To reach young families in our community, we first need to understand who they are and what is holding them back from attending church. Through our research (on hundreds of churches across the country), we’ve discovered one key indicator of church attendance amongst families: time. As Americans (especially families), we are busier than ever, or at least we think we are… Nearly half of the families surveyed, who did not currently attend church, said that the demands of raising children and having little time available kept them out of the pews on Sunday. In reality, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes of these American households that make them feel as if they are busy when they may not actually be.
The first thing we might assume is that we are working more hours to keep up with the increase in the cost of living. In fact, the average workweek for Americans has been on a consistent decline since the 1950s. We may also assume that time spent on household chores and caring for children must be on the rise – thus taking more time of these families. Unfortunately, this is also not the case, with time spent by Americans on housework and childcare declining by 35% since the 1960s. So what is taking all of our time? It is our second “job.” The average adult in America spends four hours a day watching TV and nearly the same amount of time interacting with their cell phone. This is essentially a full workday of distractions and is a major reason families feel as if they are busier than ever. On top of this, many jobs require a computer leading to an additional 5 hours a day of “screentime.” All of this, combined with the pandemic lockdowns this past year, lead many Americans to spend upwards of 17 hours a day in front of a screen.
So how do we engage with these families amongst all the distractions? One solution that was forced on most churches within the last year was meeting them where most of their time is being spent — on a screen. While engagement and active participation may have been harder than before, this transition to online church made some things easier — including inviting friends to church. Christian invitations to friends who were not in a church increased over 22% during the pandemic lockdowns. With the average family spending over 25 minutes just driving to and from church (not to mention getting ready in the morning), this new form of church was much more accessible to the many “non-church” families who listed time as a major reason for not attending. This works for adults, but what about kids?
Another great option for reaching young parents and their children would be to offer separate child-specific content as well. A good example of this would be considering offering an online Vacation Bible School this summer. With 4 in 10 Americans still worried about traveling due to Covid-19, this is a great solution to provide an alternative to the traditional in-person VBS experience. Many young families would openly welcome this kind of programming.
Although we may feel as if we are busier than ever, we now know much of that time is lost to distraction. One ministry opportunity we’ve uncovered with young families is that although they would say they’re too busy to be involved in their community, there is often a deep longing and need for interpersonal relationships. The first step to remedy this is by engaging with them where they are spending their time (on screens) and helping them take the next steps in deepening their relationship with others and Christ.
In part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss using the right tools to craft the most effective strategy to reach the young families in your community digitally.
For more resources on Vacation Bible School, please visit Church Growth.
Andrew is the founder of Kingdom Analytics, a company that has served over 300+ organizations who are doing good in the world by helping better connect them to their community, congregation, or customers using advanced demography research. He also has experience in the church world working for the largest high school ministry in the country at North Point Community Church. Andrew graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in both Design Management and Tourism Development, and is CITI certified in Social and Behavioral Research. His focus is in using creative problem solving and data to produce unique and memorable guest experiences.