main factors influencing the faith maturity of children. And the researchers discovered that family religiosity was more powerful than even church involvement. In other words, all that time I was thinking about choosing a church with a strong children’s ministry could have been better spent deepening my own Christian maturity.

The best thing that the church can do for parents, I’ve come to believe, is to help them grow spiritually themselves, and to also encourage them to embrace their calling as the primary spiritual influencers in their kids’ lives. Parents may be tempted to put all of their children’s spiritual development eggs into the church basket, sending them to Sunday school classes while they enjoy their own undisturbed worship and receive what they feel they need out of the Sunday morning service. But the irony is that the best place to help our kids grow spiritually is right inside our own homes.