Attracting Younger Families to Our Church?

Updated on August 12, 2013
M.2. asks from Downers Grove, IL
17 answers

I'm looking for some ideas on how our church could attract some younger families with children. We travel about 30 minutes to our church most Sunday mornings which isn't really all that bad but the problem is it's a primarily older (over 60) congregation. Our church is my husband's childhood church and both of our parents are members too. We absolutely love the pastor and his sermons and the congregation is very nice but my concern is for our two children (4 & 8). They are the only children that attend church service and they each have one other kid in their Sunday School who are also siblings. There's no curriculum that is followed for our Sunday School so it's basically up to the teachers to pick a story to read and something to color. My kids are bored and are not learning anything. They'd love to have friends their age at church (as would myself). I volunteered to assist teach last year but since there's only two kids in each class I was thanked but not needed. We have many members that would gladly assist with Sunday School but since there's so few kids they're just not needed.

I'd mentioned checking out some churches in our area that are very kid friendly and appears to have many young families but my husband really loves the church we're going to and is not really open to that idea. Our church (well the pastor and some of the members) knows that there is a great need for younger families in our congregation but we just don't know how to make it happen. I've joined the committee that has been formed regarding this issue and we're meeting later this week. Unfortunately I really don't know what we can do to grow our congregation so I'm hoping for some ideas from you! I've talked with some of my friends about this and to get their thoughts but their churches already have the younger families so they weren't much help.

A few of my suggestions at the meeting will be that we invest in a Sunday School curriculum which would be better for the teachers and kids. Also, our church had a nursery but a majority of the members thought it wasn't necessary so away it went about two years ago. I think we should bring it back especially if we're going to try to attract families with young kids so there's some place for the parent to take the child if the need arises.

Please give me any and all suggestions that you have for helping our church grow it's congregation with younger families! Our church is located on a major road in a large suburb of Chicago and we have a sign out front with the church services and Sunday School times.


Thank you!

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answers from Chicago on

Sounds like a great idea but here's the problem.... your kids are going to grow up and their friends and youth group activities and church events are going to be a long way for them to drive. This is one reason we moved churches many years ago. (And if there isn't a strong teen youth group at your church you need to work on that first, because your kids will need that in a few years and it takes awhile to find good leaders and good programs for that age.)

When kids are pre-teens and teens, they like to be with their friends and youth group constantly, and if you're driving 30 minutes to church on a Sunday, you have to then add Saturdays and at least one night during the week when you're going to be driving them to things, or when they'll be wanting to drive to things, or when they just want to hang out with their friends. It's so much easier, and safer, when the church is in your neighborhood. Especially in Chicagoland.

It's also good for kids to go to school with kids from church. It makes their world a little smaller and gives them more people to connect with.

Just something for you to think about for the future.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I don't have a good answer for how to attract young families, mom. I do have an answer as to how to KEEP them once you get them. I don't know if it's helpful or not.

Sunday school teachers can make or break growth. You need teachers who DO follow a curriculum. You need teachers who don't complain about children. Instead, if the kids are too rambunctious, the church gets them a helper to come in. New people will NOT stay if the church is complaining about their kids.

The church service itself should be child-friendly. If there is no "Children's Church" during the sermon, then putting up with kids in the church should be usual. No staring at kids who squirm in their seats. No ugly looks from people during the service. Music is a big deal too. Something interesting to sing - not just slow hymns.

It's really all about the way the church wants to be. If the majority of the over 60 crowd likes 'the way things are', then the church simply will not grow.

I wish you a lot of luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Advertise in the free parent magazine in your area and at the bulletin boards for daycares, baby stores, etc.
A Sunday school is a big help. Also our church has a "Children's Liturgy" program. Three Sundays out of every month, the children have their own readings and a kid-friendly sermon.
Reopen the nursery and consider a sound-proofed cry room with the service over the intercom.
Start a children's choir.
Open your doors on weekdays to groups that attract young mothers: LaLeche League, M. & Me, etc. Most men allow their wife/partner to choose where the family worships.
A friend's church has baptisms once a month for the babies of low-income families (mostly new immigrants and rust-belt transplants). They loan out beautiful christening gowns and the baptisms are followed by a cake and punch reception hosted by the church. For many young families who are ashamed that they can't afford a nice gown or party afterwards this is a major draw. Not all join, but some do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You could promise extra time off purgatory.

Oh wait - I guess that's only if you're catholic.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We have a small church, also. I teach Sunday School and use a flannel graph kind of curriculum from Regular Baptist Press. They have good teaching aids and visuals. It sounds like you have volunteers but don't know how to use them. Start investing in the kids and God will bless it and multiply it.

