Blog: 6 things to help your church open well to children and young people

Recent research suggests that during the pandemic, some of those who regularly attended worship prior to the lockdowns struggled to engage and participate with church. In particular, children, young people and families are said to have faced particular difficulty engaging with church during the pandemic.

The research was shared and discussed at a recent webinar hosted by the National Evangelism and Discipleship Team and attended by a member of the Diocese's Children and Young People Mission and Ministry team. Particularly sobering was the statistic that 10% of previously regular attenders were planning on either leaving or being less regular once regular worship can be attended back in person.

At the same time, the pandemic also saw new people join churches online. Of these new people, fifty-two percent are under 35 - that equates to half a million people.  Considering that under-35’s are more likely to have children, it makes the questions even more urgent about how your church fairs when it comes to welcoming young families? Would their first impression and encounter be considered as a positive, welcoming experience?

In this blog, the Children and Young People team offer 6 key things churches can be doing now to make sure they reopen their buildings well to children and young people and their families.

“While they are still in the room and before they walk out of the door” - 6 things to do to now to help you open up well to children, young people and their families

Whilst the reasons vary, research shows that 10% of regular attenders are planning on either leaving or being less regular once regular worship can be attended back in person.

Furthermore, research indicates that children, young people and their families, alongside the elderly, are the demographic that found it the hardest to engage with online church.

A sobering thought. A key phrase that stood out to us from a recent Evangelism and Discipleship session was: “We need to find those who have wandered away from church. We need to catch them as soon as we can – while they are still in the room and before they walk out of the door.”

So it is now that churches need to consider how to 'reconnect and rebuild relationships' and for us as a team, contact is the key. So here our top six things we think churches should be doing to make sure they continue to have flourishing connections with the younger members of their church families:

  1. Consider who you have not seen and catch up with them. For children and familes, contact, conversation and encouragement is invaluable.
  2. For young people, prioritise meeting in a physical group setting in person as soon as it is safe to do so. Encourage small groups in order to provide them with safe spaces so the well-being, particularly of those who have lost out significantly, or are suffering social anxiety, exclusion and depression, can be prioritise.
  3. Communicate each step with parents and carers to encourage connectivity and a sense of building community.
  4. If you have not been doing so already, offer a family service or gathering over zoom, teams or a safe social media platform where people can connect and build relationship. Remind families of what was good about being in fellowship and those relationships that have been lost.
  5. Consider the digital natives and how they search online via search engines – is your website appealing? Does it suggest you're ‘family friendly, diverse and accessible'? Do you have an active Facebook or YouTube presence?
  6. As we extend our opening up more over the coming weeks, prioritise meetings, groups and gatherings, make them fun, encourage laughter and connectivity that builds relationships and faith communities that love and serve one another and hold onto to those who are still in the room before they walk out of the door

A few final thoughts....

For this digital generation it may take a longer time to engage with them in-person. But don't be disheartened. 

Research shows that many of the 18–24-year-old who visited online services during the pandemic said it had been a positive experience; some came to faith and for others it awakened a spiritual interest. So there is a real opportunity here, but it just means we keep needing to thinking about how to continue connecting with them online and respecting the fact that there will be some who wish to remain virtual, but valued memebers of our communities.

If you need any more help, advice, encouragement or guidance, please contact the Children and Young People Mission and Ministry team in the following ways:

  • Cheryl Trice, Diocesan Team Lead Adviser Children & Young People’s Mission & Ministry Team:  cheryl.trice@rochester.anglican.or
  • Laura Webster, Diocesan Children and Young People Mission & Ministry Advisor: laura.webster@rochester.anglican.org

 




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