“Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT
If kids do not make friends at church during the grade school years then they will not make the jump to youth ministry. One of the best ways to ensure that “your kids” will not fall away during their teen years is to help them make friends at church.
You need to understand the social dynamics of your group before you can help the kids in this area. At my church, kids fell into one of three cliques:
- Kids that attended our Christian School. These kids already had their friends so they didn’t really have a need for friends at church. This was a positive for the kids who were part of the school, but it was a negative for the kids who did not attend the church’s school. The kids were not trying to be cliquey, but that was what inevitably happened. When these kids were at church they were not trying to make new friends, because they already had their friends. To counter this tendency I did a lot of teaching on friendship and the importance of being nice to the new kid. I would also break up the cliques when we attended overnight events like camp.
- Home School kids. These were really good kids, but they just didn’t have as many social experiences as the other kids. To counter this I would provide social activities just for the home school kids. Many of the home school moms are highly motivated to lead these activities. I also would pull on these kids for ministry which in itself created more social opportunities.
- Kids that attended other schools. These kids usually didn’t have any friends when they started at our church. I would talk to these kids about being proactive in making friends. The Bible says, “If a man wants friends, let him show himself friendly.” Stop feeling sorry for yourself, look for someone who also doesn’t have a buddy and extend friendship.
You cannot choose their friends for them, but you can create environments that will help them make friends. I do this in three ways.
1) Small groups for kids. One of the hardest decisions I ever made was to take 30 minutes out of my preaching and dedicate it to small group ministry. The primary reason I did this was I noticed the bigger the church got the less connected the kids were. Church is not just about the relationship between the pastor and his sheep. The glue that holds the church together is the love we have for one another.
2) Create opportunities for kids to serve in ministry. When kids get involved in a ministry they are spending time with other kids who love the Lord and want to give of their time to help others. The payback that my leadership kids get is the lifelong relationships they develop at worship rehearsal and drama practice.
3) Plan social activities for families. I try to plan one social activity per month for families with grade school age children. Most of these are not drop off events but opportunities where families can hang together.
Here is a list of the activities I have done:
- Sledding party
- Roller Skating Party
- Easter Egg Hunt
- Gym and Swim night at YMCA
- Vacation Family Adventure
- World’s Largest Squirt Gun Fight
- Summer Camp
- Zoo Trip
- 100 Foot Banana Split
- Hay Ride and Apple Orchard Trip
- Halloween Alternative
- Christmas Party and Gift Exchange
Do not underestimate how important this is for your kids. It is worth your time. You don’t have to do this all by yourself. Find some motivated parents to organize your activities.