When I first started teaching about 12 yrs ago, I felt like it needed life back there. It sounds like yours does too. I bought a ping pong table, to start with. We play with it and now fuse ball and we have Legos and some other things. It's not just so we play instead of learn but it makes a good atmosphere. It's an ice breaker. We don't watch them play, we engage with them. You should see a little guy's eyes light up when a new kid walks in the room! It's not just the games, it's adults taking the time to engage with them. Having my H back there is invaluable. Good, strong male influences are incredibly lacking in our society. To show that there are good Godly guys out there, is key to a future of guys who honor God.

Of course, we throw in quite a few things that aren't in the lessons, like we make cards for certain holidays with my scrapbook supplies and take them to the oldest Sunday School Classes and send them to the shut-ins.

We have attendance parties when they are all there for a certain amt of time. We have the kids and their parents to our houses and PLAY with them. I am not all that young and not all that fit, but I still play kickball and ping pong!

We have Easter Egg Hunts and Christmas Plays. We have a couple moms who make up the plays and one music teacher who practices with the kids on the songs. I usually handle the "sets" and another who gets the costumes together. They invite their friends and grandparents.

We have one woman who coordinates Wed nights. She finds the lessons and they pretty much do them in the gym. That has several of our neighborhood kids coming to it. It's up to 5th grade level.

Of course 6-12 grades have their own services on Wed night. They play their own music and have their own lessons. Even if it's only one guy and a guitar, it works!

Hope this helps!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

The most important thing is to make a good first impression when families visit.

By all means, open the nursery back up. Families won't return if they visit and there is no place for their babies or toddlers. That should be priority number one, IMO.

Be sure to mix up the music with hymns for the older crowd and current, upbeat music for the young adults.

A Sunday school curriculum is important. If kids get into the car after a visit to your church and complain about how bored they were and how they didn't learn anything, parents may not come back. Our kids love to go because it is fun.

Host a monthly or quarterly community event for families. This will help get the word out about your church.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

I am in the middle of joining a new church for the reasons of it being more "family" orientated vs my old church. Here is what brought me to it:

They had an awesome, overwhelming, exciting bible camp that I put my kids in. It amazed me how much they focused on the children. At the end of the camp they had a carnival. My kids LOVED the bible camp and attended it for the second time this summer.

When I tried out the church they had a "Kid Center and nursery" that you could drop your kids off in the beginning of the church and then pick them up after. For me this is what I was looking for because I was finding at my old church that I couldn't even focus on the sermon because I was busy trying to keep my kids quiet and entertained. And they sat through the service getting nothing either. Now they have a chance to learn at the same time as me in a kid friendly way.

They do lots of kid activities and family fun things. In the beginning of August they had a picnic at a local park. They also have groups that younger kids can join and fun things they can go to outside of church.

Anyway, my main goal was to put them in an environment where they could learn about God and get the message instead of sitting in church looking bored.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

when I go to a church (not sure what denomination you are, but I am non denom. Christian), I look for good music. I like young feeling music that is more of a rock style. Think Jeremy Camp, Mercy Me, Casting Crowns type. I absolutly can not sit through a church service if I am falling asleep through the music. Then I need the pastor to hold my attention. The childrens ministries is pretty big to me too. The church I have been trying out now has awanas and about 20 kids per grade in each classroom.

I know you said your husband is not willing to look around at other churches, but to me that's kind of selfish. He should be willing to sacrifice tradition of growing up there to make sure his kids are able to learn about God. It doesn't really seem like they are by the way you describe it. It will be really hard to change an entire church (music and feel to it along with the Sunday school) and it could take years to do that. If your husband isn't willing to change churches, then maybe you should just go and find a new church and tell him that he can come along if he wants to. I know that's not ideal, but you can't be miserable at church and be unhappy because then you and you kids are missing out

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Maybe offer a free vacation bible school for a week during the summer. Also host a Fall Festival or something with bouncy houses, chili cookoff, games, etc and advertise it. When our church did things like this, we got a lot of new families coming. Also invite your own friends and post comments on facebook about church activities. We left a church that was very small for the same reasons, kids didnt' have anyone their ages and they were bored. I love the church we are in now, but yours being the "childhood church" of your husband would make it hard to leave. I hope you figure something out. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

That's a tough question. People over the age of 60 like to worship in a quiet setting without kids running all over. This isn't the church's fault - it's the parents fault for not keeping their kids in check. I know that often the parents pick at the kids who don't need to be picked at, but ignore the one who is climbing over the pew or running up and down the aisle.
You can only grow a church by inviting people to worship with you. We have picnics, mission trips, and other activities that people find fun or interesting. My daughter was and is the only person her age at our church. She never had friends in Sunday school. She was fine just worshipping with me. My son was one of 2 students for a while... There was a larger older group and a larger younger group, but they were in the middle. It was fine with them to not go to sunday school. The summer camps and retreats kept them involved and busy. Suddenly we have a rash of babies - and it is nice! BUT we have a nursery with a paid attendant to care for those children so they aren't crying through the service -- except for baptism Sundays when all bets are off, but that's different.
We had a preschool, but that never really generated any church goers.
I think that you need to be visible in the community, be open to new people, and personally invite people to service.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

