I recently had a dilemma, we moved to a new state and at the time decided to attend a smaller church that was working on building its own facility. The idea was to get involved and be able to serve and help the process along. We liked the church, the people and my wife was helping in the children's ministry. Then, as usual, I had to leave for 90 days for work and upon my return I heard some comments that made my spiritual leader alarm go off.
First, my wife explained that the woman in charge of the children's ministry was "different." As I inquired, I learned that she had abruptly asked my wife to take over the children's ministry for the summer so she could have a break. My wife agreed and prepared a lesson plan for the next Sunday...
My wife showed up and the woman was there to "oversee" her lesson. My wife began teaching (See does have a B.S. in Education) and the woman immediately began interrupting the class and inquiring why my wife was doing things this way or that - in front of the kids. This happened throughout the class and the woman kept stating "This isn't how I would have done it" At the end of the class, the woman told my wife that she had taught the class all wrong, even though the kids enjoyed it. The woman then explained that she just started taking some college classes in education insinuating that she was much more qualified to teach Sunday School than my wife.
First, my wife looks like she is 20 even though she is in her early 30's and often gets hit on by teenagers and asked to "babysit" by other mothers.
Second, my humble wife never told the woman that she has a teaching degree and has taught in many classrooms and has led a children's ministry before. My wife simply rode it off as someone not wanting to let go of control but also decided, after a few more episodes, that she DID NOT want to work with this woman anymore.
Next, my kids were unenthusiastic about attending church. When I inquired about this, I heard stories of the "boring children's ministry" and the "Mothers Day Incident." When I asked what this was my wife told me a story of the 4th-6th graders having to sing a song called "I Love Mommy" to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine."
Apparently, my son and his friends pulled their hoodies over their heads so no one would see them during the performance. My son later told me the woman was treating them like preschoolers and that his 4th-6th grade class was being taught more at the 1-3 Grade level.
To this woman's defense, I have taught 4th-6th grade Sunday School before and you have to be VERY creative and find fun and exciting ways to keep the kids involved. Especially with more spiritually mature kids. The old tried and true read a bible verse, teach a lesson and do some arts and crafts does not work. You have to speak to their hearts, to their fears and to what is relevant in their lives at this age. Also, a little craziness, games and singing loud praise and worship never hurts!
I had heard enough and quickly searched the internet and found a large thriving mega-church to attend the next Sunday. The Mega Church was a 45 minute drive away but if our children were filled spiritually, that was all that mattered. The Mega Church had all the bells and whistles: fun and colorful children's classrooms, powerful praise and worship bands for both the children's and adults services and my favorite, a coffee shop.
All the way home I heard my kids talk about how much fun this church was and the teaching about the Bible was great. All that week, my kids told their friends how "cool" this new church was. The next Sunday, my daughter brought two friends to the "new, cool church" and they accepted Christ that Sunday. The children's leader was amazed that this was only my daughters second Sunday there.
This week, I spoke with a pastor of a small church and told him this story and he agreed that the small churches cannot compete with the money and staffing of the mega churches. He proclaimed "The mega churches keep growing and the small churches keep dwindling.'
George Barna and others have also cited that many churches only spend 1/7th of the church income on the children's department even though 2/5ths of the people in the church our children. My pastor friend also said that a majority of people looking for a church have children and are looking for a good children's ministry.
So my questions are this:
Is the Mega Church simply offering the worldly trappings that parents and kids enjoy or do they truly have the funding and staffing that children's ministry deserves?
Is the small church dwindling away and as my pastor friend said "Cannot compete with Mega Church?"
One thing I have noticed is that while the small church has more of a community-family feel, they are also very cliquey and often drive outsiders away. Or the established ministry leaders get intimidated when new people show up with some ministry background or spiritual maturity.
There has to be some happy medium?
What do you think the future church will look like in 10 years?
I'd appreciate any thoughts or comments.