Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church

About 40 years ago a profound shift took place in many Christian congregations across the country…for all the right reasons…with one troubling unintended consequence:

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, my generation, Baby Boomers, rebelled against the “institutional church” just as we did with every other institution our parents built/supported.  We rebelled by dropping out: 2/3rds of my generation dropped out of church.  In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, innovative pastors and congregations of all sizes and denominations looked for ways to draw Boomers back to church.  They began to create worship experiences based on the unique “personality” of the Boomer generation. These churches went “contemporary,” “seeker,” and/or “seeker-friendly.”  Because these were the primary parenting years for Boomers, these congregations recognized the need to not only provide Boomer-friendly worship experiences for adults, but the need to create dynamic experiences for their children as well, knowing that if the kids wanted to come back, the parents were more likely to come back.  XX Sunday Morning-p7 dk

So began a shift from kids worshipping with the big people for one hour followed by all ages attending a second hour of Sunday School, to churches creating Sunday School experiences for kids that ran concurrently with their parents’ worship service.  In other words, kids and parents were separated from each other, having different Sunday experiences.

Again, the reasons were right…or so we thought.  Because these new Boomer services had a sense of evangelism about them (trying to win Boomers back to the church) we didn’t want anything to interrupt their focus…like squirming or crying or screaming kids. Church leaders sensed that Boomer parents wanted the one hour break from their kids—that they wanted to focus on their own spiritual life for an hour away from the distraction of their children.  And, again, we assumed, reasonably so, that worship targeted to adult boomers would not be all that engaging for kids.  So dynamic Sunday school programs were created to engage the kids at their level in their language while their parents were in worship.  In fact, some churches didn’t (and don’t) allow kids into big people worship at all.

The result: Many of these innovated congregations had a positive, significant impact on the lives of disenfranchised Boomers and their kids.  Many saw their congregations and their children’s ministries grow exponentially.  The evangelism imperative to reconnect with Boomers seemed to work.

But there was (and is) one huge unintended consequence:  We have raised the largest unchurched generation in the history of our country.

Admittedly, there are many reasons why each generation in our culture is increasingly distanced from the church.  Some have to do with societal shifts that have nothing to do with the church.  Some have to do with the inability of the church to articulate the Gospel in compelling ways.

But perhaps one of the reasons has to do with the Sunday School shift…as we shifted kids out of the main worship experience, en-culturated them in their own program, and robbed them of any touch points with the rest of the body of Christ.  Another way of saying it: by segregating our kids out of worship, we never assimilated them into the life of the congregation.  They had no touch points.  They had no experience. They had no connection with the main worship service—its liturgy, its music, its space, its environment, and its adults.  It was a foreign place to them.  And so…once they finished with the kids/or youth program, they left the church.

With good intentions we attempted to raise kids to be Christians, but we didn’t raise them to be Churched Christians.  And perhaps that, in part, is why so few of them attend a church today.  We’ve essentially “Sunday-Schooled” them out of church—because we never assimilated them into church.  We never “church-broke” them.

For years I was an advocate of this model.  And I still, in many ways, feel the tug to stick with it.  But I remember reading a study some 20 years ago that said back then what our experience is now confirming: Kids who attend Sunday School but never attend church are more likely not to attend church as adults.  (It makes sense, doesn’t it?)  And kids who attend worship and never attend Sunday School are far more likely to attend worship as adults.  (Those who attend a mixture of both are also more likely to assimilate into worship as adults.)

A few weeks ago I preached on this in our church.  One of our members pulled me aside and told me a story:  When he was small, he looked up at his dad who had tears in his eyes as the congregation sang, “Spirit of the Living God.”  After church he asked his dad why he was so sad during church.  Dad said, “I’m not sad.  I was just remembering how when I was a boy like you I stood next to my dad singing, ‘Spirit of the Living God.’  And now here I am, singing that song with my son.”  How are we creating those kinds of touch points for our kids?

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.  For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

What does it look like in the 21st Century to be a church that belongs to such as these kids?  What does it look like to be a church that makes children the priority of the Kingdom?  That raises them to be “Churched Christians?”  What does it mean that all of us are the Body of Christ together?

It may be an upstream challenge.  Many of our churches are used to separating the kids from the adults and having squirming, squealing kids may dramatically change the worship dynamic.  Many parents want their kids in Sunday School during worship and may even demand it…or will leave to attend a church that does so.

But what is our ultimate call?  To create programs?  Or to raise disciples (i.e., followers of Jesus committed to his church and his world)?  And what might that that calling to raise “churched” disciples look like?

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About Tim Wright

I've been a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 1984, currently serving as the founding pastor of Community of Grace in Peoria, AZ. My wife, Jan and I, were married in 1979. We raised two kids and currently have 3 grandkids. I love to ride my bike, travel, read British Mysteries, and Disneyland. I have written 6 books, including my newest--Searching for Tom Sawyer: How Parents and Congregations Can Stop the Exodus of Boys From Church. My website:

  • David Murrow

    Wow Tim, you’ve got me thinking again…

    • RevTim


    • Timothy Weston

      Are you the same David Murrow that wrote and published “Why Men Hate Going to Church” a decade ago?

      • David Murrow


  • Kristen H

    THIS is fabulously said. It nails so much. Thank you. I am a former youth minister turned stay-at-home-mom and the struggle of assimilating into a new church has been astronomical for us because we are a rare breed that WANTS our child in church worship service with us. We’d also love for her to be plugged into Sunday School as well but ultimately worship with her family is number one and we hope that the other pieces fall together as we move through our journey.

    • RevTim

      Thanks for the comments. And God’s best as you look to worship as a family!

      • PlumDumpling

        I became a Friend in order to avoid a number of ideas more conventional Christian sects inevitably promulgate. My children attended First Day School. They began Meeting for Worship with us for a short time and then were called into First Day School activities. Worked very well as they got to worship with adults briefly and then squirm, play and learn at will.

        • Troy Fields


          I did not go to church often as a child, but as I recall, this is the “model” for lack of a better word, that the church used. Must have worked, I am a pastor today….

          The idea of a move away from pastors is somewhat anti-Biblical. Ephesians 4 tells us that God gave pastors as one of the gifts to help the church grow…although, I read where you suggested a move away from top-down government…and I agree. Pastors are servants first and foremost, when they forget that, there is trouble.

          • PlumDumpling

            ‘Pastors are servants first and foremost, when they forget that, there is trouble.’
            When I hear ‘pastor,’ I think ‘sheep.’ No thank you. Get another metaphor. This one is offensive and leads directly to trouble in one way or another always.

          • PlumDumpling

            Whenever I hear the ‘not biblical’ argument, I think of George Fox and his observations about such argument. They make sense to me.
            Your argument is just silly IMO. The Bible approves of all sorts of atrocities as ‘the will of God.’ If you followed biblical morals and rules as law today, you would go directly to jail.

            “That Christ was the Light of the world, and lighteth every man that cometh into the world; and that by this light they might be gathered to God. The scriptures were the prophets’ words, and Christ’s and the apostles’ words, and what, as they spoke, they enjoyed and possessed, and had it from the Lord. Then what had any to do with the scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth? You will say, ‘Christ saith this, and the apostles say this;’ but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light, and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?” – George Fox

          • Karen Newman

            I wish you had had a more positive experience with religion.
            I believe the key to positive, enjoyable and constructive churching is a pastor who brings Christ to life for you and interprets God’s teachings relative to contemporary life, all while striving to serve his congregation and answer a
            multitude of questions. Perhaps we should acknowledge our own responsibility for managing our faith. As for children, maybe it’s best if church school and services are at different times so they can experience both.

          • PlumDumpling

            I spent ten years in ministry. I have not had positive experiences with pastor led congregations for the most part.

  • Ruth Hoover

    There’s a book that we found helpful in figuring out how to worship as a
    family with young children — it’s called “Parenting in the Pew.” We
    learned that it helps to plan ahead, practice the creeds and the hymns
    with your children during the week, and make Saturday evening like a
    preparation for worship. Talk/pray about it, lay out clothes ahead of
    time, get everyone to bed at a decent time, etc. so that you’re not
    stressed and tired and bickering before you even get to church.
    Children’s bulletins are helpful too. We have never done these things
    perfectly, but even a little bit of forethought helps.

    • RevTim

      Ruth…thanks so much. I’ll check out the book. Our church is launching a new initiative that grows out of Mark Holmen’s book, Church+Home. It helps position the church to empower households/families to become the primary place for faith nurturing, rather than outsourcing it to the church. Your recommended book sounds like a great fit!

  • Lady in the Loge

    Tim, you’ve got great insights into the negative shift in worship attendance over the last generation. I encourage you to read Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship to discover a biblical pattern to reverse the trend.

    • RevTim

      Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Powerglide

    Sorry to hear that you’re having less success brainwashing children these days.

    • RevTim

      Hmmm…let’s see: brainwashing them with hope, a compelling vision for making the world a better place, living life with joy, approaching the world with grace and forgiveness, the courage to face the inevitable challenges of life with faith, the call to generosity…I’ll continue to fight for that kind of brainwashing.

      • PlumDumpling

        Stop pretending that is what Christian churches provide. Some churches may provide such. Most do not. I do not want my children infected with the Sin Con.

        • duhsciple

          Help us out. Sounds like you have much passion for bringing a better, more compassionate world!

          • PlumDumpling

            What I recommend sounds like blasphemy and has proven unacceptable to the orthodox Christian for the most part. Thanks for according me human status. It so seldom happens.

            Give up preaching sin. If you must preach, preach the absolute love of God. Always better to preach through deeds rather than words. Pope Frankie gets this.

            Give up topdown political structure. Jesus told us to do that long ago in Matthew. Hard to do as following Jesus, i know. Those two just for starters.

            Oh and one more, quit making people wrong and throwing them out because they do not believe dogma that is supernatural. I do not believe Jesus is/was a god. That does not keep me from following what he taught and being faithful to those lessons.

            23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
            5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
            8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

          • Timothy Wiebe

            If you do not believe Jesus was God, you do not follow Him. You follow a false idea.

          • PlumDumpling

            My relationship with God is private. Two is company and three’s a crowd.
            I share what I think. That is the nature of message boards.
            Find somebody else to jaw at. You skeeve me.

          • Don Caron

            The divinity of Jesus was a big issue for Christianity by the 4th century, and was resolved to a large extent, not by enlightened reason or Godly inspiration, but by bluster and even violence. His message of love towards God and one another is not contingent on how we see him; it stands on its own merit. When being right becomes more important than being loving, we’ve lost Jesus altogether. It’s good to have a community with which to share that conviction.

          • PlumDumpling

            His message of love towards God and one another is not contingent on how we see him; it stands on its own merit. When being right becomes more important than being loving, we’ve lost Jesus altogether.
            Thank you. Very well said. You speak for me.

          • duhsciple

            Thanks for sharing! I will not only accord you human status, but beloved status.

            God loves people. Period.

            My understanding of sin does not involve “morality” but mimetic rivalry. I take this as an anthropological truth. We might be close- as I am not a big fan of metaphysics

        • Timothy Wiebe

          Most do not? I don’t believe you. Do you have evidence?

          • PlumDumpling

            So do not believe me. I should be concerned about your belief because … ?

    • geo_cookman

      There is plenty of brainwashing going on today. Just read the news. TV has taught children things no loving parent would ever allow young people to see. True, people in the church have done bad things; but many more people have lived holy, honorable lives as a result of their relationship with God. (For every priest, there are between 100 and 10,000 parishioners).

    • BlueEyedGurlieGurl

      I read a great quote about brainwashing: “yes, our brains need to be washed….from all the immorality and nastiness this world has to offer.” My brain has been washed by Truth and for that I am a stronger person.

    • Seth Alan Squires

      I attended Sunday School for several years as a child in the Congregational Church. On the last day of confirmation class I told our pastor I was not going to join them the following Sunday because I realized that I didn’t believe in god. He thanked me for my honesty and told me the church would be there if I changed my mind. I haven’t. I am raising my daughter without religion, but I am also raising her to be kind to people, not to be rude or mean.
      There are times I am angered by Christians who want to pass laws forcing their beliefs on others. There are times I am annoyed by some Christians’ sense of entitlement and assumption that their way is the only way. What doesn’t effect me in any way is a Christian suggesting to other Christians “Hey, let’s let our kids sit at the big table on Sunday” on a site about faith. Because it isn’t any of my business. And I’m not a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.

  • DC Rambler

    This does make sense..I grew up in a large Catholic family in the 60s and we took up a whole row !! There is something to attending as a family, lining up for communion, hearing your mom in the choir, joking with your siblings, dirty looks from mom..good times..

    • PlumDumpling

      My parents never went to church with us. They shoved me out the door on Sunday mornings to go by myself. I went for a long time by myself until I left at 13 because I could not stand the cruelty anymore. The kindest thing I ever did for my children was refraining from giving them a Catholic religious education.

  • Unah

    No. This is just more of the church making stuff up so they can avoid taking responsibility for the crazy stuff they did to us. My kids missing out on Sunday school, bible school, youth group, etc is actually something that makes me sad. You can claim that the church teaches joy, hope, grace, forgiveness, courage, but at some point you have to face the fact that isn’t the message we got.

    • RevTim


      It sounds like the church was a great disappointment for you and your family. That breaks my heart. I hear that story all too often. But the stories we often don’t hear are the the stories that happen more often, stories about congregations that take the mission of God’s grace through Christ seriously. Again, I’m sorry that your experience was not an experience of grace.

      • PlumDumpling

        Prove your idea of grace happens in churches often. Has not been my experience. Although I think Unitarians and Quakers do the least damage to people, most churches are not safe spaces.

        • geo_cookman

          When you say “Most Churches are not safe places”, how many churches have you actually attended?

          • PlumDumpling

            Why do you ask?

          • geo_cookman

            I was wondering if you had had any first hand experience. There are news stories that garner a lot of attention, but they do not represent the majority of Churches. It would be difficult to criticize a church that not only preaches the Gospel, but lives it.

          • PlumDumpling

            I was wondering if you had had any first hand experience.
            Yes, I have had first hand experience. I create community Art much of it in churches. I was 15 years in Arts ministry and was a member of the Outreach Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of the Friends of Jesus. Baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic.
            Many of my programs included children and were designed for children to both make Art and learn history.

