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I recently received an email from a former staff member of another church where I served as pastor.  She’s in a new church now and asking a great question.

Her question:

Hypothetically (or maybe not), how would one grow a church that had no young families? Any suggestions on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

My short answer:

That’s a great question. Church growth happens primarily because of relationships and relevancy to people’s lives.  To grow a church where there are no young families, but you want to reach young families, you have to build relationships with young families and make things relevant for where they are in life.

It’s not impossible, and certainly not wrong, to grow a church without young families.  Older families and individuals need relationships and relevancy also.  It just alters the ministries you offer and the way the church is structured.

This is a very quick response to my friend, but it is an incredibly great question.  What do you have to add?

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Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Beth Winters says:

    I’ve always said there is power in prayer. God knows what we need before we even ask it of Him. My suggestion would be to keep praying on the matter, and God will work things out like He wants them. Just be willing to follow Him and do the things He calls you to do or lays on your heart to do. In short, Pray, listen, and Obey. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone if impressed to.

    Also reaching out to the community gets a church’s name and face out there. Following God isn’t just about what we do on Sundays.

    As far as contemporary vs. traditional, I think it is great to have a little of both. It satifies the needs of everyone.

  • Ron says:

    Jamie, I think you nailed a great summary statement when you said, “All churches should have a community that is open to growth, and some find themselves in a position in which they have to stretch themselves more to make this happen.” That should be our heart and as Dawn said, we should “work the field you are in”. Which is sort of my point.

    I agree with you also Andrew. We should be less worried about competition and more about the Kingdom. I was pastor of a small church in a small community and one of the things I suggested to the area pastors is that we combine our energies reaching younger people. There were far more older families. One church had a great facility for youth, we had a couple of great youth workers (one who sent me this original question), one church had a bus, etc. Of course, it never happened, and we all struggled to have a youth ministry at all.

    Good thoughts. Keep them coming.

  • IMHO it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Churches waste far too much time trying to be like other churches because they feel that to be ‘successful’ they need to have this progam or that ministry or reach those people or whatever. I believe that God has a specific purpose for every church that exists and our job is to seek Him for that purpose and to go after it with passion, drive and integrity. We need churches that minister to young familes and we need churches that minister primarily to older people. Its not fair to say that we must minister to everyone if that is not the niche God has for a particular Church. Take a look around and you will see in one area churches that (hopefully) together are reaching a broad cross section of the community. If we would stop being in competition with each other long enough to see that we need to work together to build God’s Kingdom, not ours, then we can be truly effective in reaching the lost. Some to reach youth, some to reach families, some to reach retiree’s and some to cross over… lets be faithful to God’s call to reach the lost and trust that He will do the work…

    Andrew Edwards’s last blog post..Wow Moments!

  • Jamie McGregor says:

    Also, I’m aware that some of that sounds weird. I really struggled with putting most of that into words. I’m not trying to be a heretic, and I would appreciate help with fleshing that out more.

  • Jamie McGregor says:

    This is a pretty intense issue. I’d say it’s important to have diversity within a given church to allow for a more dynamic community; not only in active relationships, but also in thought. I currently work at a church that is composed of an older crowd. Within themselves and their children they have a good community and strong ties to tradition, but this really becomes a stumbling block for bringing in younger people. Logically, this church could possibly experience a literal death.

    On the other hand, it is located within a town that has many other church communities that are more mixed when it comes to age groups and more open to staying relevant. I feel like the area’s church climate makes a difference when considering whether a church needs to be one way or another. Not to say that one church is more or less important than another, but that the Church will continue on in that area even if that particular body were to eventually find itself poured out. In areas without a church on every corner, I think the issue of being open to more age groups becomes more pressing.

    I think that a good rule of thumb is to keep oneself tied more closely to the urging of the Holy Spirit and Scripture than to tradition at all costs. All churches should have a community that is open to growth, and some find themselves in a position in which they have to stretch themselves more to make this happen.

    That turned into a ramble.
    I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think churches that have a low number of younger families are bad, but if a church in that situation was feeling pressed to grow, they would need to be prepared for the possibility that they may need to stretch themselves in they way they do things. They would need to actively reach out to the younger community. Not all young people need contemporary worship, but all of them do need to feel welcome, accepted, respected, and all around loved by the church reaching out to them.

