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Last week, I shared some thoughts about the next 10 years in children’s ministry. Many of those thoughts come from examining the trends of the past 10 years in children’s ministry. If you’ve been in ministry for a few years, you have likely noticed a few of these changes. Some of these changes have been subtle, while some have been dramatic.

In her book, Nothing Less, Jana Magruder breaks down recent research on the American family and reveals the top influences of spiritual health. The research upholds a few trends that many in children’s ministry have been feeling for a number of years.

One of the trends that has affected children’s ministry over the past 10 years is

Lesser Engagement and Lower Attendance

Here are some of the stats from Nothing Less:

  • Only 35% of American Christians find that church attendance is an essential part of being a Christian.
  • When asked what makes a good parent, only 26% of Dads and Moms said that being a committed Christian was an important influence on parenting.

The reality is that families who once attended church 2-3 times per week are now attending 2-3 times per month. This leads to a different type of engagement with children and families that lead to many challenges.

Another trend that has negatively impacted the work of children’s ministry is:

Lower Biblical Literacy

Here are a few more stats from Nothing Less:

  • 89% of American households own a Bible, but 53% of Americans have read only a handful of Bible passages.
  • Of Protestant churchgoers, 54% say that they have read the Bible once a week or less.
  • When asked why they don’t read the Bible more often, the most common response (35%) was “I don’t know.”

Sadly, we don’t value the Bible as a source of hope and instruction. In an age of information, the Bible has taken a back seat to Google, 24/7 news channels, and input from peers on social media. There is a great need for expository preaching and Biblical teaching in our churches in order to ensure the next generation does not forget the mighty works of God!

But it’s not all negative. There are some trends in children’s ministry that suggest we are moving in a healthy direction and providing those in ministry a great toolbox for reaching children and families.

One of the positive trends in the last 10 years of children’s ministry is

An Emphasis on Family Ministry: Church + Home

Pastors and churches are getting serious about using every available resource to pass faith on to children. The last 10 years has seen a major increase in churches hiring Family Pastors or Next-Gen Pastors to focus on parent-child discipleship. There is a rise in equipping classes focused on teaching parents how to lead the discipleship of their children in the home, and the church has focused more on creating resources to connect what happens on Sundays to the rest of the week.

Another positive trend in the last 10 years is the

Plethora of Children’s Ministry Curriculum Options

It’s not just churches and pastors who have sharpened their focus on families, but writers and publishers are also taking up the mission. The ability for digital distribution of curriculum has allowed publishers to produce loads and loads of more content. It’s not all perfect or useful for every church, but there are many more options available today than there were 10 years ago! Those options allow children’s ministries to customize content that helps them reach children and families in their community and context.

What trends have you seen over the past 10 years in children’s ministry?

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!

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!

Be sure to use the email subscription on the right, so you won’t miss the next objective! Future posts will be sent right to your inbox to read.

 

I had the opportunity this week to teach a few breakout sessions at the Children’s Pastors Conference in Orlando, Fl. It was a great time to connect with other leaders and learn from their ministry experiences. And the bonus was that my wife got to spend part of the week with me in sunny Orlando! Can’t beat that!

One of the breakout sessions focused on the future of Children’s Ministry, specifically for the year 2025. It was a lot of fun researching Millennial parents and 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. These are things that we need to focus on and dream about now, so that we will be adequately prepared for what’s ahead. I’m going to take a few posts to share the objectives and the research behind each one. Here’s the first objective:

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

Focus on Marriage and Parenting Enrichment

The effective children’s ministry of 2025 needs to focus on marriage and parenting enrichment simply because millennial parents place a high value on marriage and childrearing.

As children, 40% of millennials grew up in a home with one parent. This has naturally led millennial parents to swing the pendulum back and commit to raising children in a 2-parent home. Their Boomer parents valued and found identity in their workplace success, but millennials are more likely to say being a parent is important to their identity.

But when asked what makes a good parent, only 26% of Dads and Moms said that being a committed Christian was an important influence on parenting.  Even though Millennial parents highly value their spouse and children, they are not as likely as previous generations to look to the church for advice in this area.

This is a key area that the Children’s and Family Ministries of the future must be intent on changing. Millennial parents are very accustomed to having strong support systems from their parents and their network of peers. Marriage and especially parenting brings a whole new set of challenges and levels of self-sacrifice which millennials may or may not be prepared to face. As we look ahead, the Church needs to be a bridge that connects millennials parents back to their identity in Christ and how the Gospel meets us in our need at every phase of life.

Effective Children’s Ministries need to see these trends and put together a plan for reaching new parents with resources, training, and encouragement for a new phase of life. We also need to leverage the millennial parents’ desire to be involved in their child’s life to make parent-led discipleship, church attendance, and Bible reading (most important) a priority.

For more research on trends that are relevant to Children’s Ministry, check out “Nothing Less” by Jana Macgruder