Hats off to you for taking the initiative!!! How about a community celebration?? Labor day is coming up! You could have hot dogs, hay rides, finger painting, etc. etc. to draw in young families. You're right though, the dynamics need to be there for the right families to come. The thing you have in your favor with this is that we all want a great environment for our kids. Maybe get with people in your neighborhood and ask what would help draw them in. Invite families from day cares in your area?? You'll figure it out. At least you're being proactive, good for you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Things my church does to attract families;
Great Sunday School program
Children's Time in church every Sunday
Nursery for little ones and Cherub Choir, the children's choir director takes kids age 4-thru first gr out of church after the chidren's time, thru the sermon and then brings them back for the end of church. She does songs with motions and active singing games.
Great teen program includes mission work
Confirmation class includes visiting other places of worship Friends Meeting, Mosque, Temple...
random Family events have included, showing a movie on a Sun. afternoon, Sunday school start up family picnic. Three Kings day family party. Beach day on a Sat in summer. Last Wed night we had a picnic, sing along, and cooked Smors over a little bonfire.
There is a Preschool here which is separate from the church but brings in families. Word spreads when you have great programs for kids and families.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Our church starts youth group at age 3. It is every Wed from 4 to 6 with supper served. We have a strong youth group and play a ton of games most people do not even realize the games we play are teaching a lesson. My fav growing up was fish in the dark. The older kids each took a younger kid and went and hid some place in the church other than the chapel while the youth pastor would find us group by group. Once you were found then you had to go find another group and hide with them until eventually everyone was hiding together. Whoever didn't have to change hiding places won the game. It taught the older kids how to be responsible for the younger kids and teach them their way in the dark (or someone what dark). I so loved this game.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Build up your women's ministry. If you get the moms in, then the family will surely follow. Start with offering a women's Bible study and make sure nursery is available.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Well, it's sort of two fold. Your DH loves this church and it suits him, but he now has a family and it doesn't fit them very well. What I would do is look for churches in your area that have programs for kids - VBS, scouts type programs, etc. See if your children could benefit from the activities offered on other days even if they attend Sunday services with you.

Our church doesn't have a lot of kids in the Sunday School. For a while it was just 2 or 3 kids, but now it's sometimes more. I look for other opportunities for DD as well. She likes the routine in "her" church, but I also want her to experience the big group singalong type stuff, too. IMO, there's no reason not to have more than one resource for spiritual needs.

In the summers, we have packets set up for the volunteers. The regular teachers take the summer off and we do a combined aged class (up to 3rd grade) with a prepared story (we buy the material), an activity and sometimes a video or song. Oriental Trading has a ton of VBS type crafts and ideas. If the teachers just randomly pick a story, what about mirroring the sermon? Many times DD and I will get back in the car (her Sunday School is during church time - she leaves after the Children's Moment) and discuss our "stories".

You could also try having a family fun day to attract people to the church on another day and invite them back for church on Sunday. Or go to places like a farmer's market and see if you can set up a booth and do free kid activities. IMO the best time to do this is late summer and early fall, as families get back into routine. What are good things about your church? Are you multicultural? Maybe you could have a "Taste of" event showcasing the talents and cultures in your church.

Before there were a few more kids, I was considering going PT to my friend's church. I still might, as DD gets older and wants to do things like MYF if there aren't enough kids in our church. I like our church for myself, but my needs are changing with hers. I still attend special services at my friend's church, like their Easter Sunrise Service.

Also, don't discount how other things feed into membership. Like if you don't use a FaceBook page, start doing so. Make at least a post or two a week about events and get members to chime in. Offer an e-newsletter. Make sure your website is clear, up to date, and current in style. If you want young families, that starts with their parents.



answers from Atlanta on

I will tell you how we were attracted to a church when we were very young with a young daughter - a neighbor invited us all to her church when they were having a covered dish supper after the Sunday morning service. After that Sunday we wound up attending and ultimately joining the church I think people will say no a lot of times when you just invite them to church but if you offer a Sunday dinner for their family, they will be much more likely to come be with you. . Or if your church is not having a covered dish supper, how about inviting a family back to your house for dinner after church. There was a woman in our church that invited every family back to her house for dinner that came to visit the church. If several members took up this practice, you would be able to attract more young families.


answers from Washington DC on

My husband and I just had a conversation about this today. He goes to a Baptist church and the kids and I go to a Lutheran church. However, they also go to VBS at a different local Baptist church, and they LOVE it there. So now they want to go to church there. I suggested we go together. He loves his church and wants to stay there. I'm not a huge fan of the church we go to, and that has gotten us out of the habit of going every week, sadly.

So if we try this new church together, it might work for us as a family - which is important to me. So we'll see...but they have a GREAT kid's program - and that attracted my kids there, so we are highly considering it.

Next question: Paying for VBS?