We have a problem at FBC Vidalia.
How is that for the start of a blog? Maybe it’s harsh, but unless you are willing to own up to your issues, you can never expect to solve them. So here we go. We have a problem at FBC Vidalia.
Our ministries are working and succeeding. As I walk the campus every week and peek into classrooms I see the Bible taught, the nursery full, kids classes booming, and a worship center filled with God’s praise.
But our problem, which started as a symptom, grew into a trend, and now it has blossomed into an emergency that must be solved for the furtherance of our church. The problem is that we have lost most of three entire grades of students.
To be clear, I don’t believe it is our children’s ministry’s fault, nor our youth ministry’s fault. Both Carrie Vest and Jase Ellis are working alongside me to find a solution to what is becoming an emergency.
The core issue is that faithful students raised in our kids ministry, after graduating from elementary school, are not making the transition into our youth department. In many, and might I say most cases, we are losing these students all together from the regular life of our church.
Two years ago, my oldest daughter graduated from elementary school, and as she moved up to junior high, she also moved up to our youth group. She did not like it one bit. In fact, I asked her if she enjoyed moving up that first year, and her response was no. Why leave the comfortable to move up to go to the awkward and intimidating? That year she was one of the only sixth graders to stick in the youth. The following year was the same story for our second daughter.
But we forced them to continue on. Just as skipping out on school was not an option, neither was skipping out on church.
The oddest thing happened after our girls, as shy and scared sixth graders, went to fall retreats, disciple now weekends, and youth camp with the older teenagers: they became a part of the group. Our girls’ first years in the youth group were tough. First, because in the words of my daughter, “there are kids who drive in here,” and second because most of their church friends did not make the step with them.
After that first year, because of the kindness of several youth volunteers and the friendship of older members of the youth group, our girls began to love coming to and participating in youth activities.
To my friends who are parents of new 6th graders, 7th graders, and 8th graders. Please encourage your kids to move up. These teen years are crucial in their development and growth, and the trend of letting them move away from church and the opportunities to grow spiritually will set the pattern for their adult lives.
You would not tell your child that they could stay in tee-ball when their age dictates slow-pitch. You would not let them fall back a grade because the curriculum stretches them. You see that growing up is a part of life.
If we would not allow our kids to regress or stall in sports or school, why would we allow them to regress at church?
I have now watched as many of the kids at our church have failed to promote for three years, and they inevitably end up falling away from the church altogether, both as teenagers and then, heartbreakingly enough, as young adults.
Dear parents and friends, please push your kids up. Do not make church an option for them. Your kid’s spiritual formation and growth matter. Will you give your kids the gift of making church a priority, even if it is difficult for the first few months? I promise, when they are there for Sundays, Wednesdays, retreats, and camps with our junior high and high school youth, they will become a part of that family in the same way they were a part of our kids’ ministry family, and you will be amazed at how God works in their lives to mature them in the faith.
I don’t want to lose another grade. I don’t want your kid to fall away from church.