What Parents with Young Kids Want Their Church Leaders to Know

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Parents with young kids view church through a unique lens. Admittedly, I did not fully understand this until I had two of my own. Preferences and experiences change when kids enter the picture. Over time, I have noticed consistencies in these preferences and experiences. Here are 9 statements that I have heard numerous times from parents with young kids:

1. “Getting to church stresses us out.”

For young parents, the process of getting their kids ready for church is unpredictable. One week, the kids are in a fight. The next week, one refuses to wear any clothes you put before her. Tantrums are regular occurrence, especially when they need to be somewhere at a specific time. These parents want to get to church on time, but it is a battle. It stresses them out.

2. “We probably had a fight on the way to church.”

The stress of getting to church on time creates tension in the family. Arguments frequently arise. The parents do their best to hide these arguments the moment they arrive on campus, but they’re tough leave behind. The pre-church arguments make it difficult to worship.

3. “You have no idea how important a fun, clean, and safe kids’ area is to us.”

They have a deep concern for their kids. When they get to church, parents with young kids want to see a space that is fun, clean, and safe. They want to know that each volunteer’s background has been checked and that there is no question as to whether or not they should be with children.

4. “Do you want to show us love? Love our kids.”

When they drop our kids off at their class, they want to know that their kids will be treated with the same love and care that their kids receive at home. When these parents’ kids leave church happy, they are happy.

They want to know that their kids will be treated with the same love and care that their kids receive at home.

5. “We need help teaching our kids the Bible.“

These parents love it when their kids are excited about something they learned in church. They want their kids to know and love God. They want their kids to know Bible stories and have verses memorized. And they want to be a part of it, but they need help.

6. “We like on-campus small groups either before or after the service.”

For parents with young kids, off-campus small groups can create the same stresses that arise with attending church. On-campus groups allow them to only have to go through the process once a week.

7. “We don’t get out that much so we like to build relationships at church.”

Going out with the kids can be a risky endeavor, and babysitters are expensive. So, until the kids get a little older, they stay home. Church becomes a key place for building relationships. They want a church that provides opportunities to connect with others.

8. “Our finances are messy.”

Parents with young kids are still trying to establish their financial footing. Many are still trying to pay off student debt, and some are reeling from early, poor financial decisions. If the church offers some type of basic financial course, they will try it out.

9. “We need help with our marriage.”

In fact, they probably have discussed divorce at some point. They really do want a good marriage, but they are surrounded by lies. They want truth. They want to hear what God’s plan is for their marriage. For some, this is their last hope.

What about you? If you have or have had young kids, what do you wish your church knew? If you are a church leader, what are you doing for your parents with young kids? Tell us in the comment section below.

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13 thoughts on “What Parents with Young Kids Want Their Church Leaders to Know

  1. As a middle-aged pastor, I understand and agree with most of these concerns. However, I do have a question about #6. If on-campus small groups before the service are the way to go (e.g., Sunday School?), why are so many churches moving away from that format? And why do we have so much trouble getting young parents and their kids to come to Sunday School?

    • I’m not sure on campus before or after the service is going to work either. Most kids are tired or need a feed.
      We have mid week groups. The husbands and the wives meet on the same night in alternate weeks to allow one to stay home for their children.

    • First and foremost I’m not full time in fact just a lay person. I hear what you both are saying about off campus and on campus Sunday school, community groups, etc. the one thing that sticks out in this list though is #5. In conjunction with your ABFs, CGs, whatever, the equipping of these parents to actually teach their children the Word should be first and foremost. Parents say they want help teaching their kids the bible but in reality many look to the church to teach them the bible which is not effective in the long run ( see Stinson Jones, Trained in the Fear of God) The amount of time parents have with their children compared to youth/children leaders is huge.
      Churches do need to “help” parents teach their children the bible however the churches need to equip the parents to teach their own kids the Word.

    • Thank you, Ken. There are a number a great reasons why many churches provide off-campus small group options. It seems that most opt for some combination of off-campus and on-campus groups, if their facility allows them to do so.

      The natural question comes from this is, “which groups meet on-campus and which off-campus?” For this, I simply recommend asking and then doing the best you can to create groups that meet at the preferred times and locations.

      Regarding your second question, it is tough to have a simple/general answer for an issue that may have many nuances for your particular church. I would start by just asking your young parents for the reason why they are not in a small group. Honest feedback is always a great starting point.

  2. I serve in a few capacities with the youngest in our church. I have found that encouraging parents to stay in the nursery or volunteer helps with anxiety over leaving their child with us. We are currently developing papers for the parents to have what to expect, what you need to bring, medical issues and such. plus we are also working on keeping a paper on each child so everyone is on the same page. Working with babies toddlers and preschoolers is a wonderful opportunity to open their world to God and the love he has for us. I have been given much for what I am giving, it is a pleasure and love to work with the youngest and uplift their parents.

  3. Art –

    This blog post is gold. I am copying it for use with some of my future resources on what attracts people to churches. I will give you credit — just don’t expect license fees!

  4. We are in our early 40s with a 2 & 1 year old. Sunday School classes are divided by our age. Our children’s classmates’ parents are 20s and 30s…how can we get to know them when our paths only cross at drop off and pick up? It would be nice to have less rigid divisions for adult Sunday School for unusual cases like ours…difficult to do since there need to be lines drawn somewhere and we don’t really want to be in a class full of twenty-somethings!

    • Thank you, Heather. I understand your situation. It is common for a church to create groups based on age. It is also common for a church to create groups based on life stage. Either strategy would create a dilemma for you. If you feel most comfortable with the early 40s group, go with that. But be purposeful about asking your children’s friends’ parents either over to the house or out for “play dates.” The shared experience of raising young kids will be an easy point of connection with them.