This post was written by Crystal Mazzuca, a member of the INCM Blog team.
Building relationships with families can be tricky when we are only seeing kids, parents, and caretakers about once a month.
We can blame COVID, club sports, or summertime schedules, but the bottom line is the same – there are kids and families who just aren’t as consistent at church as we would like.
So, what can we do about it?
This article will help you think of new ways to reach the inconsistent family so they feel connected and you have a game plan for when they visit.
What is the inconsistent family?
First off, how do you define a consistent or “regular” family?
They come every weekend?
Or maybe they miss one Sunday a month?
What about an inconsistent family? How often do they attend?
According to the Institute for Family Studies, a consistent family is one that attends at least one time a month.
If that isn’t shocking enough, that number of regular of church attendance has dropped significantly since 2019 from 34% of adults attending regular to 28%, while the number of those who attend seldom or never has risen from 50% in 2019 to 57% in 2021.
So what does this mean? Inconsistent is better than not at all.
Just sit with that a moment.
In a time where more than half of adults are attending church seldom or never, let’s appreciate and celebrate those families that are coming through our doors – even if it isn’t as often as we like.
More than that – let’s come up with a strategy for reaching these inconsistent families.
1. Start With WHY
Why aren’t families coming to church more consistently? You could ask fifty different families and you would get fifty different answers. It all boils down to two things: seasons and reasons.
Some families are inconsistent for a season:
- Club soccer season
- Hunting season
- Nutcracker season
- [Insert your team name here] season
They will be hit or miss for a few months, then come back, and then the next season hits.
Some families are inconsistent for a reason.
- Joint custody can mean that a child is only in your ministry every other week or just for the summer.
- A nightshift schedule can mean that the one Sunday a month you see them is the only Sunday they weren’t working late into the morning hours.
The only way we can know is dig deep into their why and not make assumptions.
We need to have conversations and connection to find out why they aren’t more consistent.
And while we do that we also have to ask ourselves why.
Why do we want them to be more consistent?
In ministry, we often feel the pressure to have growing numbers.
We can tie our worth, identity, and effectiveness to families coming and enjoying church week after week.
But we aren’t winning kids to church.
We are winning them to Christ.
Just because a family isn’t consistent at church doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t moving and working in their lives.
Our passion, first and foremost, needs to be helping kids and families fall in love with Jesus.
These families need compassion, care, and understanding rather than criticalness, judgement, and frustration.
2. Then Ask WHAT
If we recognize and understand that our inconsistent families all have seasons and reasons for their church attendance and that our goal is to win them to Christ rather than church, we need to ask ourselves what they really need.
At-Home Discipleship Tools
We have the amazing opportunity to help support these families by equipping them to worship and grow in their homes, cars, hotels, and all the other places they may be rather than at our churches on a weekend.
Parent Cue by Orange is just one example of the incredible resources Christian publishers want to put into the hands of adults to better engage and disciple their kids at home.
These families will be blessed by gaining this support to use in their season or for their reason.
Someone in Their Corner
Whatever the reason or the season that is keeping these families away, they need someone in their corner.
They need someone who sees them, cares for them, and won’t give up on them.
It’s easier to reach them when they are physically in our space.
But it means so much to them when we intentionally reach out, engage, and support them when they are not.
It’s okay to want them to be more consistent – we do!
But what they really need is to know that we’re there for them even when they aren’t.
3. Finally Ask HOW
After we care deeply about the why and think about the what, we can finally address the how: how do we reach these families?
How are we helping our families feel wanted and welcomed when they do come through our doors?
If kids feel behind, lost, or left our because they missed a few weeks or months, they won’t be eager to return.
We get to be intentional with our check in processes, the way our services run, and how we communicate to ensure that every family – no matter how frequent or infrequent the are – feels welcome.
We can pick curriculum, train our volunteers, and cultivate a culture where every child (and their adult) feels welcomed.
As Chuck Peters, Director of Lifeway Kids, says in this article, “Every kid needs to find a friend at church…Someone who misses them when they are away and celebrates them when they come back.”
When families aren’t coming to church – let’s go to them! Let’s go to where they are at. Show up at their events, sports matches, and even homes. Let’s be creative in how we connect. Let’s be creative in how we show they care and support them.
We are in children’s ministry because we love children and one of the most loving things we can do for the children in our ministries is pour into the adults who love them and bring them.
When a family isn’t coming to church, let’s care deeply about those adults.
Let’s talk with them, be there for them, and help them.
More than that, let’s disciple them!
Let’s get them connected with others in the church who will help them grow in their faith.
As we see these adults grow in faith and maturity, as we invest in them and help them build relationships and community, we will see them grow in their love of the church.
There is no guaranteed formula to help inconsistent families becomes more consistent.
But when we dig deep into their why’s, really consider what they need, and are intentional about how we reach them, we will see kids, families, and the kingdom of God grow.
Crystal Mazzuca is a Content Editor for Hyfi, a Lifeway NextGen Resource. With over 20 years in NextGen ministry, she is passionate about reaching the next generation with the transformational power of the gospel and equipping others to do the same. She also serves as the Outreach and Leadership Development Coordinator at her church and as a NextGen Associate with the Slingshot Group. She is a mom to 3 boys and lives in Olympia, WA.