How Well Do You Know the Kids of Your Youth Ministry?

Children’s ministry is a process. It prepares kids for a life of Godliness through a nurturing and loving community environment. Some youngsters even stay with their church for life, citing the extended family feel of a warm and supportive environment as the reason they stayed.But a study by Lifeway Research found that 66% of church-attending teenagers drop out for at least a year in their adult life. And of that 66%, a huge 7 in 10 of them never found their way back as regular church attenders. So what went wrong?

Grant Glas
July 21, 2022
Kids Ministry Leadership

6 Mistakes Church Leaders Make With Kids

There are countless reasons why someone might stop attending church. Maybe they went away for college and slipped out of the habit, maybe they felt judged by the leaders at church, or maybe they didn’t connect with anyone in their youth ministry.

Church leaders play a powerful role in creating kids’ ministry, but sometimes they can miss the mark. Keep reading for the six most common mistakes church leaders make with kids and teens and how to avoid them.

1. Not Understanding Their Struggles

Kid feeling misunderstood

Despite what people often believe, the youngest members of your church have a lot on their plate. They have homework assignments to complete, exams to prepare for, friends to make, and puberty to get through. As adults who have already been through this period, it is easy to brush all that off as insignificant.

But for the kids and teens of your church, this is everything. Build a genuine connection with your children by walking a mile in their shoes. Take the time to listen to their problems and be patient with them. Let them know that you understand their experiences. 

2.Acting Like a School Teacher

Ministry teacher

Kids have already spent their week at school, so don’t make church feel like an extension of this. Having authority and teaching discipline is essential to teach them respect and stop things from spiraling out of control, but try not to take it too far.

You will get to know the individuals of your youth ministry on a much more personal level when you act like a guide rather than a school teacher. Instead, be someone your kids can trust so they have a responsible person to turn to in dire straits. Having a figure like this is vital when it comes down to keeping teens on track.

3. Too Much Discipline, Not Enough Fun

Church kids being disciplined

Loosening up with your children's ministry lessons will ensure your kids see God as a friendly fatherly figure. Knowing Jesus isn’t meant to feel like a chore, so make sure you merge a mixture of light faith with the heavier Bible study. Finding the perfect balance can be difficult, but the church should feel like a safe haven, not an exam hall.

Sometimes church leaders reserve the fun and games for younger kids and expect teens to toughen up and take it. But all this does is push the youth away. Keep fun and lively activities a central part of your teen ministry – teens deserve a laugh just as much as kindergarten kids do.

4. Not Making Worship Meaningful

Kid enjoying church worship

Kids are different from adults. They generally have different needs, different attention spans, and different understandings of the world. So why would we import an adult style of worship and expect it to work for kids? Some elements like the format and style can stay the same, but is the content relevant in your kids' ministry?

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership suggests giving members of your youth ministry a chance to have meaningful roles as worship participants by allowing them to write their own prayers. It opens the door for a deeper connection with God while reminding them that we are here for each and every child.

5. Not Granting Kids Their Individuality

Young girl playing by herself

We are all guilty of stereotyping sometimes. But when we make blanket statements, we erase the individualities of people. While it's often true that teenagers are rebellious and rude for no good reason, it is far from useful to say this to a member of your teenage ministry. It makes kids believe that you don’t care about them at all.

Similarly, assuming you know where kids are headed in life can make them feel powerless. Everyone has their own story and a unique path, so steer clear of labeling your teens. Realize that your role as a church leader is to guide and support God’s children, not turn them into ‘perfect’ cookie-cutter people.

6. Not Building Lasting Relationships

Teacher creating a lasting relationship with her students

You have the opportunity to change the lives of every child that walks through the doors of your youth ministry. Simply being there for them and providing support when they need it is more valuable than you could imagine. Think about when you were a kid – is there one adult who stands out in particular?

We remember the bonds we create with the authority figures who spend time getting to know us. Building Faith explains how injecting yourself into the lives of your kids is essential when building relationships with students. Ask them about their hobbies, listen to their funny stories, and meet them where they are.

Create a youth ministry experience to remember by treating the kids as real people. When we show children respect and listen to their opinions, they learn that their thoughts are of value. We must nurture the next generations of people so they feel confident in themselves, seen by the community around them, and looked after as individuals.

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