        • RevTim

          Plum, I know that many would say they had the same experience as you. My experience has been very different. I’ve been a pastor for 30 years and the overwhelming majority of pastors I’ve worked with (in the thousands, by the way) have been gracious, compassionate, albeit imperfect leaders, committed to following Jesus in his mission of bringing grace to the world. Good for you for being very careful and selective about which church to attend. I pray that God will lead you to a congregation that speaks grace and truth.

          • PlumDumpling

            I became a Quaker for awhile. We do not have ‘pastors.’ Every one of us has a ministry. The chief problem many churches have is the pastor. Shall I make a list? Gothard? You know who they are as well as I do.
            I grant that YOU, whose behavior thus far has been beyond reproach here on this blog, are a good man who does good work. We shall see.

          • RevTim

            Plum, thanks for the compliment. The reality is that when a pastor goes bad, it makes the news. But no one reports on the thousands of good men and women faithfully serving their congregations. They are out there. Thanks again for reading and participating!

          • PlumDumpling

            You are welcome. It is obvious you are a humane and decent human being. I see it in your responses. You had many choices in how to respond to me.

    • PlumDumpling

      And they did plenty of crazy stuff and taught plenty of crazy stuff. That is why I was very careful where I worshipped and found out everything I could about how they handled children and what they taught them before I exposed my kids to rampant Christianity.

    • Don Caron

      I often worry about this. The Christians we find in Acts of the Apostles wrestled with a good many issues, but they had a culture as a Christian community that formed them not only when they were at worship. I often wondered what the preaching of Paul and the others was really like. There is so little of that recorded. What could they have said that made people willing to lay down their lives for it?

  • Kylie

    I disagree. When I was growing up in church I sat with a friend and her mom each week. Her mom and grandma sang in the choir and were nice people but you know what we 3rd graders did? We passed notes on the bulletins. We played dots. Every now and then the pastor would say something and we’d underline it in our bibles in pink ink. And right about 8th grade I left the church for 10 years.

    Touch points and experience do not a Christian make. Sitting in a service does not make a person more Christian nor does it make them more spiritual. To say that kids should be in the main church service is the only answer? I don’t agree. I would much rather that my kids be involved in youth groups and pre-youth groups that can encourage them in the relevant needs that THEY have than have them sit through a service routinely each week.

    I want Jesus to be alive for them. I want them to feel support from their peers, and have those kids be lifelong friends that my kids can turn to for a spiritual hug during school hours when they can’t get it from me. And as much as we’d like to think that they can get it from the entire congregation, or from the pastor’s sermon, they can’t.

    Pastors speak to the adult audience. They do not write their sermon for 2-6th graders or for 7-12th. I belong to a wonderful church now and my kids enjoy the children’s program. I have no problem with them coming to sit with me during the service but the truth is the sermon is not understandable for kids. Think about Jesus and his parables. The examples He gave would not have been understood by children because they don’t have the maturity, experiences, and street smarts required TO understand yet. They were barely understood by the adults at that time!

    In our church the kids learn to put feet to their faith, to stand up for their beliefs and to be the church outside of the church. They learn to live their faith out loud not just within the four church walls. If that’s what the future of the church looks like, I can’t wait to see it.

    • DP

      Absolutely right.

    • BlueEyedGurlieGurl

      So true!!! Well said, sister;)

  • BlueEyedGurlieGurl

    Don’t agree with this idea…. I was raised unchurched by my mother yet attended with my aunt periodically …. She took me to Sunday school…. Sometimes into worship, but not often. I came to Jesus Christ when I was 13…. Because of the people God placed in my life through SS that were the hands and feet of Christ. It was the one on one touch of their commitment that led me to Him. I currently attend a church where there are no adult SS classes during worship. Children attend not SS but drama, a message and a time to talk further. Sometimes they attend worship but most often they attend their time with their peers.
    I believe we are seeing people not attending church/corporate worship due to the distractions and busyness they face. Plus, they are bone tired from working 40+ hours a week on top of transporting kids to practice/extra curricular activities. I do agree that Discipleship …. True discipleship can and will make a difference. People need to know how to pour into those around them…. They long to reach out and make a difference.

    • DP

      Absolutely agree.

  • Bill Bass Jr

    I can see the logic behind the conclusions here, but my guess is that this is just one end of the macrocosm that has lead so many away from organized religion. In our congregation, we use a hybrid method … the children, 2nd grade and under, are excused after praise & worship (singing, praises/prayer concerns, announcements, giving the peace, the offering) and they have children’s activities that focus on the same message being brought to the adults. Older children stay in services, and yes, there are many that sleep, draw, giggle & titter, etc., but they’re growing accustomed to things Sunday by Sunday. Mine seem to enjoy being with us more than going out with other children. Maybe that’s an exception rather than a rule, dunno, but I like it.

    • RevTim

      We use a similar model in our congregation.

  • $324578

    “We never ‘church-broke’ them”? That language superbly demonstrates atheists’ assertion that what happens in church is a form of brainwashing. I grew up in Sunday School in the 1980′s and 1990′s, and I eventually did leave the church. However, I don’t think it was because I was unchurched as much as finally realizing I was being churched at too much. It wasn’t a lack of exposure to the church but a lack of sincerity from the church.

    • RevTim

      SATX…thanks for chiming in. “Church-broke” was meant as a playful way of saying that, as with anything, it takes some training to get into the spirit of what’s happening in worship. When you break a horse you work with it to break down a certain way of approaching the world to give it a new way of life. We train our kids to be students. We train them in sports. And for those of us who want our children to experience the power of a faith community, it takes some training. And that can’t happen if they are always separated from the main worship service. The “brainwashing” charge is a straw man argument. All of us, no matter what our faith system or lack of it, pass it along to our kids. Even atheists “brainwash” their kids. We enculturate our kids into our thinking. Following Jesus is the primary motivation of my life and I want to pass that along to my kids and grandkids. Per the “insincere” church…lots of truth there, sadly. On the other hand, as I’ve said in other responses below…there are many more examples of flawed but passionate churches and Christians following Jesus and making a difference in their communities.

  • Lois

    We haven’t “articulated the gospel in compelling ways?” So then, what’s compelling enough? One of our problems is that we’ve shifted from believing that it’s not the gospel itself but HOW WE share it that creates believers? Because the gospel in itself, shared in ANY way is compelling. The power is in the living Word of God and His Spirit who brings people to faith, not our exciting or boring worship services. Perhaps, just perhaps, our biggest failure in the church is forgetting that it’s God’s church, it’s God’s people, it’s God’s Spirit and our task is much simpler. Speak of and teach people what we find in the Word of God. It is not whether or not it’s wrapped in fun activities, up beat music, worship geared for 5 year olds, mission trips around the world, or mountain top experiences for teenagers that keep people in church. It may, however, be what keeps them from church. What we lack is an understanding that they can play games and listen to contemporary music at home. GIVE THEM WORSHIP! Give them challenging Bible study and stop pandering to their feelings which come and go as easily as the wind.

    • RevTim

      Lois, I believe with you that the Gospel is in and of itself compelling. But how we communicate it is important. If we’re not personally engaged with the story, or if our telling of it is boring and mundane, people will sense the message itself is boring. That’s a part of the risk God took in making the Word flesh. Jesus was a master at proclaiming the Gospel in ways that captured the ears of his audience. If you water down dynamite it loses its explosive power.

    • Don Caron

      I can’t help but be reminded that for the earliest Christians, the secular world was harsh and judgmental. They truly wanted to believe in and become a part of the Kingdom of God which was about transformation of the self and of the world. This seems to be true even today that in places where life is a travail, the Christian message flourishes and participation rises significantly. In Western society, I fear, people are for the most part satisfied with the way things are, so transformation becomes more of a threat than a promise.

    • Emily H

      I don’t think it’s necessarily “how” we share the Gospel, but more the fact that the American church has watered down the gospel to such a degree that it’s easy to slough off as unnecessary or old-fashioned when these kids get out on their own. I don’t think we’re giving our kids the real Jesus in most churches anymore.

  • Patricia Parsons Wilson

    Years ago, with my 6 year old grandson beside me, communion was being passed in the pews. I had explained to him that the bread was the Body of Christ………..when he took his piece, he whispered “I hope I get his heart”……………..that moment would be lost if he’d been in Children’s Church or Sunday School……..

    • RevTim

      That is a great story.

  • Shyla

    Thank you for this. I also believe that the adults are losing part of the worship experience by not interacting with the children and youth. How can they pass on their experience with Christ if they never see the children?

    • RevTim

      We did a service last weekend where our kids lined up in the front of the worship center and laid hands on the adults to bless them. One of the most powerful spiritual moments many of us adults have ever had.

  • Dianne Enzian

    I am a Sunday school teacher and we have a worship part of our Sunday school each week so the kids learn what happens in the “big” church. We also include them in some of the services. The older kids get to go over to church on communion Sundays. On Childrens’ Day they take over everything! This is great for them and for the adults.We also share with the adults via bulletin boards at coffee hour some of their projects.We even had them host coffee hour in the classroom and invited the adults.Blending the two has been working for us. First Congregational of Wareham, MA

    • RevTim


    • PlumDumpling

      Children’s Day is a fabulous project. Thank you.

  • Peter

    Heres a thought!
    Deut 6:4-9 Listen, Israel! The Eternal is our True God—He alone. 5 You should love Him, your True God, with all your heart and soul, with every ounce of your strength.[a] 6 Make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning. 8 Do whatever it takes to remember them: tie a reminder on your hand and bind a reminder on your forehead where you’ll see it all the time, 9 such as on the doorpost where you cross the threshold or on the city gate.

  • DP

    I think you have become old in your thinking. Also, the falling away from church doesn’t occur until young adulthood, if you look at the studies. It occurs due to college and the focus on peers. Last, you imply that all evangelicals had during the time before contemporary worship children and adults worshiping together followed by Sunday school. However, many people never attend Sunday school. Your thinking is old and you’re lost in “the way we were” which is never forward thinking, because it is always looking back.

    • RevTim

      Could be…I am 56. But actually, I was a champion of separating kids from adult worship for 20 of my 30 years of ministry…and my sense is, along with that of many others, is that that concept may not be the best way to raise our kids in the faith. Sometimes, just because it’s old and in the past doesn’t mean it’s bad or no longer relevant.

    • Bill & Kris Tenny-Brittian

      Not sure where your research comes from, but of those children raised in church who no longer attend, the majority left the church prior to college … and most prior to high school (when given a choice). See the research by Ken Ham in Already Gone – a landmark study on young adults who have left the church and don’t intend to return.

      • PlumDumpling

        Thanks for the ken Ham reference.

  • Leslie Pasinski Drury

    In our church, infants under 2 can go to the nursery if their parents wish them to, but most stay in the service. Our pastor welcomes children, noisiness and all. I can’t imagine sending my kids away to attend a service apart from me. Now that they are 15 and 16, I realize how important the time together with them was. We have great discussions centered on the message that day and they freely interact with all of the adults in our church during fellowship time afterward. What a blessing for all of us. What a strange notion that we should separate families during a church service!

    • Sharla Hulsey

      I went to worship with my mom from the time I was too old for the nursery and Children’s Church (which was optional, through around third or fourth grade, but parents could choose to have their kids in regular worship at any age they felt it was appropriate). No, I didn’t always understand the sermon; if I didn’t, I would sit and thumb through the Bible or the hymnal (I know quite a bit about hymnody in large part because of those times when I pored over the hymnal during the pastor’s sermon), or draw pictures on the bulletin. But some of those sermons must have soaked in anyway, because my mom says I preach just like our pastor from those days.

      In our congregation now children are welcome in worship. We have “quiet bags” that are filled with little toys and colors and things. If the kids get restless and need to go out, there are a couple ladies in the congregation who will accompany a group of them down to the nursery, where they play, and maybe get a little lesson (or at the very least, they learn to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” which one of the major 20th-century theologians once said pretty much sums up Christian theology…). We generally prefer having the kids in worship, even if occasionally one of them breaks loose and runs up on the chancel while I’m trying to read the Scripture…

      • RevTim

        Thanks. Great ideas.

    • RevTim

      Thanks, Leslie.

  • Richard Moor Hamm

    Maybe one of the reasons children/youth leave the church is because, if they have had a positive, learner-centered, engaging Sunday School experience, and then enter worship experience that DOES NOT ENGAGE THEM, INVOLVE THEM, IS POSITIVE AND JOYOUS,

  • Pastor Jeff

    reaching the unchurched requires changing their mental picture of church…see the new book on this topic: “AMERICAN GOTHIC CHURCH: Changing the Way People See the Church.” Available at Amazon and other online book retailers in softcover and ebook formats.

  • Bill & Kris Tenny-Brittian

    Although Pastor Tim’s words are heart-moving and the article is well written, the broad conclusions are at best misleading. There simply were not that many churches in the ’70s and ’80s who removed the children from worship for even a portion of the service, let alone the whole service, to have created the church’s current lack-of-participants/adherents crisis. Further, significant research on the exodus of formerly churched young adults has shown the chief reason they left the church (mostly as children) was because they found the adult worship service to be boring. And there is no evidence to show that children who sit through worship designed for adults are more likely to remain in church as adults – in fact, the opposite is the case. I more fully explore this conversation in a blog post at

    • RevTim

      Thanks for the insightful counter-balance to my piece. Obviously there are many, many factors that go into the growth or decline of a congregation. But after 20+ years in the Seeker Movement (which, by the way…I still embrace!) I think the discussion about kids in worship is more than just wistful longing for the good old days. It’s a discipleship issue with all kinds of ramifications however we answer the question. If our call is to call people to follow Jesus by being a part of his Body, the Church, how do we best do that for our kids? Let’s keep at it!

  • Beth Burress Campbell

    And to think that someone tried to put me on a guilt trip for having my sweet son in church with me this morning! #Jerks (Kidding on the hashtag, it was my own mother! Love you momma!) *GASP!*

  • Brett Pavia (Kayakman)

    I question the historical timeline presented in this article. Sunday School was not a boomer invented innovation, but goes way back to the early industrialized England. Originally and even today, it does not take kids out of the main worship service as it take place during a Christian Education hour, where kids, youth, adults, and the elderly all have classes aimed at their life stage. …. Maybe the author of Horne article could have pointed fingers at “Children’s Church” or “Youth Service”, as these were designed to be the worship service for differnt age groups. … Again it is the timeline in the article that I question… These “children’s churches” and “youth services” came long before “seeker service”. I would suggest that those raised in age-level worship services demanded that the adult service accommodate their “culture” or they would not come back to church. It was not the seeker church that created children’s church, but children’s church that created the seeker church.

