When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . .

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Almost every church I’ve ever known has wanted to Attract Young Families.  The reasoning behind this includes the following:

  • If we don’t regenerate, everyone will eventually get old and die.
  • It’s energizing to have young people around.
  • Younger members can do the work that older members can’t/won’t do anymore.
  • Older members tend to be on fixed incomes and younger working members are needed for their pledges.
  • Young families (i.e. mom, dad, and kids) remind us of church when we were (or wish we were) part of young families.

There are a few things wrong with this reasoning, including the fact that “attracting” people in general feels manipulative – as if people are “targets” to be used for our own purposes.  Yuck.

Let’s be honest about the “why.  Are we saying that we want these rare and valuable Young Families for what they can give to us?

What if  – instead – the “why” of this demographic quest was about feeding souls and sharing authentic community?  I always hoped – as a young mom – that church would provide adults that could help me nurture my children.  I always wanted to know that – if my kids couldn’t come to me or HH with a problem – they would have other trustworthy adults to whom they could go (and they did.)

Young families are great.  Old families are great.  Families made up of child-free couples are great.  Families of single people are great.  Imagine if every church simply wanted A Pastor Who Could Bring In Broken People.  Now that’sa church.

Also, the days are gone when Young Families were present in worship every Sunday.  The statistics are in about how the definition of “regular worship” has changed since the 1950s.  (“Regular” used to mean weekly.  Now it means once or twice a month.)

Instead of seeking a Pastor who can bring in those vaunted Young Families, we need to call a Pastor who knows how to shift congregational culture.  The culture in which we live and move and have our being has changed, but we are killing ourselves trying to maintain a dated congregational culture.

News flash:  Most pastors will fail at “Bringing in Young Families.” Families of every kind are drawn to communities that are in touch with real life.  For example, check out Carey Nieuwhof’s recent post about why even committed Christians do not worship as regularly as they did in previous decades.  At least two of his “10 Reasons” specifically impact cultural changes connected to Young Families.

So how can we be the kind of congregation that welcomes Young Families for more than their energy and wallets?  We can:

  1. Be real.  Deal with real issues in sermons, classes, retreats, conversations, prayers.
  2. Listen to parents’ concerns.  Listen to children’s concerns.
  3. Ask how we can pray for them.  And then pray for them.
  4. Allow/encourage messiness.  Noses will run and squirming will ensue.  There might be running.  There will definitely be noise.
  5. Check our personal Stink Eye Quotient.  Do we grimace when a baby cries?  Do we frown when the kids are wearing soccer uniforms?
  6. Refrain from expecting everyone to be the church like we have always been the church.
  7. Help parents, grandparents, and all adults become equipped to minister to children and youth.  How can we learn to offer such loving hospitality to the younger people in our midst that they will always experience church as home?
  8. Do not use children as cute props.  Yes they say the darndest things during children’s stories, but they are not there to entertain us.
  9. Give parents a break.  Really.  Help struggling parents get coats and hats on their kids.  Hold an umbrella.  Assist in wiping spills.
  10. Give parents a break administratively.  Make it easy to participate. Minimize the unnecessary.

It’s also okay not to have Young Families in our congregations depending on the context.  Some neighborhoods have very few young ones living nearby.  But there are still people who crave some Good News.

I want a Pastor who can minister to whomever lives in the neighborhood in the thick of these cruel and beautiful times.

Image is a popular one that shows up in lots of random blog posts.

4 thoughts on “When Churches Want a Pastor Who Can “Bring In Young Families” . . .

  1. Dylan

    Exactly. As I was reading your initial list of why people want to attract young families, the first thought in my mind was how it is completely focused on the business-minded, serve the institution rather than the person/people first.

    I think if the church is truly serving others, they’ll attract people of all walks of life, and will be a much healthier environment as the more differences which are pulled together in unity of Christ magnifies the power of what Love can do.

    Great article!


    1. Pastor Jim Driskell, Lutheran Church Post author

      I copied this article, it’s not mine, I tried to find an author’s name, but couldn’t find one. But it is so true and I felt I should help to circulate it, so I went ahead and copied it. But you are right, if the church is doing what it’s supposed to, if we’re faithful, God’s going to move all sorts of people. We keep doing what we’re led to and trust Him. Thanks and God bless


      1. World Set Free

        What do you think holds us back from trusting Him fully? Are we afraid to let go of thinking we’re in control?


      2. Pastor Jim Driskell, Lutheran Church Post author

        Especially for guys, I think it’s a control thing. Partly because we don’t trust God to do what we think He should be doing. But also because we think He’s just going to drop the hammer on us because of our sins. Too many people don’t want to trust God because they like their sin too much and they don’t want to be held accountable about it. The truth is this. Certainly God does hold us accountable for our sin. But God’s not stupid, He knows that we’re very fallible. His intention is not to just drop the hammer on us, He really does love us and wants what is best for us and helps us to deal with our need to be in control and also to deal with the sins that really are just killing us, even though we think they’re just fine. He really does want what is best for us and to trust in HIm and in His will then trusting in the things that we know really do hurt us. I have seen God really do some amazing things in my life, that I would never have thought of. It’s really clear to me that it’s Him moving me. It’s not to say that trusting God is going to make everything sunshine and roses, because it’s not. Lots of times His will is a tough row, but at the end we know it was God working in our life and we know that what He did in our life is so much better than anything we could have done. We also come to know that this life is only the begining and that our real life is in the resurrection. In the perfect world that God had always intended for us with those who are saved in Jesus. Betcha didn’t think you were going to get this long of an answer. God bless and thanks for the opportunity to discuss a great question with you.


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