The culture of our world has changes rapidly. A few years ago, families were primarily two-parent homes that were led by the parents, driven by the parents’ schedules, and catered to the needs of the parents and their jobs. Children were to be “seen and not heard” and were in many ways subservient to adults. Churches followed the dictates of the culture. Services were led by adults, driven by parents’ schedules, catering to the needs of adults and their jobs.
What is different today? The biggest difference I see is that most families live in what I call child-driven homes. Today’s home may be a two parent, single-parent or blended-family home, but by and large, many of these parents think of themselves as primarily caretakers of children. They are driven by the children’s schedules (soccer, hockey, piano lessons, ballet, speech meets, etc.). The home revolves around the children’s school, music, clubs, hobby and sports schedules. Much of the household budget goes to the child’s perceived needs and desires. According to the American Psychological Association, the average American mom reports being completely overwhelmed with stress almost all of the time (see http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/supermom.aspx).
The parents we see every week live like that. I remember talking to one mom who was so stressed. I asked her, “What is there in your life that you can drop right now to better work toward balance?”
She almost shouted at me, “I have nothing I can drop right now at all! Monday is baseball, Tuesday is ballet, Wednesday is karate, Thursday is AWANA, Friday is piano lessons, Saturday is Girl Scouts, and Sunday is soccer meet.” She started crying.
I said, “Something truly has to give, Loni. Which of these can we cut?”
She looked horrified and quickly answered, “No way! This is just how life is. I’m not taking anything away from my kids. I’m a good parent!”
Every year I have parents tell me they have no money for Bible camp, Awana books, or a family outing- or even their own family vacations! But they are still shelling out more than $500 every semester for soccer, ballet, drama lessons etc etc etc. These are truly child-driven homes. Parents are accustomed to having every place they go catering to this child-run lifestyle—the pediatrician’s office, pediatric dentists, pediatric podiatrists (fitting children’s shoes properly), kids’ meals at every restaurant, play areas in the park and the mall, our school systems, and so on. Church is about the only place that parents’ high expectations for quality family offerings may not be taking place. The culture has changed to become more child centric, but the church, largely, has not. Many churches are still operating in a culture and a system that is long gone. Look at your church. How many young families are you attracting? I am not condoning or applauding a child-run household. In fact, I see a lot of red flags in a lifestyle driven only for the desires and perceived needs of the child. But if we are truly going to reach the young families in our culture, we must, at the very least, understand how they operate and think. What is attracting them to our church, to a better knowledge of Jesus Christ, and what is driving them away? Are we offering ministry to young families, in the hectic lives they are living day to day? How can we help families find better balance? And what about the children who may be getting the “stuff” the classes, and the busyness, but who are still starved for love, for boundaries and for purpose? I believe we need to intentionally create kid’s and family worship environments that DRAW them to Jesus, that make the kids say “We gotta go back there!! (drawing the parents). But then, still bringing that balance of ministry and training to the family of what “family” can be, when they go ALL IN for Jesus. I am eager to hear what you think… what are you doing at your church to attract young families, and to better minister to them?