    • Don Caron

      I inherited a situation exactly like that described in the article. I have been working for a year to convince parents who are reluctant to add even 15 minutes of additional “church time” on a Sunday of the need to allow children to worship fully.

  • Miss Becca

    I am the Director of Children’s Ministries at a church in central PA. I run a Children’s Church during our two sanctuary services. Our children sit with their parents until Children’s Chat (about 15 min in), where the pastor talks with them about the scripture. Then I take the kids out and I read the same scripture lesson at their level, stopping to break down any big words or concepts they might not understand. Then we do a craft and I bring them back into the sanctuary during the last hymn. This way, the kids get the best of both worlds. They hear the same scripture as their parents and they get to experience parts of “Big Church” as we call it. Once they are in 3rd-4th grade though, they are expected to stay with their parents the whole time. I have also been known to encourage parents to keep their children in worship if there is something special, like a dance group or music I know a particular child might enjoy.

    • PlumDumpling

      Good system. That is how my Meeting did/does it. We do it in part because we are Hicksite Friends. We have no sermons or music. We sit in silence.

      Sometimes Friends are led to speak by The Seed/God/Spirit/Truth. I have sat in Meetings in which not one word but the Clerk’s opening and closing were said. I have sat in Meetings when some folks are led to sing and speak.

      I think it goes without saying that this is a form of worship would be torture for children. Our First Day School is like yours in curriculum.

    • RevTim

      This is very helpful. Thanks.

  • Brett Pavia (Kayakman)

    Maybe a better way to “church break” kids is to practice Daily Office for family devotions, as well as create both kids and youth age appropriate liturgical worship service. It’s not logical to make kids or teen sit in an adult service or adult Sunday school class that is not speaking to them and that they get nothing out of. …. So if the he goal is to prepare them for a church life with liturgical, start them on this at home and in age designed liturgical services. To force kids and teens in to services designed for adults, will make them hate church and leave church.

    • Joyful_2010

      Then why not create a service where the kids get something out of it? Our church started a 30-minute Family Worship Service some time ago; though it’s designed for 3rd-grade and under, it’s making in-roads with our tween & under youth. The key is having a service that engages the tweens, teens and young adults as well… we’re on the right track with contemporary worship but often lose them during the sermon.

      • DUH

        And your comment illustrates the problem with our society. We do NOT need to keep entertaining children. Sunday morning worship service should not be about “creating a service where the kids get something out of it..”
        Attending service with parents is partly to teach children how to attend service. It is not to entertain them. They have schools, social media and the whole world doing that already. There is much to benefit to sitting through the sermon. Think any of the apostles worried about “losing people during the sermon?”

        • RevTim

          Duh, one of the definitions of entertainment is to attract and hold someone’s attention in order to communicate something to them. In that sense all of worship needs to be entertaining–done in a way that speaks the language of the people, that communicates to them that God is for them. I think there is a difference between pandering to an audience and truly engaging them. Every time I read Jesus is see again how engaging he was.

    • Kathryn A. O’Keefe

      A worship service shouldn’t be designed only for adults though; it’s meant to be for everyone, regardless of age. Having an additional program, before or after the service would make the most sense.

    • Kathryn A. O’Keefe

      Also, as a teenager, I can say with certainty that most teens I know, myself included, HATE getting separated out: teenagers are generally ready to learn on the same level as young adults, and separating us out to try and teach us at a different level is a great way of making most teenagers feel like they’re being babied, looked down on, and not taken seriously. It’s one of the best ways of alienating anyone.

      • Brett Pavia (Kayakman)

        Disagree – i grow up with a youth group of 200… not only did we have a great worship band, but also youth discipleship, small groups, outreach events, mission trips overseas, and yes social events. We LOVED having our own youth culture church… most of these teens did not have parents attending the church, so we were reaching the lost. If we only had the adult service to go to, we never would have reached so many.

        • Kathryn A. O’Keefe

          I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be things like youth groups, study groups specifically geared towards youth, and things like that, but that the actual worship service, mass, church service, (or whatever other name can be ascribed to it) that youth go to should be the same as the one for adults.

    • Should-be-working

      If the worship service isn’t speaking to everyone and there are people there (children are people, remember) who aren’t getting anything out of it, then it’s a problem with the service, not the congregation. Children, even very small children, can and should get something out of corporate worship. It is probably not what an adult gets, but they too experience God and community. Just because they can’t put it into big words doesn’t mean the experience isn’t there.

  • Should-be-working

    I think there are good ways to bring children into the fullness of worship and one of them might be to have Sunday School be a separate time than worship. But it’s only part of the picture. When children are in church, they must be welcomed by the congregation, as children, not as mini-adults. Children attending church that are glared at, not greeted during the peace, not included in the prayers and so forth are not going to value church. Yes, decorum must be taught and age-appropriate behavior expectations set and reinforced. But too many parishioners who do not have children are downright hostile to children, even when they are well behaved. A teen once said to me, “If the church doesn’t love me, then God must not either”. To her, the congregation had made it clear that children and teens weren’t welcome and she took that as a stand-in for rejection by God as well. How terribly sad that we do this to our young people.

  • Daniel Lowe

    My parents tried to force me to attend church. Today I’m an agnostic with a very well defined moral compass.

    Little children are not independent enough to evaluate religion for themselves. I know I wasn’t. It was forced on me. I rebelled and grew up thinking for myself as a consequence. I question everything that the media, the government, and the church has to say.

    Just some food for thought, parents. I love my family, but I do not share their beliefs, and that’s because I was never allowed to “think for myself” until the age of 17.

    I do make incredible films, by the way, this one is from the monastery at Montserrat in Catalonia. Because, even an Agnostic knows what Beauty is.

    • WatchingFromOverThere

      Do you also resent the fact that your parents made you take baths, go to bed at night, pick up your toys, eat your vegetables, or do all sorts of things that children don’t like to do?
      Your parents gave you something precious, a set of beliefs to measure and either accept or reject.
      Parents who don’t impart any beliefs (not necessarily religious, but also political and social beliefs) leave their children open to the commercial culture, which is superficial and designed to create insecurity and mindless consumerism.

  • Brook

    When we say separating “kids” out are we including teens in this? I grew up being in Childrens church till I was in 3rd grade and honestly it was awesome, we loved it! I am almost 33 and still continue to go to church. I don’t think these young people who decide not to go to church when they are adults make that decision based on whether or not they attended “big people church”…Ummm could it be the lack of Biblical influence at home??? Or maybe their parents being complete hypocrites??? I am fully aware that no one is perfect and we are all hypocritical at different times, but there is a huge difference between being a hypocrite and letting our kids know that we are not perfect…or pretending we are perfect and being seen as complete phonies! Lets not blame the church, let maybe lay the blame where it belongs…these young adults making the decision not to attend church any more, are making the choice for themselves.

  • Adam Saverian

    FYI, Churches/Denominations with the highest retention rates (between 50 and 80 percent) don’t have sunday school.

    There are several reasons why removing children from the Service ( “leitourgia” Acts 13:2) is harmful for their spiritual life. This article goes only so far. There’s much more that could be said.

    • RevTim

      Adam…do you have source for that statistic? Fascinating. And yes, a lot more can be said on this subject…one blog post is not enough…as the responses indicate!

      • Adam Saverian

        Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) did a study on retention of children raised in various religions and Christian denominations. Orthodox (e.g. Easter Orthodox Catholic, not Easter/Byzantine Roman Catholic) Churches have the highest retention, followed by Roman Catholics. As I went through the list I noticed right away that the denominations that had the highest retention rates did not have Sunday School. As you go down the list you will notice that the denominations are more likely to take children out of the service and put them in a Sunday School class. There study shows only a correlative relationship, but I believe Sunday School plays a role in retention.

        • RevTim


          • Adam Saverian

            You’re welcome

  • Allison

    My family only went to church probably ten times in my life, but I distinctly remember HATING Sunday school. I attended Christian schooling, and Sunday school always seemed condescending to me. I wanted to learn what the adults were learning. I was also very anti-social, so I never enjoyed having to make conversation with strange children. I agree that this style of learning should be phased out. I’ll never send my children to Sunday school. Children should be able to worship with their families.

  • Ruth Smith

    As a child in a family of 7 children, we were faithfully in Sunday School and church every Sunday. It amazes me now how my mother was able to have all of us fed and ready to go to church every Sunday – our Sunday School attendance pins prove this was so. Though we were in children’s classes for Sunday School, we all sat together in church. I remember Mother sat at one end of the row and Daddy at the other end, with all of the children in between. And they had the longest arms you can imagine when we didn’t behave! Those were special times. I do believe that modern churches who separate the children in every service, for whatever reason – whether it is to “have something at their level”, “have the services quieter”, etc. – there is something lost when the family is never together in a single service. After the children go through the stages of primary church, junior church, and finally may be part of the adult service, they are encouraged to sit in a special section for the “teens” rather than with their parents. The supposed need for entertaining the children or teaching them at “their” level has left a huge void. I have no documentation of the fruit of this but what I observe in the Christian community today. The old adage that a family that prays together, stays together may well include the family that worships together will continue to worship according to the Word of God.

  • U Nderwater Glockenspiel

    Lutherans are evil antisemites. Most evangelicals are lawless anti-torah monkeys jumping from one thing to the next like monkeys among branches.

  • Robert Roy

    I am thrilled that church attendance is falling fast. It shows that the younger generation is not so easily conned as the pre- Internet kids were.

    • RevTim

      Or perhaps they are being conned by something else! :)

      • Robert Roy

        Possible but after millennia of this con it’s about time to see if we can do better than belief in things that cannot be supported with objective evidence, don’t you think?

        • Doug Johnson

          If we can do better than believing in this, then why are you here? I don’t waste my time with nonsense. So, what bugs you?

          • Robert Roy

            See my reply to Reverend Tim above and have a great day thanks

        • RevTim

          Let’s see…Martin Luther King Jr was conned by it…and changed the world. Mother Teresa was conned by it…and changed the world. If grace, forgiveness, the golden rule, loving one’s neighbor as one self is a con, the world could certainly use more of it.

          • Robert Roy

            Mother Theresa was responsible for massive amounts of suffering and should not be held up as anything but a polished con artist. I will give you one on MLS but his namesake was a horrible antisemitic monster and was a big influence of Hitler. (Himself a life long Christian) I repeat, this con must end.

          • RevTim

            Robert, for someone who wants us to look objectively, it might be time for you to look at your history, including Luther and Mother Theresa. And just because Hitler twisted and abused Luther’s words doesn’t mean Luther was responsible for Hitler. Still not sure what the con is…and why are you so afraid of it? Again, if grace, forgiveness, the golden rule, loving one’s neighbor as ones self is a con…we need more of it. You might also google great Christians of history to see the volumes of great men and women, inspired by Jesus, who helped change the world for the better.

          • Robert Roy

            None of the examples of benefits of Christian teaching are unique to Christianity. I have read extensively on great humans and your Martin Luther and Mother Theresa were both very bad people. While I used to believe they were good I read up on them and the evidence is overwhelming. There are many good Christians (my Dad for one) and I am not wishing to stop you from believing, I do not want the indoctrination of children into religion. Let them learn about religion when they are teens and can make their own decisions. With kindest regard

          • RevTim

            I appreciate your input and your engagement with this particular post. Hopefully I’ll have another one or two that will pique your interest as well!

          • Robert Roy

            Sorry Don Caron has made me realize that I cannot go on dealing with closed minds. Thanks for the initially interesting debate.

          • Don Caron

            One of the most sane and inspiring things my denomination has done is to provide us with a calendar called Holy Women, Holy Men. It includes the stories of inspiring persons, many of whom were not part of our denominational heritage, and makes no claims that their lives were wholly holy, but illustrates that in some significant ways, these people used their faith to make this world a better place. We all (if we have a faith base) find ourselves struggling to be true to it at various times. I think that if we are honest, the world is a better place when the faith-inspired course of action was the one that won out.

          • Robert Roy

            I think I can honestly say that I don’t think faith is the best way of making good decisions. I do wish you all the best though as I see it works for you.

          • Don Caron

            I think I understand where you are coming from, Robert. The media are delighted to feature screwball actions of “people of faith,” like the minister who burned the Koran or ISIS militants who murder in the name of Allah. We have seen all kinds of horrible things perpetrated by people who say they are directed by their faith. When the “person of faith” is acting on his own, or on the basis of the understanding of a select little group of believers, what usually happens is that they distort the message to merely ratify their own warped ideas. That’s why it’s important to belong to a group that is large enough and part of a sufficiently developed tradition to give a broader perspective.

          • Robert Roy

            If that is what you want to believe then do so. I have said nothing to support your hypothesis but you have made up this idea. I find this disturbing. RevTim I doubt now that I will be back again.

          • Don Caron

            I believe that there is sufficient evidence to support my thesis concerning what happens when people use their own interpretation of religion as a rationalization for their behaviors. Sunday School should–and usually does– instill a sense of the meaning of faith that takes into account a broader interpretation, based on the Golden Rule.

          • Robert Roy

            When I see you deliberately “misunderstand” my comment I see that I will not be back.

    • Bradford Nelson Bray

      I don’t think any religion or spiritual heritage has the corner on love of enemy and justice. Christianity is merely one tradition. I think it is a false dichotomy to suggest all or any religious tradition required non thinking followers. That’s a lie. I support and teach a thinking spirituality. I challenge folk in my parish to “follow the evidence.” I teach a historical and empirical based approach to the Judaic/Christian tradition. I am not the only one. I think you need to stop generalizing about religion (btw philosopher Sam Harris new book in September will speak to this) and look into specific modes of education and thinking that is occurring in some religious circles. My opinion….bases upon reality. I don’t teach “magic,” I teach historical and social facts.

