I saw them last Sunday morning.
“Those” families that we like to grumble about, and get defensive over on Monday mornings… they were in my hotel dining area for breakfast last Sunday.
While we were standing on the stage, disappointed that parents will brave the cold temperatures and icy roads for a ball tournament but not church; they were sitting in the lobby engaging with other parents preparing physically for the day, but not spiritually.
While we were tempted to include them in the attendance counts (because they would have been there), they were not even thinking about what they missed at church (because they really didn’t miss much last time).
A lot has been shared and said about the trend of membership becoming less meaningful and core families attending less often, but what will we, as church leaders, actually do to move past complaining and commiserating in the church office? How heartbroken are we over their spiritual trajectory, and not just our attendance trending?
Here are three intentional steps to reconnect with the distracted families of your church:
Engage Them beyond Programming.
You are not likely to offer a sports league or family event that will rise in importance above their travel ball schedule, but you can engage their heart and mind in a way sports or busyness does not. What if these families need every bit, if not more, care and attention from you that your “good” families do? How might you be unknowingly withholding pastoral affection from leaders who feel truly committed to the church, even while they are lowering your weekly attendance averages? What step can you take to engage the distracted family this week?
Equip Them as Influencers.
What resources are you giving these parents to maintain a connection to Christ and the church – even in a hotel lobby? Imagine these core travel-team parents as if they were leading a missional small group every weekend. What resources do you already have, and what resources are yet to be developed, to equip them to live and lead your church’s mission over delicious Hampton Inn waffles? You have a better chance to reach new families when your existing families are confidently equipped around a compelling great commission call.
Encourage Them in Christ.
Distracted parents truly feel trapped in a no-win situation, between their children’s spiritual and physical development. When they choose church over a game, that usually means their child will occupy a spot on the bench for the next game as well. While leaders see the potential for healthy conversations as parents model right priorities, let’s be honest and admit that most will not. In the guilted-to-attend family, the kid just feels left out with the team and resentment for the church. How might you, as their pastor, step down from the pulpit and into their world to draw them back? How would Jesus spend more effort in expanding their potential than explaining their offense?
This Sunday, when “those” families are in yet another hotel lobby, let us work hard to help them feel engaged in something bigger than sport, equipped to share their faith with other parents, and encouraged as a part of the body of Christ away from home for the weekend.