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At the Children’s Pastors Conference last week, I had the opportunity to teach a breakout session on the future of Children’s Ministry, specifically for the year 2025. I enjoyed researching my generation of Millennial parents and both my daughters’ generation, Generation Alpha, those born 2010-2025.

These two groups will make up the children and families who we minister to in 2025, and there is surprisingly a lot we can already know or predict about their future. In the breakout, I gave 5 objectives for effective Children’s Ministry in 2025. You can read the first four objectives in these previous posts:

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3      Part 4

One of the interesting shifts we see in the coming generations centers on diversity. Millennials represent the most diverse generation we have ever seen. According to 2012 census data, 60% of 18 to 29-year-olds are non-Hispanic white. That is down from 70% in previous generations. Additionally, 11% of millennials are born to at least one immigrant parent.

But millennials will not hold the title of “Most Diverse Generation” for long because Generation Alpha represents an even greater shift across the American landscape. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the population of racial or ethnic minority babies was 50.2 percent. This marks a historical change because “minority” children have now become the majority.

Data reports that this shift has already been seeing the U.S. Public Schools. In the 2014-15 school year, minority student enrollment in public schools surpassed that of white students.

It is reported that by the year 2020 (certainly by the year 2025), “non-whites” are expected to become the majority of U.S. children.

This leads to the fifth and final objective:

An effective children’s ministry in the year 2025 will…

Build a Volunteer Team Whose Diversity Mirrors The Community They Reach

The next 10 years will see big changes in what the American family looks like. The community around your church is likely already very diverse. But is that diversity represented on Sunday morning?

If not, be open enough to discuss the reasons why someone might not feel welcome or accepted. Consider the unintentional messages that might deter someone from worshipping with your family. Be bold enough to make changes that will form intentional relationships with those of different race and ethnicity in order to better understand how the Gospel unites us all under the banner of Christ.

And if your church is experiencing a shift in diversity,  praise God for the opportunity to taste of what worshipping in Heaven just might be like!

As I look toward the next 10 years, I see challenges and opportunities. Over the last week, I’ve shared some objectives that I feel children’s ministries should be focused on in order to be effective over the next ten years. You read those posts here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I hesitated to use the work “effective” because it sounds so corporate and might imply that any success in ministry is of our own doing when it is clearly the Holy Spirit. What I mean by effective is that stay focused on preaching the Gospel and finding the places in our community and world where the light of the Gospel has yet to shine as brightly as needed.

I know there will be mission fields around the world whose need for the Gospel will rise to URGENT. But I know in the next 10 years and even now there is one area that is right in our backyard that must be noticed. That area is the community of those living with special needs.

For this reason, I believe an effective children’s ministry in the year 2025 will…

Create environments for Children with Special Needs

Think about these facts…

Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys.

Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S, and it is estimated that almost 2 million individuals in the U.S. are living with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In 2014–15, the number of children and youth ages 3–21 receiving special education services was 6.6 million, or 13% of all public school students.

I’m convinced that one of the most unreached people groups in North America is the special needs community. These stats represent people and families who have not felt like they are welcome or belong in the Church.

Churches are behind the culture in the area of providing resources and creating inclusive environments. But that is changing! Churches are listening to the health community and finding ways to engage children with special needs in a way that is both safe and educational. Churches are putting time and resources into ministries that help kids with special needs to engage in worship and learn the Truth of God’s Word. These ministries also provide resources and respite for parents of kids with special needs.

Over the past 2 years, the special needs ministry of our church, Embrace, has grown exponentially! The staff does an amazing job of reaching families who have been disconnected and showing them that every member of their family has a place to worship and belong. Just this week, they will host a parent training and a family picnic—all on top of having an awesome ministry on Sunday. It’s likely that 50-60 families—who were previously unconnected or marginalized—will be a part of those events this week!

As much as these families need the church, the church really needs them. The church needs to see the unconditional love, the joyful spirit, and the sacrificial service that these families show to one another every single day. If your church is not thinking about how you can minister to those with special needs, I can’t implore you enough to start that conversation. It doesn’t have to be huge, but just begin thinking about what might make them feel more welcomed this coming Sunday.

Here are some great resources on Special Needs Ministry:

The Inclusive Church

Joni and Friends

5 Ways to Start a Special Needs Ministry at Your Church

Or you can leave a comment and I will connect you with a leader from our Special Needs Ministry.

Last week, I shared some thoughts from the breakout I had the opportunity to present at CPC18. The breakout focused on the trends in children’s ministry over the past 10 years, the expectations for the next 10 years, and how children’s ministry can be prepared to reach the parents and kids of 2025.

I broke down the research and trends into five objectives. Here are the first two objectives.

An effective children’s ministry in the year 2025 will…

Focus on Marriage and Parenting Enrichment

Find a Balance between Technology that Engages and Technology that Entertains

You can read about the First Objective and Second Objective here.