      • Robert Roy

        I too am looking forward to Neuroscientist Sam Harris has to say about spirituality. I am quite certain it will be based on evidence and materialism and not on any invisible deity though unless he has changed a lot recently. I strongly suspect that a religion based on “follow the evidence” would find it self at odds with the 43% of Americans who are “literalists” (whatever they mean by that}

  • pamela

    I have tried to read most of the comments below so that my input is not merely repetitive but additive. In my long experience as a child and as an adult in a couple of different Christian denominations, I have taken time to ask people who left the church, as I once had, but never returned. I have returned, by the way. AS far as Sunday school goes, the issues go far beyond engagement of children and youth in worship service and SS integration and special programs. Let’s examine also the amounts and types of foolishness we teach little ones that as teens they cannot accept. Historically, the church has taught illustration, metaphors, and myths as literally true to children. The church begins to lose its credibility with thinking people be them children or adults. Also we have mistaught adults to believe that “church” is the worship service of a particular congregation. “Church” is community, and the life of that community should be geared to love and service to others, not to once-a-week meeting. (This is obvious to those in a thriving congregation, so my comment here are for those who have been burned or ignored in their church experiences and have rejected the church. Too often rejection of church translates to rejection of Christ because we have not taught that from young childhood through late adulthood each of us is responsible to do our own seeking. Our seeking should be assisted by other members of the community throughout all these stages.

    • RevTim

      All great insights! Obviously I’m only looking at a small piece of the issue. But, in terms of long term discipleship, this is an important one. Thanks for chiming in.

      • pamela

        Thank you, too, Rev. Tim for launching an investigation into what and how Sunday School for children affects engagement into adulthood. I hope we can find solutions for integrating all the pieces of what we typically call the “church experience” in such a way as to unify and solidify Christian community.
        Pamela Greenlaw

        Subject: Re: New comment posted on Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church

  • SP

    But what about the children that don’t have christian families? Or the children that have parents that “go” to church but bash the preacher and saints once they are home? Sunday School then becomes a place of salvation for them. They have one place where they can be treated special and not just another name on a school list or another mouth to feed. I can tell a story of a child that was being sexually abused by his mother but he attended Sunday School and children’s church because that was the only services his mother would allow. Today he drives the buses that goes and picks up other children just like he was. Sure there is a disconnection but the answer is not getting rid of it. That is really for the adults that don’t want to take the time to make arrangements for children in my opinion. What needs to happen is that the teachers and youth directors need to get a closer walk with God so that when they are teaching and leading the children they are building the church experience in the class room. My Power Hour teachers teach worship and prayer to our children and we have seen several children come to God. The hard part about keeping these kids is not the children but parents that don’t see any need to bring them or move to find work. If you want to build a relationship with children that will keep them in church you have to be willing to sacrifice and willing to go out of the way to make them feel special and while doing this you have to have people that have a passion to share God’s love and truth with these children.
    Look back. Name the people that made a difference in your life and I am almost sure at least one of them will be a teacher that had a passion to teach.

    Just my two cents worth.

    Name the 5 parts of the ministry. Notice that the pastor and Teacher are tied together and separated from the other three.
    My dad and my pastor who has go on to the Lord taught the 5fold like this.

    Hold up your hand. Fist you have the Prophet “the pointer” Second you have the Evangelist “the longest reaching” Next you have the Pastor and Teacher. “the smallest of the four. But note that the teach when bent makes the pastor bend but if the Pastor stands tall if puts pressure on the teacher to stand straight. Now make a fist. The Apostle “the strongest” now becomes the force that holds them together.

    Sorry this came to me and I had to add it.

    • RevTim

      Great point about the kids who come with no parents. I’m not saying we should get rid of Sunday School. I’m simply asking if separating our kids/youth from adult worship all of their lives assimilates them out of worship as adults. A church truly committed to kids, whether they have Sunday School or not, should look for those “parent-less” kids and hook them up with a mentor.

      • SP

        I see your point. What I am saying is that for some Sunday Morning is the only time they will get a chance to be in a safe place. Make it something that will “hook” them so that once they are older they can join the evening worship. Of in some cases the later worship service for the churches that only have one service on Sunday. Our church still holds three service a week. Two on Sunday and one on Wednesday night. So Sunday is focused to reach the new attendee and the children and the evening is geared to build the regular saints with worship and praise. That is why I push my teachers to teach prayer and worship during class. So that when they do attend a worship service they are prepared. I could see Sunday School being a problem when a church only has one hour long service on Sunday and nothing the rest of the week. For these churches Sunday School would become a burden. But I guess that is why I feel if you are gong to have just one service then, then an hour needs to be set aside for outreach and hour for worship. This would allow for the children to attend both. But then I like to be in church and for some the quicker it is over the better. lol

        • RevTim


  • John

    Thank you for the interesting blog. Do you recall a specific source for the study you read about 20 years ago?

    • RevTim

      John, wish I did. It was pre-internet so I’ve had difficulty locating it. But it sticks in my mind because it was a compelling study and I chose to ignore it! :)

  • Jim_in_SanDiego_56

    So the contemporary church services all came out of a rebellion against the institutionalized Baptist-style churches of old? What the author doesn’t take into account is the fact that the overwhelming majority of those evangelical “seeker” churches that sprang up in the revival of the late 1960s identified themselves as non-denominational. These “seeker” churches put their teaching emphasis on straightforward exegesis of Biblical text- line by line, verse by verse, precept by precept- and they moved away from the “topical sermon” approach with its’ outline/point/point/overview/summary approach to teaching. In other words- the adults in the new “seeker” churches got their Sunday School teaching straight from the pulpit in the form of textual study, and virtually every service would incorporate an explanation of what it means to receive Christ by faith and would conclude with an altar call. The “seeker” churches of the late 60’s also stressed the idea that children were to be taught Biblical precepts by their parents because society had already begun moving from the Scripture as a basis for morality and living. This is one of the reasons that Sunday school programs that were for the youth were geared towards providing dynamic experiences for children as the author has pointed out.

    I agree with the author that America is raising the largest group of unchurched people in the history of our country- but to somehow loosely connect this fact to the evangelical church approach of the Baby Boomers is unsubstantiated at best and irresponsible at worst. It’s important to take into consideration the fact that the Boomers who did NOT turn to Christ in the 1960′s and 1970′s are also the powerbrokers, politicians, and policy makers who set the tone for our political and social climate and who dictate curriculum in our educational systems and higher academia. What is being taught in schools and to our youth is that we are, of absolute fact, products of evolution. The idea of an infinite, personal God who has created order out of chaos and who has established order throughout His universe is laughed at. There is no longer male and female, there is no longer man having dominion over the earth and being distinct from the rest of creation; there is no longer any structure or hierarchies of order as set up by a Divine Intelligence. All of these concepts are either ridiculed or questioned or have been dimissed as archaic and irrational and have no place in a progressive world. The very tenets of Christianity and the questions of man’s existence and place in the universe are challenged and any and all answers as to who and what man is are all up for debate. The society is the way it is not because Sunday School is gone. After all, Sunday School only matters if one “graduates” and comes to the place where they recognize their need for reconciliation and relationship to Christ. No, rather- society is the way it is because EVERYsource of Christian teaching available to a young person has been REMOVED from our society save that single, solitary Sunday School teacher who spends one hour a week with them. The children and youth of today watch their parents laugh at the dated and isolationist views of post-modern Christianity and they watch as their parents disregard and dismiss America’s great religious traditions. And lets’ not forget the immigrants and illegal migrants who have flooded this country in the past 40 years. What kind of active and living Christian faith and Christian expression have they brought with them, if any? And lastly- there needs to be considered the many former churchgoers who have concluded that institutionalized Christianity has somehow not met all of their Spiritual needs and have subsequently left the denominational church environment for the home-church and personal church experience. These are all factors one has to take into consideration when looking at todays’ unchurched. To simply say it’s because Baby Boomers failed to sit with their kids for an hour each Sunday needs a bit more support than a few musings about “how church used to be better.”

    In closing- the biggest problem I have with articles like these pertains to their tone and how shortsighted they are in regards to the Sovereignty of God. To hear this author tell it- The Almighty has somehow permitted an entire generation of young people to slip into oblivion because He didn’t see the trouble that would come with the contemporary worship service format. This idea would contradict directly with The Scriptures which tell us that the “counsel of the Lord standeth forever- and the thoughts of His heart to all generations.” (Psa 33:11) If I am to believe this author, I would have to conclude that The Almighty must be up there sitting on His Throne and just shaking His head after having allowed a few well-intentioned Baby Boomers to undermine His counsel for continuing to build His Kingdom of believers on earth today. That’s positively shameful.

    • RevTim

      Jim–This is good stuff. But I think you are over-thinking my point. I’m simply asking if, by separating kids from the life of big people worship from nursery through high school if this is not, in reality, assimilating many of them out of the church since they have no touch points with their parents church. It’s certainly not the only reason kids don’t go to church as adults…but I think it’s one that we ought to consider. Are kids a part of the Body of Christ or simply a subset? As I stated in my post and in some of the responses below…I was a part of the Seeker Movement in a Seeker church for over 20 years. I believed and continue to believe that it was a profound move of the Spirit. But God’s Spirit breathes fresh on each new generation, which means the church always needs to re-evaluate our call to equip people to follow Jesus. Is separating kids/youth from the main worship of the church the best way to disciple our kids and en-culturate them into the church? Obviously, this has hit a nerve for a lot of people.

    • jen

      I notice that my son enjoys worship service time with me next to him. We bond in a special spiritual way. He also enjoys kids church at times but lately prefers the big adult service. He is almost 12. Sometimes they play Christian rap music in kids services, but it’s not his favorite style of music. I think its good for him to connect with other Christian kids because not all of his school friends are Christian. And he did pray the salvation prayer in kids church once, so I know there can be positive things there. I already prayed it with him when he was younger, but it’s also important to see one accept it more independently. We listen to fun Christian music in the car and much of it he has heard in the adult service. He loves it and even requests certain songs. So, I think it’s important to have a balance between both, just like most things in life.

  • Dirk L. Zollinger

    Sunday School in my opinion is a place for kids to interact and learn the lessons through fun and togetherness. Just like kids who go to school, and those that are home schooled you need the camaraderie with YOUR OWN to get to know life, as it is. When you send them to adult church, up to a certain age, you are accomplishing NOTHING. Children from a certain age down, should go to a church situation, at the same time as the adults are attending service, just somewhere else. This I know will require some adult supervision from the church. How much greater feeling is there to help a young one learn. Personally, I don’t attend church. I didn’t get to attend church for 12 months while I was in Vietnam, yet I am still here. Not lack of Christianity, lack of churches. God and I got very close several times, he knows even though I am not perfect, I am his to do with as he wishes. In my opinion church is necessary for coming together for most people. Yet some of us wish to follow our Christian paths a little differently, as well as believe in Christianity a little different.

    • Lois

      I completely disagree with you. Young children learn a LOT while attending church with their parents. Even if they aren’t conscious of it, they learn what church is, how to participate, see their parents and others worship, and as they grow in participating in the process, they grow in understanding, they are blessed by the Spirit of God who is there with the people. They also learn that worship is something they do with their family. After church they go to Sunday School or Bible Story TIme and learn at their grade level and the adults go to their own age appropriate Bible study. Think that children don’t learn unless they’re with others their own age is ridiculous.

      • Dirk L. Zollinger

        What does a child from 4-8 get out of Church? Sleep, color, talk. In the mean time the parents aren’t paying attention to the sermon as much as they are the kids. In a sense, they are disrespecting the preacher. To insinuate the way you worship, is with your family, is not necessarily true, even though it is a good thing to do. Even though she doesn’t necessarily agree with me, my daughter in law is a preacher, with 2 sets of YOUNG twins.

        • Lois

          Believe it or not, kids learn a LOT through experience and exposure. As their brain develops it’s like a sponge and they learn from everything around them. Just because it’s not something you can test them on doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. They learn how to BE in church and become familiar with the process of worship, are impressed by a sense of community, listen to the music and liturgy (which they learn by hearing over and over again), and hear the Word of God. Does the Spirit work through that to grow faith in the heart of a young child? YES. .

        • WatchingFromOverThere

          I grew up with both church and Sunday School, and we did not “sleep, color, or talk.” (Contrary to popular opinion it is possible to get children to behave in public.) As soon as we learned to read, we were expected to follow the service and sing the hymns.

    • Kara

      My husband and I have had our daughter with us in worship since she was 2. There have been many opportunities for conversations with her about God because she has asked questions about what was said or done in the service. She also knows and sings many of the hymns we sing where her friends who participate in Children’s Church do not. Children imitate what they see.

  • Ginger S Bennett

    I grew up in the 70′s and 80′s in a Pentecostal church and maybe we had a better mix. Sunday morning we had Sunday school but we came back to church for an all inclusive family service on Sunday night and Wednesday evening (Wednesday nights we often times had a church potluck supper either before or after church – I just remember enjoying the fellowship playing with the other kids). I spent a lot of time at church. They also had youth programs on Saturdays and other Bible studies and prayer meetings through out the week. I now call the United Methodist Church home because I love the liturgy and the balance it brought to my life.

    I think many of the modern churches place too much emphasis on emotion. When I stopped going to church as a teen it was not a matter of loving Christ it was more a frustration with what I felt were constant manipulation sessions reminding me how sinful and broken I am and only by the grace of God I am saved. I know that message is true there is more in the Bible . When I went to the Methodist Church in college my view of God changed from an image with myself walking a tightrope with hell below me and heaven above to one that placed more emphasis on moderation and looking for balance. God became that softer loving God cheering me on and helping me find balance in all aspects of life. They also had Wednesday pot luck dinners where we chatted with friends but there was no church service. Before the dinners there was a prayer group or Bible study for those interested.

    My husband was raised Presbyterian and while we attend his church most often now I don’t feel the closeness I once felt before. Church has now become a political platform for ministers to weigh in on national news and the state of the world. Once again, while I long for a closer relationship with God, I find myself going to church as a family event with the larger family. I would love to see churches turn off the local news channel and get back to the Bible. Leave the politics to the politicians and stick to the Bible and the parables. Offer fellowship opportunities, prayer groups, and Bible studies.

    With all things I say churches need to find and teach balance. Just my thoughts. . .

    • RevTim

      Thanks for your insights.