  • david blevins says:

    Ron,
    I think church growth is a function of the ministry’s appeal to all age groups. Youth and others love the contemrary movement that most “growing” churches lean towards. On the other hand have you noticed how much louder people sing atGrace when a traditional hymn is performed. Ron this is where I respect your leadership the most. It is an art to balance the needs of the
    People, yet keeping the main thing the main thing: spreading the gospel. It seems that the churches that are not growing are the ones that do not change and when pastors don’t make the “tough” desicions. Therefore they keep with the old traditions and do not attract young families.

  • Cindy says:

    I have to take both sides. Ok, let me explain. I have been a member of a Church where the only ones coming to the church was older people. In that Church they kept praying and decided that the mission of the Church was to bring people to Christ in a different way and that was thru the ministry of healing. The people that kept showing up for Church was people that had been hurt in different Churches and those people would come and find healing. Some left to go on and lots stayed to help in this process. There are still not many members of that Church. The numbers being low seems to help with this process. The young people that would come had not been a part of that kind of Church and no matter what was offered they would not stay around. I personally know that a lot of things were tried as I was the one who was putting the programs in place. The people completely was behind all that was tried. Sometimes I think we decide what God wants in a Church. Maybe He wants a small group so that He can help people who are hurting out and some are large. We are at a large Church but without having gone to that small Church we would not have found the healing that we needed in order to grow in the new big Church.

  • Dawn Reed says:

    This argument has been waged along with the topic of worship styles. Terms like Old and young are relative terms, what is old to you and young to you might not line up with my definitions. I say work the field you are in. The key is to be involved in many facets of your community, that way you are exposed and exposing your church to all of the communities members at the exclusion of none. Mold your ministries around the needs of your community; thereby, molding your ministries to the age dynamics of your community.

    Great discussion,
    Stacy

  • Yea, but how are old people going to be outside continually adding on rooms to the church in the hot climates? In order for the church to keep growing there’s gonna have to be some young people to take part in at least SOME of the reconstruction; otherwise, the older part of the church could summer from heat strokes or possibly heart attacks depending on their diet. My grandfather had to hire a contractor just to finish off the deck in his back yard, and if I remember correctly the contractor was a younger guy.. probly mid-thirties. You should have taken this into consideration before responding to your email friend. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with older members attempting to help out in the growth process, but simple health science will show that young people are going to be better at the manual labor involved.

    Hope this helps!

  • Ron says:

    Tom, I’m standing by my post. Please read it closely. I wasn’t referring to the ideal situation. I said it wasn’t wrong to grow a church without young families. The goal of church, as I understand it, is to make disciples. You do that by reaching lost people, helping them find salvation, and then teaching them the ways of Christ. That can happen at any age.

    Check out these links:
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    What if you are in one of the hottest retirement areas of the country. Your community is growing rapidly, but not with young families, but with older families? Do you quit growing, wait for the youth, or reach the people God is sending your way?

    I think church growth is about reaching people, young or old.
    If you grow a church with older folks it creates a whole other issue much like one many churches in our community experience. We are in a military town and we have numerous churches with a high concentration of military. We love our soldiers, but that means the turnover rate in the church is high and it’s harder to grow long-term, but they are still a great mission field.

    I just don’t think when it comes to church growth we can limit ourselves to one formula. I love the young families and our church is certainly geared towards them. I think the church growth model is bigger than just our model.

  • Ron says:

    Rick, I know some, but some of the ones I know don’t have websites to point you to. Some of the others exist in retirement areas. We have a large retirement base here, but again, those churches don’t have websites. I’ll be glad to trade emails with you about this if you want me to research or give names. ron.edmondson@gmail.com

  • Tom says:

    Ron, gotta disagree with you on this one. Young people are the future of any church. A church cannot be a truly healthy church unless all age groups are represented and reached. A church made up of only one age group will turn inward on itself, and in time it will go extinct. I don’t believe any biblical basis exists to exclude any age group to create a “niche” church.

    You have a lot of good ideas, but you’ve missed on this one, IMHO.

  • Rick Stroud says:

    Hey Ron…thanks for your post about growing a church without young people. My inlaws church is faced with that issue. Do you have any examples of what other churches have done successfully to overcome this obstacle?

    Rick

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