As mentioned in Part 2, 88% of millennials have a Facebook profile, and more than half report using the site multiple times per day. The millennial parents are passing this infatuation with connectivity through the digital world is sure to be passed down to their children.

One of the defining influences for Generation Alpha—those born from 2010 to 2025—is the fact that they are born into a fully digital world. Where previous generations clumsily adopted technology as a new part of life, Gen Alphas have known no other way of life.

Companies are already marketing to millennial parents and alpha kids by stocking toy departments with AI toys, WIFI enabled games and iPad cases specifically designed for the grip of toddlers.

This generation will live their entire lives connected and online. They could be the first generation whose smartphone recognizes them more easily than half their friends.

It’s still early, but it’s clear that technology and social media will change the way Generation Alpha interacts with one another and with the world around them. As we think about living in a fully digital age by 2025, we come up with the third objective for effective children’s ministry.

An effective children’s ministry in the year 2025 will…

Provide Real Relationships in a World of Virtual/Augmented Reality

Social media will provide millennial parents and alpha children more friendships than we ever thought possible, but it will also leave them struggling to develop real relationships.

The digital world does not educate us on how to have compassion or empathy. It does not provide us opportunities to practice active listening. Most importantly, it doesn’t give us the chance to see the real person who is hiding behind tweets, pictures and post of their perfect life. Seeing the real person is important because that is the opportunity we all need to speak the Gospel into one another’s lives.

Jesus built His Church upon relationships, and it will continue to grow and thrive on relationships. As we look ahead to 2025, we need to focus on providing opportunities for parents to connect with one another, for children to connect with trusted adults and their peers, and for the body of Christ to fellowship with one another.

If your church does not have a healthy system for discipleship, it’s time to start talking. If they only way you know someone was at church on Sunday was their Facebook check-in, then start thinking about how you can foster more “FaceTime” with real people in real conversations.

I pray that our church would be a place where children walk into the building and are greeted by name by teachers, friends, and the Pastor. I feel the important of this habit now, but I’m afraid it will be even more critical in the next 10 years.

How are you creating opportunities for real relationships within your church?

After leading a breakout on the topic, I wanted to share some of the objectives that I think will help children’s ministries prepare for what ministry might look like in the year 2025. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.

These objectives are based on research dealing with the characteristics of Millennial parents and Gen Alpha children, those born 2010-2025. If you haven’t ever read some of the futurist articles on Gen Alpha, it is well worth your time.

One of the most certain predictions of the future is that there will be more technological change at an even faster pace. Think about this for a moment: the Apple iPhone didn’t even exist 11 years ago. And now, we’re on iPhone X whose FaceID can launch a billion functions with just a look from the user! Change is rapid!

By 2015, 86% of 18- to-29-year-olds owned a smart phone! If you’re wondering how important those devices are to millennials…80% of them sleep with their phone by the bed within reach. This is a phenomenon known as FOMO—fear of missing out. 

In that same time range, we’ve seen the entire world we’ve seen the creation of an entirely virtual world through social media. 88% of millennials have a Facebook profile, and more than half report using the site multiple times per day.

We see companies now venturing into the world of Augmented Reality—the practice of superimposing digital images over a user’s view of the real world. At the car dealership, you can use the camera on your phone to see all the color and tire options for a vehicle. Soon, you’ll be able to project a phone dial on your hand and call your mom to say, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Research has shown that millennials, and likely Gen-Alpha to an even greater extent, are early adopters of new technology. They like to have the latest and greatest. They don’t mind the rapid changes because it’s almost always been a part of their lives.

How does this relate to the children’s ministry? Here is the second objective:

An effective children’s ministry in the year 2025 will…

Find a Balance between Technology that Engages and Technology that Entertains

While the Church doesn’t need to be a rotary dial phone in a digital world, we are not called to compete or keep up with the technological changes of this world.

But our mission is too important to not search for every advantage technology can give us in reaching people with the Good News of Jesus and training them in how to share it with others.

This is where an effective children’s ministry will find a balance between using technology to entertain and using technology to engage.

If you were teaching kids about missions in Rwanda, you could tell them all about the lifestyle, the food, the missionary, or the church. I’m sure that kids would be engaged in such a discussion, but technology provides the opportunity to go a step further.

Imagine FaceTiming with a missionary family in Rwanda while they give a tour of their home, their church, and answer questions from the kids about the ministry they’re leading. This is what it means to use technology to engage and not just entertain.

Using technology to engage could also be providing video resources to help millennial parents and Gen-Alpha kids go deeper in their study of the Bible. The people over at The Bible Project have done a great job of this balance. Their videos are creative, but the real value is in the depth of teaching they provide.

No one knows what technological advances we will see by the 2025. (I’m certain that they will be mind-blowing) However, we do know that our mission will always be the same. Instead of trying to keep up with technology in order to be attractive or cool, begin thinking about you can leverage technology to tell more kids about Jesus and give them more resources to share that Good News with others!

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