    • Bradford Nelson Bray

      Wow. “Turn off the local news channel and get back to the Bible?” As one who has studied the bible all my life, this statement makes me wonder what your view of the bible is. Indeed, i surmise you see the bible as a spiritual text separate from the world or worldly matters. Ironically, Jesus was very much IN the world. In fact, his only taught prayer states, “on earth, as it is in heaven.” Have you ever wondered want that means? Why pray for this earth? I think to separate politics from the bible is both niave and false. Jesus, if I can remind you, was arrested, tortured and executed by the political authorities of his day. There is a concrete reason for that. And you think they are different or should be separate??? Do you think Jesus’ use of “King-dom of God” is a secular or political term??? “King” is a concretely and intentionally political term, both then and now. In my opinion, a spiritual life separate from the world in which we live, political and all, is worthless and lacking in the least. When I read statements like this, it makes me sad and angry, sad that people have been taught a bogus understanding of the bible and angry that it gets perpetuated in the 21st century.

  • Brian Hormarci

    lol, yes, sunday school is why people don’t go to church anymore, not because religion is indicative of stupidity and people are finally realizing it.

  • Kara

    Thank you for this…I’ve written about the same, but the way you expressed it was very poignant!

    • RevTim

      Thanks! :)

  • Karen Mulder

    It is this type of article that I believe hurts the church more than it helps. The question can be raised without dissing other churches or church styles. I am a boomer and I believe the church has much responsibility in the “rebellion” that saw many of my generation leaving it. Church was about following the “rules”, judging and gossiping about those who didn’t, and not a place where hurting people could be open about their struggles. Those seeker churches were not that. They wanted to create something different, where hurting people were welcome.

    So much of the dissension in the church today is about nothing more than personal preference and yet we fight about it in unloving ways, and this is what our children see and hear. Each of us connects to the heart of God in different ways. God created us uniquely. One style of church may connect with one person and a different style someone else. That does not make one right and the other wrong, just different. In the same way, what works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another. The greatest teacher of children is how we, as parents and believers, live out our faith and value worship. It is how we serve our community and how we treat each other.

  • valoreem

    I am a children’s pastor and have been for years. I don’t know what I think about this topic. I see the value of kids not being bored in the adult service all the time but I also think it is important for them to attend worship too. Admittedly, most worship services are not for kids. Frankly, my own kids quit attending church because of all the right wing hate mongers who parade around as “Christians”. I’m still hoping they remember how much they loved church and will one day come back. They are still believers, just don’t attend church.

  • joannemdenison

    I completely disagree. I was a sunday school teacher for years and I taught the kids to READ the bible, sing the best songs and have a lot of fun at church.

    Problem with church? The FUN is missing. I don’t know where it went or why, but I think we are also experiencing a ton of kids that are indigos, crystals and church just doesn’t speak to them.

    We have to teach the kids to READ the bible and now all of the ancient texts, the Nag Hammadi, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essene Gospels and whatever else the Vatican is hiding in it’s massive basement.

    Our new kids are thinkers and have pure hearts and souls. Reiki healing, meditation, yoga, all appeal to them.

    What the church did in the 1950′s is long gone and dead, dead, dead. That does NOT mean any fewer people believe in god and goddess and the angels. They do, they just have moved way beyond a world of sinners go to hell (there is no fire buring damnation hell, gimme a break) and a whole bunch of old stuff the church teaches, what they want is a purity of spirit, church, heart and soul.

    Believe me, I have met many, many a person with spirtuality way beyond what I ever thought was possible when I was a kid back in Sunday School in the 1960′s.

    God/dess and the angels move on with or without the pedantic dogma of an outdated church.

    Neitsche may be dead, but God/dess isn’t.

  • UnChurced Harry

    The answer to this “issue” really isn’t a “which one” do should kids to attend… the answer is simply: both! The same answer applies to the parents. Worship together and then go to separate sunday school classes (or, alternatively, parents can serve during the second hour–note that if you have a heartbeat you are called to serve and are capable of serving somewhere). Both.

  • gotwel

    FEWER brainwashed kids!!!!!sounds good to me…
    the less church the better.

  • Donna Lane

    I certainly agree with you, but think maybe it is over-simplified. I think kids need to be in worship services with their parents to learn by example the way to worship God, but they also need to be taught the Bible, it’s concepts and commands in the home. Unless a child finds their own faith as they grow up, they will never be committed to God or His church.

    • RevTim

      Agreed! You may be interested in Mark Holmen’s book, Church+Home where he makes that very argument.

  • Art W. Bitts

    One of my most cherished memories of growing up in church is the wealth of hymns I learned as we sang them throughout the years. I still know hundreds of hymns that speak so much to me – many that are not sung anymore but still have profound messages that reverberate in my soul yet today. My children know handfuls of choruses instead…

  • gapaul

    Everybody is writing about how the church needs to rekindle intergenerational programs. So we need to sit older people and younger people together at the same tables, send them out on mission programs together. But I’ve watched many a teenager visibly cringe at this development. So lets think a little. This, from a recent article in the Washington Post.

    “Research that Steinberg and colleagues published in January showed that when adolescents are in the presence of peers, what is known as the reward circuitry in the brain is more activated than when adults are with their peers. These electrical signals impel us to seek pleasurable things, and it’s only natural that such feelings should be more intense in teens, Steinberg says. “Adolescence is when you start to mate, and from an evolutionary point of view it’s adaptive to do this outside the family, with people close to you in age. So it should be part of our inheritance to feel good when you’re around people your age,” he says. So maybe before we go hog wild in the other direction, we can think carefully about who our young people are.

    • RevTim

      Tanyam…it’s not either/or. Yes, kids need time with kids and youth need time with youth. But many learning theories also tell us that the best way to learn is to hang out with those ahead of us who have knowledge and life-experience. Certainly, if worship doesn’t engage all ages, including teens, it doesn’t solve the issue, either. But if we are truly the Body of Christ, then what does that look like? The Church may be one of the few places left where all generations can come together, worship God together, learn together, and do mission together. We’re not in Kansas anymore, so what we did in the 1950′s won’t translate. New rituals, languages, and so on that include everyone and value all ages are vital. What we can say is this: What we are currently doing–segmenting kids/youth out of worship–isn’t working. What’s the new thing God is up to for his entire Church?

  • Chad Holtz

    This is a great article, and I appreciate it’s attempt to help us all focus on what is most important -worshiping God over programs – but I’m not sure it accurately captures many of our churches which are doing BOTH and doing it well, IMO. For instance, I don’t know of many churches where kids have no touch-points with worship all the way up through their teen years. If that is the case, that’s not a problem with Sunday School but with leadership! Who does that?

    At our church everyone participates in corporate worship. We all sing, greet each other, share glory-sightings (testimonies of God’s presence), have a pastor-led children’s sermon (kids all come down front and I get to tell them a bible story based on an object one of them brought hidden in a hollow book), share in the offering and then they are dismissed for children’s church during my sermon. And even that is for kids ages 4-9. If you are 10 and up, you are in the service.

    Sunday school or children’s church isn’t the culprit for mass exodus. It’s doing it poorly, IMO, or leadership that doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say. If we are offering Christ at every opportunity in every way we can, faithfully, we don’t have to worry about results. God will provide the increase.

    (but again, I’m still shaking my head at the thought of an 18 year old graduating youth group and never having experienced worship. Is this really happening?)

    • RevTim

      Thanks, Chad. The reality is that many kids never do have a touch point with intergenerational church experiences. Just heard the story of a large church that segments kids out of big people worship from nursery through adult. Now…they can’t get young adults to go to big people worship…so they are considering a young adult worship experience to hopefully transition them into big people worship some day. But segmenting doesn’t work. Good on you for what you are doing to connect all ages to the Body of Christ.

  • Mark Plosser

    I think it runs even deeper. This trend of “contemporary” worship has turned children’s class time into an ADHD experience of over-stimulation. Instead of a classroom setting, they are bombarded with video clips, pop music, and entertainment. Basically, church is no different than the rest of their lives.

    Then, if they go to the adult’s worship service, they basically get more of the same, with a sermon attached. There is no time for reflection. There is no time for thought. There is no time for learning and examining. You get entertained, and you are given a spiel on what someone thinks you should think. This is true for both children and adults.

    I personally abandoned the modern church about two years ago. I joined the Episcopal church in order to find substance amidst the chaos of life. The modern style of worship is adding noise to the noise. If our kids have to be stimulated to this degree now, what will it take to bring them back as adults 10-15 years from now?

    • RevTim

      Mark…Glad you found a church that speaks to you. God created lots of different types of congregations because no one style of worship captures the boundlessness of God, nor does one style of worship cover all the different ways people experience life. One is not better than the other. At the same time, I do share your concern that if we make worship a consumer driven experience that people will seek the experience rather than the Creator.

      • Mark Plosser

        I agree that there are different styles of worship, and I would not argue against that, at least not in theory. My argument is against turning church into a media experience that is merely driven by emotion and stimulation. I feel like we get enough of that already. When he could, Jesus escaped the crowd and the distractions in order to listen to God in the quiet.

        We don’t have enough quiet. We have screens in front of us all day. We are bombarded with images and sounds. When church becomes a continuation of that, there is no point to be still. I liken it to watching television – you are lulled into a state of passivity and illusion, where you think you are participating, but you are merely observing.

        My children claim they are “bored” in my church (they usually attend a very contemporary church) – when I ask why, they say “because you have to do too much.” That is very telling to me. The boredom comes from having to participate in a true sense, where there is time to reflect and think about what you are doing. (I’m not suggesting that the Episcopal church is somehow superior – I’m pointing out that the style of worship is far removed from the modern style.)

        Modern worship was created in order to connect with people, yet my fear is that there is less of a connection than we’d like to admit. And, we are raising a generation of kids who are becoming even more disconnected from religious reflection and depth.

        • RevTim

          Mark, good stuff here. As we move from a TV generation to a digital generation, it will be interesting to see how we translate the Gospel to a new way of learning and experiencing the world…not unlike when we moved from an oral presentation to a written one.

  • DCELynn

    Oh my word! Here we go AGAIN–the same old same old about the “merits of incorporating children/youth/young adults back into traditional worship” (aka anyone over the age of 2 should be able to sit quietly though through pipe organ music, readings, and long-winded sermons just because that’s what “real church” is in the eyes of certain increasingly elderly members of established congregations). Our culture is changing! Why shouldn’t the way we approach spiritual nuture change as well? I am in my fifties (yes, one of those “boomers”) and have attended churches that ranged from highly traditional to cutting edge contemporary and–no matter what their worship or programming style–NONE of these congregations ever completely isolated or cut off the children from the adults! Tim Wright cites no hard data (or even “soft” data such as interview results) that indicates that high-powered children’s programming causes people to leave church after they become adults–it is all conjecture on his part. To be fair, I must share the fact that I worked as a children’s minister for eleven years, so some might say my opnion is biased. But I am also the parent of four now young-adult children as well. Even though my kids loved special age-level programming and sometimes saw the worst side of church politics, they are all still in favor of church attendance. Sorry Tim. I don’t think the root of slacking church attendance is due to dynamic children’s ministry. It probably has more to do with a combination of poor human behavior and outdated institutional tradition–but that is just my opinion.

    • Sam I Am

      I agree, Lyn, that high powered programming in itself doesn’t alienate ppl away from the church. However, when a church tells only on the program and the few volunteers in that program to do all the relationship building and “silos” the program away from the test of the church out does have negative effects. There is documentation on this (Sticky Faith from Fuller and surveys from Willow Creek among others). I’m glad your own kids were brought into the whole community and not just a separate silo.

    • RevTim

      DCELynn, thanks for your input. I’ll give you a story (for your soft data): In talking with a buddy who is on staff of a huge mega-church, which segments from nursery through adult, he said the leaders have noticed that the youth and young adults, once the youth program is over, do not assimilate into the main worship. Their fix? To create a young adult worship service in the hope that once they are no longer young adults they will attend the main worship service. Per hard data–go to Amazon and search intergenerational ministry. Loads of books, based on good data, giving some guts to what I wrote. One you will want to look for: Let’s Kill Sunday School before it Kills the Church by Rich Melheim. I’ve read an advanced copy (after I wrote this post). Also let me say again, I am not saying there is not a place for kids or youth to hang out together. But what does it mean to be the body of Christ? What role do kids play in the body? How is faith really passed on? I was an advocate of Kids in Sunday School while adults worshipped for 22+ years. My rear view mirror look, and looking ahead, suggests that that may not be the best way to raise new generations of Christians. And people a lot smarter than I are saying the same thing (and have been saying the same thing for years) with good research. We should at least be open enough to listen to see what the Spirit might be saying.

  • DCELynn

    P.S. “REVEREND” Tim??? Your use of that title shows just what a traditionalist you must be. I really don’t think pastors deserve reverence any more than any other person who is made in God’s image.

    • RevTim

      Actually, I go by Pastor Tim or Tim. And it’s not about deserving reverence more than any other person. It’s a title. Just like Dr. is a title. It’s a way for people to quickly identify what I do for a living. Nothing more or less. And in 30 years of ministry, I’ve never been labeled a traditionalist! :) In fact, my first book was on how to move traditional worship services to contemporary or seeker services. Suggesting intergenerational worship has nothing to do with tradition…but with best learning practices, how to pass on the faith, the theology of the Body of Christ, and discipleship. Again, thanks for your input. Hope to continue to hear from you.

    • BC Christian

      Your comment reveals an incredibly childish mentality.

    • Denise

      Do you call your physician Doctor, your Senator -Senator whomever, the president Mr. President,etc???

  • Lok-Kei Law

    There is a trend to have intergenerational worship and fellowship. I believe it is possible to have the whole family worship God together in a service. I was at a worship service where the preacher spoke a wonderful message. There was a family sitting in front of me. The father was balling his eyes out, his wife and 8,9 year old daughter was comforting him, and his 6 year old daughter was taking notes/doddling on the sermon notes.

  • Sam I Am

    New book that discusses this and offers ways to break down the silos and integrate the whole congregation (while still keeping the age level programming). Check out “One Body” by Sam Halverson (The Youth Cartel)

    • RevTim

      I just bought it!

      • Sam I Am

        Great! Thanks. If you are able, leave a review sometime soon.

