Summer is always a fun time for kids. They search for that “ah ha” moment that will be the pinnacle of their summer. For some, it’s meeting Mickey Mouse, while for others, it’s playing in the sand and seeing the ocean for the first time. These incredible summer memories will be told to countless friends come the beginning of school. The one thing these events all have in common is that they involve something kids love, want, and need.
For the fourth year in a row, our small, young, eight-year-old church of 147 total attendees is doing Kidz Blast. Kidz Blast is essentially a Vacation Bible School, but we don’t market it as one. At the end of the week we give away backpacks, school supplies, and haircuts to the kids who registered. The best part is that we are having to increase registration every year for Kidz Blast.
Our church holds tight to the truth that kids are the future of the church. If kids don’t come to church, the church will die and it will be no ones fault but our own. What started several years ago with only 50 kids has turned into cutting off registration at 175 kids this year. I say this not to brag about numbers, but to remind you that each number is a soul that God will have an opportunity to reach. The question is, “how do we get kids to church?” I want to share with you our blueprint for investing into the future of the church.
1. Giving Kids what they love
Let me paint a picture for you. You give a child two options for summer camp. Option 1 includes coloring, songs, crafts and a story. When they walk into the church, they’re in an unfamiliar place, they sit to make a craft and then they eat a snack before singing Father Abraham. Option 2 includes a dance party, extreme water games, nightly prize packs, and hilarious skits. When they walk into this environment, the lights are dimmed and the stage is decorated with colored lights and bright painted boxes. They feel like they’ve entered a concert for kids because the music is loud and sounds like modern pop. They look around to see life size sets of Jenga, Kerplunk, and Connect Four.
Which option would children typically pick? We tried both ways and realized that kids will choose option two every time because it’s what they LOVE! I grew up going to option 1 and loved it, but that was a different time. We can’t expect to reach kids born in the late 2000’s using the same songs and format that was used to reach kids 20 years ago. We don’t change the gospel, we change how we present the gospel.
2. Giving kids what they want
Kids want to be kids! They want to show you a game on their phone, and talk about the newest trend like bottle flipping or fidget spinners. Ultimately, kids just want to be heard. Get on a child’s level when you talk with them because it makes them feel like you’re genuinely engaged and actively listening to them. Play a game of connect 4 or a few set of downs on Madden with them. Ask them what they’re looking forward to doing this week or tell them how much you love their shoes. Every time you come into contact with a kid at your church, take 15-30 seconds to high-five them and ask how their past week was. Be intentional and make time to listen and lift kids up, because that’s what they want.
3. Giving kids what they need
Kids need to know there is a God who can take away the hurt they feel from countless nights crying due to parent’s divorcing. They need to know a God who loves them even when their coach said they were a failure. They need to know a God who won’t abandon them when the brother they were closest to goes to jail again for drug possession. These aren’t hypothetical circumstances, these are situations kids have told me about in their very real lives. Children need God’s unconditional love. We show this unconditional love by having family night with water slides, inflatables, food, backpacks filled with school supplies, lunchboxes, haircuts, and hygiene products for everyone.
God absolutely cherishes kids and I believe we should too. We don’t give our kids and youth ministry hand-me-down items. We give them the best because they deserve the best. I read a quote by Pastor Willie George from Church On The Move in which he said “God has raised us up to take everything we are and everything we have and give it to a new generation.” Ten or fifteen years from now, will there be a new generation in your church or will it just be your generation? When we give kids what they love, they will come to church. When we give kids what they want, they will stay at church, when we give kids what they need, they will be the church.