Four observations on the missional movement and their children

The younger missional movement that grew out of the shadows of the emerging church may be relatively new, but it is already changing. That’s OK because it’s a movement that was created with the expectation of change. I enjoyed my experience last week at Missio Alliance. I had many great conversations with missional church leaders, mostly pastors, planters, and team members. The conversations were enlightening and diverse in many ways, but throughout I observed several commonalities. Here are my top 5 observations regarding the trends in this wonderful movement.

1. The younger missional movement is growing up. 

Many were 20s and single a few years ago. Some were 30s and just married. The problem is, like every generation, they’re growing up. As they grow up they pair up, fall in love and have children. In raising those children, they’re left rethinking their priorities.

Guess what? This isn’t any different from the people they are hoping to reach. They are still relevant. Now they’re learning to be relevant in new ways.

2. The missional movement is looking for a plan to address the needs of their children.

There is a baby boom going on with the young churches. I talked to one guy whose church experienced seven births last year. He said that there are also seven more expecting this year. That means his church of less than 50 people go from being nearly 100% adult to 20% children in two years. His church is younger than many.

With the boom of children, leaders are looking for a plan. They have a choice now. They can try to continue as if they don’t have children, or they can find new places to interact with the world. The responsibility of raising children is changing them, and they need to know how to train their children. They need to know how their gatherings should run. They need to know how to work with those in their communities who are not jumping on the baby train.

3. Traditional children’s programs are not going to work for the missional movement (just as they aren’t working for the traditional or seeker churches).

The data is out there. The people in the missional movement have seen too many of their youth group friends walk away from their faith. They aren’t looking for a traditional way of leading their children. They are looking for something more relational.

4. The ground is ripe for experimentation (but people are still nervous about experimenting with their children).

If the traditional church wasn’t right, it doesn’t seem right for missional churches to develop children’s ministry models that look like the traditional churches. There are great opportunities to experiment with intergenerational worship, family ministry, discipleship models, small groups, or whatever the creative mind of the missional movement can come up with.

It is possible that the missional movement can be this daring, but this is a difficult step for parents. Being a parent often leads people toward a more conservative posture. Nobody wants to experiment with their own children. Many leaders of missional churches that I have talked to are already focused on curriculum, and other tweaks of the traditional model. It may be one thing to get tattoos and hold your first church services in a bar. It’s another thing to play with children’s futures. As other studies have shown, people are more likely to do things that are proven ineffective than to do nothing at all when it comes to children.

How bold do you think the current generation of church parents is willing to be? What areas of spiritual development should they put their efforts into?

Growing churches will benefit from understanding the 4 Components of Family Ministry.

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