  • Christian Janeway

    I’m sorry, no. This type of rhetoric has been going around the church for the last ten years or so, yet all the while, the church bleeds members. Don’t forget, *20* years ago, young people were leaving the church because there was no teaching for them there!

    There are legitimate reasons for young adults to be leaving the church that have *nothing to do* with whether or not they made cozy memories singing with their dad.

    1) Stigma attached to mental illness in the church. “Oh, you’re depressed/Have ADHD/bipolar? Grow some self-control!”
    2) Spiritual abuse and authoritarianism. Just go to the Wartburg Watch, or Spiritual Sounding Board, or Crying Out for Justice, and see how many people have been told to “submit” to abusive leaders, or even spouses, who exert far too much control over their lives.
    3) Lack of relationships. This can be the result of simply moving too much (we’ve moved every 2 years) or maybe because the church staff is so focused on developing great meta-programs that they forget that one family in need.
    4) Mountains out of Molehills. If churches keep focusing on things *other* than the fact that Jesus loves us, died to save us, and gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily lives, then they’re wasting their time. For example, I started posting as a “Calvinist” twitter parody, because I was so sick of the predestination/free-will arguments popping up all the time. I thought, “Who cares?!?! We’ll find out when we’re dead!” I’ve been a part of churches that focused on homeschooling, gender roles, politics, or various forms of sin-sniffing. All of those are disputable matters, and honing in on them to the extreme takes our focus off Christ.

    But sure, let’s keep focusing on Sunday School, or the worship arts, or age-appropriate teaching. Eventually, these other problems that are *really* driving the people from church will go camouflage themselves among the pews.

    • Christian Janeway

      You know, the more I think about this, the more absurd it becomes. Do people really think that an adult would *leave the church* or *leave Christianity* over something as juvenile as, “I don’t like the music?” Something more than life-or-death is at stake in such decisions. A relationship with the God who created you, or your actual life-after-death, could be affected by such choices. We in the church should stop asking, “Why aren’t they attracted to the programing?” and start asking, “Why did they start believing that we don’t know what we’re talking about?”

  • BC Christian

    I belong to a church which has never had a Sunday School. There is a nursery for those who want to use for children up to about three years. The services have at least 100 kids under the age of ten years. They sing and pray with their parents. They witness communion and baptism. They hear a 30 minute sermon. They join in the responses. The vast majority of them are quiet and respectful. They seem to be doing just fine. We keep about 90% of our youth over the course of many, many decades. There is a lot of truth in what Tim Wright is saying here … Sunday school and children’s church are modern, pragmatic inventions with no precedent in church history.

  • EqualRice

    I’ve been seeing this general message perpetuated all over the internet lately, is this a new trend or something?

    “Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.””

    So then let the Children decide, do they want to sit in an hour long “boring” sermon being disruptive to members where an end result is that NO ONE is able to be edified? Or do we let them decide whether they are to sit and join in worship or attend a Sunday School setting? So yeah, I agree with Jesus Let the children come to him, on their OWN. Forcing a child to worship in an adult setting is a little extreme and quoting scripture out of context to support this new paradigm is stretching it.

  • Herb Melton

    EqualRice – nothng like the pot calling the kettle black! The context of this quote of Jesus is parents BRINGING their children to Him being impeded by the disciples. IN CONTEXT, it says the exact opposite of what you misrepresent it to say.

    Regrettably, this seems to be a new paradigm, in truth, it is as old as God’s covenant – “I will be a God to you and your seed after you.” Modern New Testament American Evangelicalism is, generally speaking, self absorbed, and has been for a long time. For a variety of reasons, it has held a low view of the Church (as opposed to the church), and has misunderstood the nature of the body.

    The author has identified the problem, but the analysis is as wrought with error as the thinking that led to the original problem. Regrettably, I don’t have time for an extended discussion. I do give him credit for seeing the problem.

  • jdm8

    “No True Scotsman” and “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” basically summarizes your argument. Because youth church just is never good enough for you to be called church, and that the decay of the church must be because of that.

    Your opinions are that, without any backing or even bothering to ask the people that left “why”. You’re just making numerous untested assumptions, and without citations.

    Maybe, just maybe, the people that left have seen the light. The people like you, left behind are just blindly grasping at straws, making up ludicrous excuses.

    • Randy Fischer

      jdm8… I think I see RevTim trying to reach out and ask people why. And I think people are sharing their opinions with him. I happen to think that there are several reasons for the decline. One of which is that the Bible is no longer being taught as THE Word of God. Secondly that there is little if any emphasis on the Law of God. Without knowing the Law of God, who needs salvation. Third, some congregations don’t like all the noise that little kids make.

      I don’t think any one here is saying that “youth church” is not as good as regular church (whatever that might be). I think they are saying that incorporating everyone into the church service is being inclusive rather than exclusive.

  • Reality Check

    Good article Tim – certainly raises some good questions and helps identify at least one of the issues the church faces. Not sure if we need to entirely do away with SS or not, but at our church – we’ve gone to a bit of a hybrid approach – last Sunday of every month we’ve called the church to a “Mosaic Sunday” where there is no SS, just the entire body of Christ gathered together. Baptism, Communion, Worship, Teaching, Drama, Kids involvement, Songs from SS that our kids have been learning (which are stock songs from our regular worship), Potluck lunches – all these things have made their way into our Mosaic Sundays at some point or another, and it’s been a great experiment in seeking to find the healthy tension point between providing age-appropriate learning and recovering the fact that we are called to be one body. At the same time, we might just be on our way to addressing the ever-increasing trend of post-highschool church drop out. Year three of Mosaic Sundays and we’re seeing fruit! Carry on the good work Tim!

  • Joe Green

    Crosspoint in Katy TX (Lutheran) has everyone worship together for half the service and then everybody breaks up for age appropriate teaching. Sounds like something other churches might want to pick up on.

    There is young child care available for anyone who wants it during the worship service, but people aren’t encouraged to use it and there isn’t childcare for anyone kindergarden and up during worship service. If I heard anyone encouraging a person to take their baby outside during worship service, I would take them aside for sure. There are many more babies in the worship service than out of it.

    There are tons of kids checked out during the worship service coloring and stuff, but at least they are doing it in the worshiping environment rather than somewhere else.

  • Mark Friestad

    This is a thoughtful piece, but I do want to point out that when some people say kids need to be exposed to adult church, it’s sort of as a concession: whether it’s boring or not, it’s just something kids have to learn to do. What’s lost in this is to confront the question, “Is it meaningful?” Because I grew up in a church where we were next to our parents every week – yet the service, which was liturgical, was repetitive and frankly a little boring. I am a churched adult and was a churched kid, but I’m in a far different church (style-wise) than the one I grew up in. So, there’s no magic in having kids in big church. Besides, what’s to say that adult church will – or should – look the same as it does now in another generation? That’s what I mean by confronting the “meaningful” question. If we’re just forcing kids into an uncomfortable pair of shoes because “that’s just what you do”, then yes, they may be IN church as adults, attending out of obligation, but not necessarily INTO church, which ought to be the goal.

    • RevTim

      Mark, agreed. Church, if we’re really the people of God together, should include all ages in the experience. Having said that, I’m guessing that you can probably still remember much of the liturgy you learned as a kid. When I was a kid, I told my mom church was boring. She said that every week we were saying Scripture back to God and in the process, that Scripture was taking root in my heart and soul. That gave me a new perspective on worship. So even though I grew up in a church that didn’t try to include kid-friendly elements, the liturgy helped form faith in me. I now lead a church that uses a few elements of the liturgy with contemporary music, kids messages, and an interactive experience for kids during the message to help them listen along. Thanks for chiming in.

  • DebW

    Another reason/consequence is that while the parents had their “experience”, it didn’t involve providing discipleship for them to train up that next generation. It is
    really the Biblically commanded responsibility of PARENTS to train up
    their own children and teach while they are on the road and while they
    sit….so parents and church alike own this. Church should have been
    discipling and equipping parents so that parents could teach their children during non
    church and in church hours, not just providing a self centered worship experience for parents.

    We have sent/do send all of our children to
    Sunday school, but it is not their primary means of learning about the
    Bible, God, or their Christian walk. Sunday school is a supplement (and
    we have found it to be a barely adequate one at that.) We have always
    preferred to worship as a family, and we’ve always taken a lot of flack
    for it. Our oldest is 21, and I’m sorry, but we have no regrets, and
    only see benefits for our choice. Sadly, we’ve had to leave churches for
    their refusal to allow and/or support this choice. And to reduce
    themselves to name calling and ridiculing us.

    • RevTim

      Wow. Hard to get my brain around that one. Guess some of your former congregation missed Jesus’ rebuke of his disciples: Let the children come to me.

  • WatchingFromOverThere

    The trouble with having children ONLY in Sunday School and not in church is that Sunday School and youth groups are something that one can grow out of. They need to be exposed to both age-appropriate activities (especially in the home) and adult worship so that they are acculturated into a mature faith.
    If all they know is children’s craft activities and jingly little songs, these will not carry them through life.
    We underestimate children. They are capable of better behavior and more sophisticated words and music than we give them credit for. They LIKE the feeling that they understand something that is supposed to be for grown ups.

  • wraiththirteen

    This article is getting closer to the problem but not quite there. our culture teaches us to keep everyone at arms length, sunday school is a symptom of that, but church can be too. I Thesolonians 3:12 says to increase and abound in love one toward another, and yet most of us only know our brothers and sisters in Christ in a very shallow way. I timothy, II timothy, titus, and philemon all start out with paul calling someone his son in the faith. I thesolonians 2:11 says that the men who started the church became fathers to those who became part of that church. I see the new testiment demanding an intimacy (emotional and spiritual) that our culture says is wrong. In fact every book in the new testiment deals with spiritual intimacy in the local church. II Peter 1 says that if you do not have that spiritual intimacy you are blind. and today I see the church as blind. You want to know why the millennials are not going to church its because they need fellowship and they are constantly denied it.

    • RevTim

      No doubt providing opportunities for all ages to connect is a crucial part of building a dynamic congregation.

  • Robin Warchol

    Kinda an interesting observation but Sunday school has been around for over 200 years. Most liturgical based Protestant denominations have used them to prepare children for things like confirmation which your standard evangelical church does not practice. I grew up in UMC and went to Sunday school during the school year (sept-may) in preparation for confirmation at age 12. It was as you observed run concurrently with Sunday Church service. What you are describing in evangelical churches sounds like a giant babysitting service where children are more entertained than instructed and when they are older, they bail out of Church because it probably not entertaining enough. Sitting in a Church service does require a certain amount of discipline. No matter what the worship style is, there is eventually a time where one has to learn to sit, be still and listen. Having an constant entertainment type of Sunday school which is what i expect is happening doesn’t lend itself to basic Church discipline and that is probably why the children of baby boomers are not staying put.

    • Randy Fischer

      As a Lutheran (LCMS), we had and still do have Sunday School. It happens between services in the larger congregations and after service in the small congregations. Kids are expected to be with their parents during the church service itself. They are also expected to participate in the songs and liturgy.

  • rickrod

    I would submit that young people leaving church is a reflection of a society that is becoming less committed to organized religion. Every denomination is wringing its hands wondering how they can retain their children in larger numbers but all churches are probably going to continue to shrink in the developed world for the foreseeable future.

    • RevTim

      Some of that is true. But my point is that Christian families and congregations can take some simple steps to at least ensure that their kids are embedded in the faith…

  • Lauren Bebout

    When I was about 2 my father was a student pastor and my mother was the church pianist because she can play and was the pastor’s wife so she was assigned leaving myself and my younger sister without an adult family member in the pew. The church in their “wisdom” felt like a nursery or any children’s program was unnecessary. My parents got criticized every week because we couldn’t sit still and were disrupting the service. There is a value in Sunday School and nurseries and in children’s church. It isn’t just to keep the kids out of the service. It’s to teach them on their level what the stories mean. A good program is invaluable. My parents no longer have children in their home, but they are the sole reason they have ANY children in their church. Every one of the kids come from “non-church” backgrounds that my father picks up for church and drops off. They NEEDED a program where they could learn in baby steps. It’s been successful, and several of these kids are getting ready for college which may not have been an option they would have chosen without the youth programs. The entire service includes several generations of members.

    • RevTim

      Thanks, Lauren, for chiming in. While I think all the research points to having our kids in worship, each congregation will have to hear God’s voice on how to raise the next generation.

    • Randy Fischer

      Lauren, we have had that same issue with members of our choir. Husband and wife both sing. Sometimes we sing several times during one service. The teenagers and others with no little ones do a wonderful job of sitting in for the choir members. We have a nursery but no Sunday Shool during service because we want the kids to part of worship. The nursery seldom has more than one or two children in there at a time.

  • guycooksey

    Well said: Add the break down of the family and you can see why boomers and esp. mils are running from church. The solution is two fold: 1) Christian families that stay together and are truly salt and light to their homes and world and 2) family-integrated worship where the kids truly feel part of the whole body. It is what we do at our church, and it works. No, the numbers are not huge, but the impact is meaningful and real.

  • Sharla Hulsey

    We have not been doing Sunday school at all for the last year or so. Having a bunch of kids and their families coming back to church recently, we decided to re-start Sunday school. We talked about doing a “Children’s Church”-type program, in which the kids were in worship for part of the time and in their own space for the rest. Consensus was that having kids exit the worship service, even for part, gives the message that “Church isn’t for you,” and that is a hard lesson to unlearn later. Instead, our church has learned to be quite tolerant of little kid noises and movement (even when one of the youngsters broke loose from his parents and ran up onto the chancel while I was reading Scripture). We have “quiet bags” with a variety of toys and things the kids can pick up as they come in, if they choose; and we have a lady who will take kids who can’t sit still down to the nursery, where she lets them play and also teaches them some basics like “Jesus Loves Me.”

    • RevTim

      Good on ya!

  • pud

    Yes! Sound the alarm! Must find more and better ways to indoctrinate children into the cult!! No way can a free thinking generation be allowed!

