Why are there no kids in church?
I hear this exact sentence quite regularly from people a few generations above me. “I don’t get it,” they say, “we brought them to church, so why did they never come back?”
This question has driven a lot of churches to do a lot of things. “Maybe church is taking too long, let’s take away weekly communion so we don’t lose their interest.” “Maybe the liturgy and traditional music is too old-hat, let’s just sing a couple praise songs and give a little speech to try to get their attention.” “Maybe we need to teach them these somehow more paraphrased and anachronistic versions of Bible stories by using puppets and cartoons in the service.” After implementing these changes and finding out that they do not work, they’ll say things like “I guess it’s hopeless. Kids have changed.”
This is a false conclusion. Kids can’t change. They *pop* come into this world as an adorable baby who knows less than nothing, and then they’re slowly taught how to live. As a parent, it is your job to teach your offspring how to be people, and anything you don’t explicitly teach them, they will learn by watching you. If they don’t see their father pray, why would they pray? If they don’t see their mother reading scripture, why would they read scripture? If their parents allow them to skip church for a baseball game, why would they think church is more important than sports?
One of the biggest reasons kids aren’t returning to church is because the parents are apathetic towards Christianity. They drag their kids to church for an hour because “That’s what we do on Sunday” and then their lips are sealed in regards to speaking of Christ for the rest of the week. If you want your kids to stay in church, you have to teach them about the faith, leading by example.
Display piety for your kids. Put that proper exegesis of James 2 to work(s)! Learn a better table prayer than “Come, Lord Jesus be our guest” (the Small Catechism has a great assortment of prayers for many occasions like this) and pray it before every meal. Make sure your kids understand why you pray before meals. It’s not a magic good luck ritual, it is a thanksgiving for gifts from God.
Have a short (5 minutes is all it takes) devotion before anyone goes to bed (Higher Things has great devotional books). Ask your kids if they have any questions, and don’t be scared of not knowing the answer, you have a Master of Theology on call 24/7 in your pastor whose job it is to catechize you.
Go to church, explain to your kids that you go to church to receive God’s gifts where He has promised to be: in Word and sacraments. Go to Bible study after church, and send your kids to Sunday School.
Demonstrate to them that the faith is important. Actually read your Bible, if for no other reason than it is the Word of the eternal God almighty, given so that you might come to know His Son Jesus Christ and thus receive eternal life.
If you want your kids to do something when they grow up, you have to do it first.