A top concern for most kids pastors is reaching the children in their communities who do not attend church. These unchurched kids simply don’t know much about the Bible. Often they have a mixed up version of Jesus gathered from TV shows. Before they can give their lives to Him, they need a basic introduction to the Good News.
On the other end of the spectrum are kids who are overexposed to church. These are the children who attend every service, and can’t remember anytime when they didn’t come to church. In my ministry, most of these kids also attend a Christian school. They can recite the books of the Bible, they’ve memorized countess Scripture verses, and they know details about Bible stories that I can’t even remember.
By over-churched kids, I mean children with too much religion and not enough actual interaction with Jesus. Attending church is important and should promote spiritual growth, but sometimes there are side effects. In this post, I will describe the spiritual dangers these kids face. You can also read our follow up post that offers 9 strategies for reaching these kids.
This is not an easy topic and I expect some push back from readers. But this is an issue we need to address now, before we raise the next crop of Pharisees.
1. Familiar Stories Lose Their Power: When kids hear the same Bible stories year-after-year they can become a little boring. Even worse – these stories are often told without imagination or any listener interaction. Most over-churched kids have heard the same 100+ Bible stories since they were in the Toddler Sunday School. They no longer connect with the characters or feel moved by the plot resolution. Once I was told by a seminary professor, “ It is a sin to make the Bible boring.” I’m starting to think he was right.
2. Knowledge Can Promote Pride: Something happens inside of us when we become the expert. Children feel that same sense of superiority when they have more religious knowledge than their peers. Too often over-churched kids build their identity around that achievement, even when it doesn’t involve a growing relationship with Christ.
3. They Have Learned to Pretend Pray: A real struggle for grown-ups is connecting with God through prayer. Too often it becomes routine and dry. Most younger children learn prayer as an act of imitation. Many don’t even realize that something cosmic is happening when we address our words to God. They don’t feel the presence of God or even expect that they should.
4. They Don’t Feel Their Lostness: Many over-churched kids don’t know what life is like without the comforts of faith. Their brain say ‘forgiveness’ before their heart feels ‘I’m sorry.’ Because they know about grace, they have never really struggled much with guilt.
5. The Ugly Side of Church: Kids who hang around Christians know the yucky side of the church. They hear the complaining. They know Jesus didn’t fix daddy’s temper yet. They know that church is not always the safest place in their lives. Beyond all this they notice when adults are being fake or doing religious role play.