    • RevTim

      Pud…every parent “indoctrinates” their kids with their values and beliefs. Every parent! That, in no way, robs kids of being free thinkers. In fact, those values and beliefs give them a platform for safely looking at their beliefs and values from new perspectives, and even embracing new ones. To not raise a child in faith is also a form of indoctrination and robs a child of the chance to make a decision about faith, religion, and life. Besides, as a parent and grandparent, I have no problem raising my kids/grandkids in a “cult” as you put it, that promotes generosity, compassion, sacrifice, honor, love, grace, and forgiveness. The world could use more “cults” like that.

      • pud

        No, every parent does not “indoctrinate” I raised 2 sons. I told them what I “know” and was honest always about what I didn’t “know” I did not foster “belief” I fostered inquiry towards “knowing” I certainly didn’t lie to them like your profession does. I didn’t tell them things were true when there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support it…including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

        “Faith” is the most dishonest position any parent can have. It is “belief” without evidence…a form of willful delusion.

        I do have a problem with raising children in cults that promise falsehoods and justify them by mailing care packages to kids in Somalia. I didn’t have to mix lies with charity in the raising of my boys. Nor did I have to threaten them with eternal damnation to be just and honorable.

        Your “generous” cult has been responsible for the death and suffering of hundreds of millions. Hamas the terrorist organization is very charitable. They are current point of reference for you in the ways cults use carrots and sticks.

        You sir are despicable. You make your living lying to children about the nature of the universe. You sow falsehoods and perpetuate willful stupidity. You crush critical thinking and like all cult leaders, do nothing but churn out mindless drones. You brainwash children you don’t educate or teach them.

        PS..let me remind you…”jesus’ never said anything. He wrote nothing, said nothing, left nothing because he never existed…Bronze Age superstitious priests “said” he “said” this or that and the early church manufactured everything your cult holds dear from angels to satan…which also don’t exist.

        Teaching this crap to children is child abuse

        • RevTim

          So…in other words, my belief in Jesus and sharing that with my kids is indoctrination…but your contempt for all things religious and passing that along to your kids is honesty? You leveled several accusations about me knowing absolutely nothing about me. That’s an open mind?

          • pud

            1. Your instilling in your children any “beliefs” for which there is no evidence is 100% indoctrination. It is brainwashing, drone production.

            2. I did not teach contempt to my sons..I taught them how to question, reason and think critically. I taught them to revere knowledge and shun “belief” They have contempt for cult think by their own analysis.

            3. I don’t need to know you personally as you have described yourself as a cult member and a man willing to indoctrinate his children into the same cult without care for their critical faculties or future ability to independently reason

          • RevTim

            Pud…first, I never said I was a cult member. That’s the word you used and I played off of it. I am a part of a mainline Christian denomination (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Cults allow for no disagreement. They isolate their members from outside influences and even family members. Should a member disagree or leave, they are shunned, even by family members if the family is a part of the cult. None of that is true with any mainline Christian denomination. Nor was in true in our household.

            Like you, I taught my kids to question, to reason, and to think critically. My daughter, for example, studied in England, pursuing a degree in human rights law. Both of my kids, in their teens and early 20′s, said they did not believe in the Christian story. In their 30′s they both re-embraced Christianity…of their own accord.

            By the way, brilliant thinkers from best-selling authors to highly regarded scientists to many of our great poets embrace the story of Jesus as true. These are not people who put their brains on hold, but who, through their own critical thinking, have come to believe that the Jesus story is true and worth following. On the other hand, brilliant thinkers from best-selling authors to highly regarded scientists to many of our great poets don’t believe the Jesus story.

            But to say that teaching faith is indoctrination and disallows for honestly, questions, and critical thinking suggests to me that either you have been deeply hurt by religion or that you aren’t quite as open as you claim to be. Your take on Jesus, for example, and bronze era priests making up stories, has no basis in fact. If you are truly open, do some research, my friend.

          • pud

            If you belong to a denomination then you belong to a cult. If you belong to a religion then you belong to a cult. If you are dogmatic and subscribe to a fixed set of beliefs then you belong to a cult.

            I do not argue from authority. Newton “believed” in alchemy as well as secret measurements hidden in the bible. He was brilliant in inventing calculus but clearly insane too.

            Teaching “faith” is not teaching “knowledge” If you had “knowledge” you wouldn’t need “faith”

            Yes, Bronze age people made up thousands of stories and hundreds of gods. Yours is not different.

            As far as research is concerned I would wager that I know far more about the evolution of monotheism, gods, religions than anyone on any of these blogs. I know where Yahweh came from …the minds of superstitious men…like all of the 9999 gods before him.

          • RevTim

            Pud, we’ve gone as far as we can go in this conversation. That you do not understand the difference between a denomination and a cult suggests to me that you are as dogmatic about your beliefs as some of my unyielding fundamentalist Christian brothers and sisters. Once you have drawn a line in the sand, as you have about religion, you are no longer open minded nor can there be any conversation. I appreciate your willingness to chime in. Enjoy the rest of your day!

          • pud

            Sub cult…is that better? I know what a cult is. I do not have “beliefs” I “Know” things with degrees of probability..”belief” is what children do regarding Santa Claus.

          • Jane Buttery

            I believe the general understanding of the word ‘cult’ has negative connotations. It describes “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.” I prefer to talk about my faith which is a relationship with Jesus, God and the Holy spirit. It is part of the Christian religion but sometimes that word sounds stagnant and Faith is growing, We also instill ideals in our children by our own examples of faith, integrity and love for others.

            In our church, the children stay in for about 1/4 of the service,the minister speaks with them, they go out for about 1/2 hour and return for communion with their parents. Every so often they help take a prayer service,reading the lessons and doing many the ‘adult’ jobs.Involvement in the service leads them onto involvement as they grow up.

          • ginalex

            “Cults allow for no disagreement. They isolate their members from outside influences and even family members. Should a member disagree or leave, they are shunned, even by family members if the family is a part
            of the cult.”

            Incorrect. While it is true that the majority of the people in this country would agree that is what a cult is and I thought that too at one time, that is a definition of what I would call a dangerous cult. There are cults and then there are cults.
            To the dictionary!

            : a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous

            That is what you are describing and what most people think of as a cult. However…

            : a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much

            : a small group of very devoted supporters or fans

            These last two, yup. Sounds like religion to me. A cult can and is also described as brainwashing. Religion does brainwash as I can attest. I was in an episcopal church, hardly what I would describe as a dangerous cult. I didn’t think I was brainwashed until I got out of Christianity completely and was on the outside looking in.

            When you are in the cult, of course you don’t think you’re in a cult or brainwashed or indoctrinated and you certainly can’t see how you are indoctrinating your kids. It’s only after you get out that you realize what a hold it had over you.

          • RevTim

            So, my friend, are you saying that anytime you learn something, only to find later on you disagree with what you were taught, you were brainwashed? Were you forced, against your will as an adult, to attend the Episcopal church? Were you not allowed to ask questions, to watch TV, see movies, read books, talk to other people who might express different opinions and beliefs and theologies? I can tell you countless stories of people who weren’t raised in the church and discovered the story of Jesus and it changed their lives. None of them would say they were brainwashed prior to their faith experience. They would say they now see the world differently. Again, just because we learn something or are taught something and we later embrace a different teaching doesn’t mean we were being brainwashed. If you don’t buy into Christianity, that’s your choice. To say you were brainwashed doesn’t hold with any sensible understanding of that word. And, as my friend Pud does, it closes off any kind of discussion. You and I can’t really go deep in a conversation if you believe Christianity is brainwashing or that I am a brainwasher. I hope that makes some sense…and that you don’t think I’m trying to brainwash you! :)

          • ginalex

            There are many times in my life when I have changed my thoughts on things. That’s not the same as being brainwashed. I don’t really expect you to understand. You would have to travel down the road I traveled when I changed from being a Christian to being an Atheist. I was brainwashed when I was a Christian.

          • Randy Fischer

            Excuse me, RevTim… I feel a need to step in here. What is a belief? What is knowledge? Some knowledgable sorts BELIEVE in the (unproven) theory of evolution (and are devoted supporters of Darwin). Some knowledgable sorts BELIEVE in creation (and are devoted supporters of God). I guess that makes the evolution crowd a cult also according to ginalex.

            What is religion all about? Faith! What is Faith? Faith is a belief in something. Whether you believe in Allah, Buddha, God, or Darwin, you have to have faith in what these people said and taught because there is no scientifically verifiable proof that what they taught is true. Yes, Darwin existed. We have his writings. And we have independent sources verifying his existence. Yes, Jesus existed. We have His writings. And we have independent sources verifying his existence.

            Pud, presuming you taught your kids evolution, then you have indoctrinated them.

            Just my opinion.

          • ginalex

            Evolution is science. You don’t believe in Evolution because you don’t have to. The evidence is there. You can see it, you can conduct experiments. Evidence Jesus existed? They are not his writings. Even the names on the books of the Bible don’t prove that those people wrote them. That’s why that is called faith.

          • Randy Fischer

            Give me proof that carbon dating is accurate beyond a couple hundred or thousand years. As for macro evolution… To evolve, you have to mutate. Mutation never adds info to your DNA, it always subtracts information from your DNA. So how can an amoeba turn into something more complex??? I don’t know. How can an ape develop into a human??? I don’t know.

            As for Christ’s existence…. Non-religious historical scholars agree that there was a man at the time of Augustus that turned the Jewish community inside out and was crucified for it. There are writings from that era that prove he existed. There are the Dead Sea scrolls. If you want to deny all that, then I guess you can deny all that Plato and Aristotle wrote as well.

          • ginalex

            Why is it you take the word of people that have been dead for thousands of years? “Non-religious historical scholars agree” and that’s all the proof you need. Do you realize how many living scientists agree about evolution? Why do you deny all the proof that exists that proves evolution, yet accept on faith the Bible and all the Jesus stories that have nothing but ancient anecdotal evidence? that kind of logic always boggles my mind. Have a nice day

          • Randy Fischer

            What is your “proof” of evolution Gina? Do you realize how many “living scientists” disagree with evolution? Why do believe in what Darwin had to say? He’s been dead for over a hundred years. No need to get upset with me, I’m just trying to use your logic.

            Your ‘proof” of evolution relies on carbon-dating of the fossil record. My theory is that an Almighty God that was mighty enough to create this planet and the universe, was powerful enough to have a little fun with scientists as well. He could have easily laid down a fossil record that carbon dating could claim was millions of billions of years old.

            As for man evolving from apes… Ever notice that apes are quite hairy whether they are male or female? If a human male can grow a beard, why can’t a human female do the same? Why are many men hairy chested and hairy backed while women are not. Have a great day.

          • ginalex

            “What is your “proof” of evolution Gina?”

            The evidence to support evolution is in peer-reviewed journals, papers, and books and it can be demonstrated, verified by you or me, it can be replicated. That’s the big difference. Something is scientifically valid if it can be replicated over and over with the same results. That is scientific proof and it is true whether or not you believe it is.

            There was a lineage that humans and apes came from. We share the same ancestors as apes. It is a common misconception that apes turned into humans but that is not the case.

          • Randy Fischer

            It might be a misconception – but it was a misconception that was taught by scientists in science books. And still is.

            What percentage of scientists agree with those journals? Evolution happens because of gene mutation – Correct? The only way to mutate a gene is to take information away from that gene – Correct? Then how is it possible for an amoeba to turn into complex creatures (if you’re always subtracting information from the gene pool)? But I sure would like to see that demonstrated.

          • ginalex

            “It might be a misconception – but it was a misconception that was taught by scientists in science books. And still is”

            Well then that needs to be fixed, but some people don’t want it to be fixed. Some people feel as if evolution shouldn’t be taught at all.

            “But I sure would like to see that demonstrated.”

            As so many candidates seem to say, I am not a scientist. If you really want to see that demonstrated, go find out. You seem to be asking a lot of questions and that’s what scientists like to do. They are healthy skeptics. They want to know what really happened and a good scientist won’t let a religious book get in the way of honest inquiry.

            So if you truly do want to know more about evolution, find out about it and keep asking questions.

          • sg

            Okay, there are lots of historical figures with far less documentation including most of your ancestors. Shall we assume they never existed? Do you take it on faith when you read history?

          • ginalex

            I don’t take it on faith when I read history. When I find out about history I know better than to think that everything we know about some historical event is completely 100% accurate. I know about my ancestors through documentation. Of course, people existed, but we don’t have any way of knowing about them unless we have some sort of record, a birth certificate, a school record maybe, but someone writing a story is not any kind of real documentation. Anyone can write what they want.

          • sg

            Right, because everyone wants to be executed for making up stories and sticking to them just cuz.

          • ginalex

            What? What are you talking about? What does execution have to do with any of this?

  • Leighton Cooper

    The problem isn’t Sunday School it is the fact of these Big idiot Southern Baptist, Southern Evangelical and Southern Fundamentalist seminaries that design children’s materials that reject scripture being taught as a lens so where words are a lens and class of conversations and difference’s from surrounding word contexts rooted in the same Bible verses I would yield 4 or 5 different meanings. and kids get to develop their imagination from words and develop cognitive dissonance Southern Evangelicals, southern fundamentalists and southern baptists have wrecked and baked a wretched Sexist, Anti eco-system . anti tied to achievements accomplished by genuine scientists and mathematicians and instead morphed into a cult of hate for everyone who doesn’t come as you are, unashamedly reads university press books and refuses to play nice to your insults. but I understand how kids are wretchedly monkey wrenched never developing intellectual atmosphere. Yes I really hate this cult. I was raised in it. I REJECT IT.!!! Ignorance against cognitive discussions. I use one set of words for tactics, I use a different set of words for expressions, I use a different set of words for aesthetics, I use a different set of words for psychology is a function of religion to teach. It is completely missing and thus as adults. Because we can’t communicate we need to respect ourselves by MISSING IN ACTION. So many people are made unwelcome that SOUTHERN INSPIRED CHURCH IS A DEVIANT AND DISGUSTING PLACE TO BE.

  • stefanstackhouse

    This is a part of something much bigger: the most crackpot idea in human history to ever be taken seriously and comprehensively implemented. I am referring, of course, to the idiotic notion that it would be a really good idea to sequester young people in the near-exclusive company of their peers, nearly all the time, with minimal (and often inadequate) adult supervision. We thought it would be good for their “socialization”. Utter rubbish!! If you want young people to grow up to become mature adults, then you need to place them in the midst of adults as much as possible. Such it has always been and always will be. Is it any surprise that by not doing this, we have twenty-somethings and now even people entering their thirties still living in their parent’s basement and acting like adolescents?

