What started by accident has become a critical factor in the intentional outreach to young families. About a year ago, Steve Severance, pastor of the Birmingham, Alabama, First Church, presented a few sermons that were shorter than he usually preached. Traditionally, Severance had operated under the impression that longer sermons were acceptable, provided the content was excellent. However, preaching the shorter sermons, which allowed the church service to conclude before noon, gained some positive remarks. A member with a young family commented on how much they appreciated his consistency with planning the service to end by noon. Admittedly, Severance hadn’t planned those services to be so punctual, but immediately saw the benefit of doing so.
For young families, keeping children content and engaged for lengthy periods in an environment that is supposed to be calm and quiet can be quite challenging. Additionally, with many families opting for consistent routines in their homes with meals, naps, and play time, the timing of the church worship service would often conflict with what the family experienced the other six days of the week. While going to church does allow children to learn the importance of reverence and more, doing so in a consistently timed environment is even more helpful.
Witnessing the young families benefitting from this reliable worship service, church leadership explored other ways to make church easy to attend. Pre-filled Sabbath bags were made available for children, featuring animal toys that don’t make noise, along with coloring pages and other appropriate activities for children to utilize during the service. Additionally, Severance began to make it a point to keep the sermons understandable for young minds, a quality he found is also appreciated by the adults.Earlier this year the church organized a family festival Sabbath where they offered a children’s church while Severance preached a sermon focused on godly parenting. Following the church service, attendees were provided with a free lunch, and then the children continued their Vacation Bible School-styled programming, moving from station to station and learning about the armor of God. The parents were treated to a practical parenting seminar from Lori and Michael Abbott, principal and teacher at Hoover Christian School in Hoover, Alabama. The event concluded with each age group of children marching into the sanctuary wearing armor created from balloons. The children recited memory verses, and sang songs they learned throughout the day.
Planning for worship can have a positive impact on your local church. Operating in a manner that is consistent and timely, and making an effort to make church easy to attend for young families, has become a goal for the Birmingham First Church, and the results have been inspiring. Attracting young families during a time where more young people, including those with families, are departing from the Church for good is a significant accomplishment. Prioritizing this group of people in all churches, making it easy for them to attend and be blessed, could provide the life and vibrancy the Church needs to finish the mission God has placed on all.
Gulf States | April 2019