This is my confession. Today I went to the dentist… for the first time in three years. I know that’s bad. I grew up with the strict routine of going every six months. I did however feel better that it wasn’t six years, which may or may not have been the length of time that passed between previous visits. (My mama totally just cringed if she’s reading this)
Here are some things I realized about myself:
- I knew I should be going. I knew it was the best and healthiest choice for me.
- I also knew the longer I put it off the worse it was.
- I didn’t have great excuses for not going. Life just kinda got in the way and I kept procrastinating.
- One reason I didn’t want to go back was because I knew the dentist/hygienist would make a big deal about how long it has been since I’d been to the dentist and remind me of all the things I should be doing but haven’t. A little bit of guilt is quite the deterrent.
- It was easier (in my head anyway) to just not go than to have to explain why I hadn’t been.
I recognize that some of these things are probably just reflective of how my weird brain works and thinks. However, as I sat in that chair, I thought about families who have been missing from church for awhile.
- They probably know they should be going. They probably know that it is overall best for them and their family.
- The more Sundays they miss, the easier it is to keep missing Sundays.
- Usually there aren’t big reasons why families quit coming to church. Maybe they got a little aggravated by something, but usually it is because life just gets in the way. Sports gear up or it is just a busy season that turns into another busy season that turns into another.
- Church people can be the worst at piling on the guilt. Or at least that can often be people’s perception of us, whether we do it intentionally or not.
- Sometimes it is easier in families’ minds to just not go than to deal with the guilt and hassle of actually going back.
So, what lessons can we learn from this for kidmin world or even big church world?
1. Don’t let families go missing for too long. Have a system in place where, whatever size church you are, you can not only notice when families have missed a couple of weeks, but you have a system to follow up and gently check in with them.
2. Remind families they are loved, without guilt. What do you do when families have missed a couple weeks? A month? A few months? Calls, notes, emails, etc.. .can be super effective if done with much love and care and not much guilt.
2. Train staff and volunteers to watch their responses. Most would never intentionally make a family feel bad for not coming in awhile, especially when we are excited that they’ve returned. But sometimes the things we say can be interpreted that way. Phrases like, “Man, it’s been a long time since you’ve been here!” or “Where in the world have you been?” can easily be interpreted as guilt. Try phrases like “I’m so glad to see you” or a gentle “I’ve missed you”.
3. Make re-entry as easy as possible. Don’t make parents feel bad for not knowing where their kids go. Try to keep red tape to a minimum. Help them find their place and get back in without a lot of fuss.
4. Just because they’ve been gone for while doesn’t mean they don’t still need the church. It can be easy to move families off of rolls or to “Inactive” lists to clean things up. And a lot of times that is a necessity. It is hard to function with rolls with 200 names of kids you haven’t seen in 10 years. But at the same time, remember those names represent families who still need the church and still need Jesus. Maybe take the time to contact families first and see where they are and what they need, even if it has been a long time.
What has been your experience? Whether you are a family who has been out of church or you’ve tried to connect with those who are missing, I’d love to hear your thoughts.