    We live in a society that is going stark raving mad.

    • RevTim

      Don’t hold back, stfanstackhouse! :) You’re insights are spot on.

    • guycooksey

      I remember reading an article years ago about Rick Warren’s young children making fun of a church service they attended on vacation for being so quiet and worshipful. the kids were used to the the high entertainment of their children’s church. As a pastor, i even did this, but always felt wrong about it. Children need to be with their parents, and lovingly mentored by parents and adults. This is why our church has joined the family-integrated church and worship together-as the early church did.

  • Kaye Edwards

    The main point here is completely missed. The Church needs children not the other way around. Children are the ones who know what the Kingdom of God is about. We are supposed to be like them if we want to enter into it. They have a lot to teach adults. Children need to be treated as the most important people in the church community.

    Using children to get paying parents into the pews was the first mistake. And this article still focuses on that because it focuses on how to get children to stay in church and support the institution in the future. As churches we need to be focused on what it is we are called to do and doing it, not on making sure we survive in the future.

    Our worships need to be designed to meet the needs of all ages, that can make for wonderful diversity. Children come to us as spiritual beings. They are in touch with the light/spirit/divinity that is within them. The greatest need children have is a place where they can grow their closeness to God and deepen their understanding of the Kingdom. They need to be with adults so that they can share their understanding with the adults, who have forgotten the true nature of God and no longer believe in or accept the mystery. Adults have things to teach children but, according to Jesus, we need to listen to children and treat them seriously as people of faith.

    For me there is a middle way. Infants should be in the sanctuary. When the toddler age is reached and the adults can no longer tolerate the movements of toddlers, it becomes a negative experience for the child. So for a few years I take them out of the community sanctuary and plan a worship that meets their deep felt needs to worship God in age appropriate ways. I am not talking about a Sunday School Class. I am talking about a sanctuary for children where they can be who God created them to be and they can learn about ways to express their love for God that will be with them their whole lives and will make them comfortable in most services of worship as they grow older. The program I recommend is called, Children & Worship, It is based on the book, Young Children and Worship, by Sonja Stewart and Jerome Berryman.

    • RevTim

      Kaye, thanks for the great input.

      In a short post like this one cannot go into every detail. My intent, and this was written early on in my thinking, was to challenge congregations to rethink the way we segregate kids out of worship. I absolutely agree with you that adults have much to learn from kids. We have missed out on their gifts and insights into the Kingdom of God. At the same time, I don’t want to underestimate the high calling adults have to help mentor kids in their faith. We’ve handed that over to the professionals and that has been to the detriment of our kids and our adults. This isn’t about who is most important. This is about recognizing that all ages are vital to the health of a congregation. We decided, in our place, to incorporate kids Kindergarten on up into the worship service. Increasingly I noticed families bringing their pre-k to worship as well, even though we offer a pre-k option during worship.

      I would also push back a bit on your assertion that I’m suggesting we re-incorporate kids into worship so that they can learn to support the institution. I have a much broader view of the church than that of an institution. I believe the Church is the Body of Christ and therefore to follow Jesus is to be actively involved in his body, as expressed in the local congregation. I’m just finishing an ebook based on this post that gives me the chance to expand on all of that important stuff.

      Perhaps a better way of saying it is that my starting point is God’s commitment to the Body of Christ–the Church, and what it means for all of us to be engaged, together, in the work of Christ’s Body.

      • Kaye Edwards

        Thank you, Tim, for the deeper explanation. Sorry for my judging without knowing you. I have gotten so tired of ministers asking me for good children’s program so that they can attract parents to their churches that I too often broaden that idea to include people who are not thinking that way. Glad to hear that your church is having such success with including children in the community worship.

        I would content that (at least for a while) children be treated as the most important because they have been ignored for so long. Sort of like “Black Lives Matter,” it doesn’t mean that no other lives matter, but just that black lives have not mattered in the past. Same with children, I think. They have been ignored for a long time so we need to lift them up as important until we begin to get that they are as important as youth and adults in our churches.

        • RevTim

          Thanks, my friend. Great stuff.

  • Andrew Dowling

    RCC churches rarely have separate children’s ministries and they have been bleeding heavily. No 5 year old wants to stand still for an hour during a church service, and they won’t be gradually “bludgeoned” into worshipping either. Years of that and they will bolt for the exits as soon as they can.

    • Randy Fischer

      Teaching them to sing their little hearts out might help. I’ve been to a RC mass several times during my life. I understand what you say. From what I remember, they do seem to be boring. They don’t seem to sing as much as us Lutherans do.

      I was raised in the church. We went every Sunday morning unless one of us was very sick. We were expected to participate in the church service from a very young age. If we refused to participate there would be bad news when we got home. Still remember Mom or Dad pointing out where we were when singing a hymn or the liturgy. Many times when young I would fall asleep during the sermon, but I still absorbed some of the message. Parents taught the same things at home that we heard in church and set the good example. Though I fell away from attending church for several years in my early 20s, I came back in my early 30s.

    • ortcutt

      Catholic Mass is mercifully short though. I remember as a child judging the Priest by how quickly he could say a Mass. 5 minute homily? Piece of cake. Other than that, it’s “peace be with you”, sit-stand-kneel, body-of-Christ, and you’re on your way home.

  • guycooksey

    This is a huge problem that we have created. Segregated church is unscriptural and harmful to making disciples. The issue also involves boomers who refuse to raise Godly, churchmen and ladies. My church is family-integrated with the children in the church and we are small but vital. This may the trend in the future.

  • Mike

    I’m not finding where Christ died to create “Churched Christians?” I get the heart point of the phrase but the phrase packaging swiftly gets downgraded to the destructive pandemic of Churchianity. That’s sincerely sweet about that daddy’s moment with his son. But for any age person that’s an off center instillation if we’re extolling the value of true worship.

    • James

      On the surface, your comment is correct. However, dig a bit, and it shows you missed the mark. You won’t read any Scripture that says Christ died to create…..well, anything. Anything that’s created is a consequence of His dying, not the purpose. Contrary to what you might be trying to say, Christ didn’t die to create Christians – churched or not. Christ died for sinners. ALL sinners. Whether they become Christians or not. A consequence of having payment for sins is that we’re now able to become Christians. A big problem is that we’ve misused the word “church” so much that we can separate “church” from Christians. But biblically they’re one and the same. The “church” is the body of Christ, i.e. Christians. We now use that word to describe a brick building. We’ve taken a biblical word with a biblical meaning and bastardized it to mean something FAR different. Church has gone from WHO we are to WHERE we go. At best it’s a mistake, at worst it’s heresy. In the NT the word “church” ALWAYS means people, never the bricks used to surround them. And that error isn’t one that we can sit back and say that it’s simply a matter of semantics. To Jesus, it was a matter of salvation. He did not die for bricks. He did not shed blood for a building. He is not the head of a place of worship. He died for people, bled for souls, and is the Head of the THE CHURCH – the body of believers.
      But back to this article’s concept – not only did we change the meaning of the word “church,” we’ve also changed what it means to be Christian. We can say things like “churched Christians” or “unchurched Christians” and people know what we’re talking about. The first century church wouldn’t have any idea what those words meant in that context. Again, namely because “the church” was synonymous with “Christians,” but also because to be a Christian meant to assemble with the Body on the first day of the week. Whether that was an entire city coming together such as those in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc. or just those in a household – if you were a believer you gathered with other believers on the first day of the week. It was not a luxury, it was a staple. If we miss a Sunday we say we “missed a church service.” If a 1st-century Christian did, it was called “forsaking the assembly.” And “the church” did not make that a habit, as the writer of Hebrews says, 10:25. If Christ is the Head of the Church, then we cannot separate ourselves from the rest of the Body and still claim to be connected to the Head! We MUST be connected to the Body as well. Put another way, you cannot forsake the Body of Christ without also forsaking the Christ. They are connected. Which is why saying something like “unchurched Christian” would have been nonsense to the original church. It’s yet another way our culture, our society has tried to make following Jesus as easy as possible. But He, Himself, said it was hard – and the road to Him was narrow. And, in spite of what some would say, it’s a toll road, not a highway. While it costs nothing to become a Christian, it also costs everything. And that “everything” includes an hour every Sunday.

    • Relatively Conservative

      Seems like Paul explains this pretty clearly when he says that Christ died for the church.

      “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

      For whom did Christ give Himself up? The church. Folks today might not want to hear it, but unless we are willing to be part of the collective body of obedient believers that is the church, we aren’t part of what Christ gave Himself up for.

    • Randy Fischer

      Christ didn’t die to “create” the church OR Christianity. His sole purpose was to live a perfect life, die on a cross, rise on the third day and ascend into heaven. All this as a sacrifice for the sins you and I committ every single day of our lives. Many churches today tend to ignore that sin and the Law and just preach the Gospel. Some actually go so far as to say there is no such thing as sin. (ELCA for one) The problem with that is, “If I’m a good person, I don’t need the gospel.” OR, “Everyone goes to heaven when they die… So why go to church.”

  • k80fab

    First, my brother and sisters and I–all born from 1952 to 1960–all went to Sunday School, not the worship service. I am not so sure that this is a new phenomenon. Second, when I think about, week after week, having to come up with a service that doesn’t involve a shallow “object lesson” children’s message, but something with meat for the kids, while also trying to engage grownups on an adult level, but something that a child could possibly not be bored out of their mind about, that involves the lectionary somehow, and includes monthly communion, and somehow fits in an indeterminate number of minutes-worth of joys and concerns, and yet somehow gets everyone home in time for kickoff, I realize how empty and worthless the formal worship service has become. Forget it. Let’s just go downstairs in the vestry, have pancakes, sing a song, read a verse, talk about our week, pray for each other and call it a day.

    • Randy Fischer

      Christians need nourishment. That is what we get in sermons and bible readings. You mention the little ones getting bored out of their skulls. That is OK. They are still hearing at least part of the sermon. Any church that I’ve belonged to (Lutheran – Missouri Synod) welcomed the kids with open arms. Many people (especially the pastors) would get a little peeved if your little ones weren’t with you in the sanctuary during the entire service.

      BTW, teaching just the Gospel by itself is pretty much a worthless exercise. If I don’t realize that I am a sinner and that I sin each and every day, of what use is the Gospel to me?

  • gapaul

    But wait. . . did Catholics take their kids out of mass? I don’t think so. And they too see steep declines. This is a question with multiple answers, I don’t think its particularly helpful to hold up one particular practice as the problem.

  • outragex

    It doesn’t have to be one way or the other. My church (a dreaded progressive one!) has kids from preschool to about 3rd grade in the sanctuary for greetings and prayers of the people. Then they come foward for a children’s message. Afterward they are invited to children’s church outside the sanctuary. It features short messages, illustrated by craft or game. Movement and noise is emphasized. Then the kids return in time for communion with adults-we have communion every time we worship. More importantly, older kids and teens are involved in worship frequently by leading prayers, and helping serve communion. Graduating high school seniors give a group sermon and kids returning from mission trips give a sermon about what they did and learned. College-aged young people considering minsitry are coached to give a full sermon. There is also Sunday school but it is poorly attended because so many families don’t make every Sunday, and many kids come with grandparents, live with separated parents etc.

  • Randy Fischer

    IMHO…. 1:) There is no need to find “compelling ways to articulate the Gospel. You must teach BOTH the Law and the Gospel side by side. For if they don’t know that they are sinners and they sin every day (Law), there is no need to know about the saving Grace of God (Gospel). That Grace is then dismissed by these young minds as inconsequential and therefore forgettable.

    2:) You have come to a good conclusion about the kids needing to be in the worship service. Kids are more intelligent than most people give them credit for. Repitition is the best way to teach kids. I would rather the kids be in worship with us – even if they do create a little noise and distraction. By the way, if you’re listening to the message, you seldom even notice the kids. For all of us this creates tradition and a huge sense of community.

    By the way… When it’s time to sing, make sure you are singing. I don’t care if you’re off-key. If your kids see you singing and you guide them to do the same thing, they will enjoy singing for their entire life.

    Also, when it’s time to pray, make sure you are doing so and guiding your kids to do so. AND, when it’s time to listen, listen. Don’t be reading the bulletin, checking your cell phone, or fiddling with things in your pocket-book (like writing a check). YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING YOU and will copy your behavior.

  • Curtis Martin

    Sunday School, when I was coming up, was the hour before the Worship Service. Sunday School had classes for everyone, adults included. Children’s Church, as it was called back then (early 70′s) was for kids who weren’t big enough to sit through church – or more specifically, the Sermon. By the time you were in grade school, or at least the 3rd grade, you were in church with your parents.

  • David

    Interesting that this timing change generally occurred thirty years earlier in the UK – and without the evangelistic and worship culture change in the ‘States and thus may have contributed to the double-whammy of alienated Baby Boomers (75-85% loss in the UK) AND UnChurched offspring of Boomers and Gen-X only slightly addressed by the rise of All-Age Worship…

    • RevTim

      Thanks, David. Great insight.

  • Rina Gabriel

    The main reason why the new generations aren’t holding on to the Lord is that their parents aren’t living out there faith. Kids learn and live what they see first in their parents. Many will say they believe, but to believe in Jesus is not just to know he’s real, but to TRUST in him, and to live a life that proves that trust. If children saw their parents model trust in Jesus, many more would be won to the Kingdom. The life in Christ is very attractive; it’s truly exciting – it is joy and pleasure to the fullest! Lip service is no fun though, as kids watch their parents quote scripture and go to church, but trust in their idols over Jesus (money, material things, TV, fear of what people think, their jobs, their marriage, anger, judgement, drugs/alcohol/cigarettes, even idolizing their own kids, etc.)

    • RevTim

      Rina, good stuff. The challenge for many parents is that their congregations aren’t teaching them how to pass the faith along to their kids. check out my new e-book: Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church: The True Story of How One Church Dropped Sunday School to Save its Soul. You can find it on Amazon.

  • RevTim

    Hey, all, I’ve just released a new e-book on Amazon: Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church! The True Story of How One Congregation Dropped Sunday School to Save its Soul.

  • RevTim

    Say more…