Getting younger people to join and stick to a church full of senior citizens can be a challenge. The desire to add younger members must be shared by the entire church. If this is your vision as the pastor, and the older folks don’t share it, you are probably fighting a losing battle. Many times, people in older churches don’t mind new people as long as the new people are accepting of the way things have always been done. But if your church has a desire to do whatever it takes to attract younger people, here are some suggestions:
- Make the appearance of your building attractive and enticing to a younger generation. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do; and yes, the wood paneling on the walls may need to be painted to brighten up the room. Make sure your church does not look like a museum. New people are not attracted to a church that has a memorial plaque on every piece of furniture or threadbare curtains that were donated by Aunt So-and-so who has since passed away.
- Because many younger people use more modern Bible translations, you may need to quote from different translations in your sermons. I am not saying you need to ditch the one you trust, but I am saying some of the more modern ones are trustworthy, too, and can bring a younger feel to your church services.
- Incorporate a variety of music styles. Make sure all generations can worship through song with the style of music they prefer.
- Provide a nursery area that is appealing in appearance to both young parents and preschoolers. The room needs to give the impression it is a fun place to be. Bright colors and wall murals are great!
- Parents must feel comfortable leaving their children during services. No matter the size of the church, proper procedures in the nursery and children’s classes must be implemented. For example, it is vital that everyone who works with the children, from birth to age seventeen, submit to a background check. Your teachers may have been in place for ten years, but newcomers to the church do not know them, and parents need to know the church values their children enough to screen the workers.
- Give young adult classes the freedom to choose their own study material. Younger adults don’t necessarily enjoy dated printed curriculum. They like variety—a six-week DVD course on a particular subject can be of interest.
- Create a children’s council and a youth council that will plan and execute fun activities for the kids. Church should be a place where children want to be.
- Market your church! Promote the fact that you care about families and your church provides a fun and safe environment for children and teenagers to learn about God.
It is hard for a smaller church to compete with churches that have more activities, but not everyone wants to attend a big church. Pick something, and do that particular thing well. Your congregation will have a better chance of retaining younger families if you put emphasis on children and youth ministries and make church a place where children and teenagers want to come.
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.