Church children
Church children (Church should be a place where you can bring your children--including those with special needs--without the spirit of heaviness on your shoulders.)

Recently I was reading about a mom who stopped taking her child to church. This is a mom who was raised in church herself. She hasn't lost her faith, but she has disengaged from a local church.

Why? Here's what she shared.

"We stopped going to church when he was a toddler. It wasn't planned. As a family with kids with special needs, church was one thing that became more complicated than we anticipated. After some futile attempts, we decided we could no longer do church.

"The dyslexia that made school so hard for Tom to manage during the week wasn't any easier to deal with at Sunday school. Lizzy's developmental delays ruled out putting her in the church nursery during the service. When we took her to the service ourselves, she couldn't sit still. Dealing with Peter was also a struggle. His ADHD made it impossible for him to sit quietly and listen. 

"It became a Herculean effort to get everyone out the door each Sunday for 9:00 a.m. services. When we did make it, we would end up having to leave early because someone was crying or melting down. We took a break on going in the hope that the kids would settle down as they got older, but it never happened.

"It was never my intention to deprive the kids of the same religious foundation that Joe and I had. I do know other families that have kids with issues that do make church a priority. As I pondered Peter's question, I had to face the reality that I just couldn't make it work for us."

As you read this, you pick up on some of her reasons:

  • The church wasn't prepared to minister to her child with special needs.
  • The kids had a hard time sitting still and listening in the service.
  • It took a lot of effort to get everyone up and ready to go.
  • It just wasn't a priority.

There are a variety of reasons why families stop attending church. We do know:

  • A high percentage of families who have kids with special needs do not attend church because churches are not prepared to receive them. The churches want to, but they simply aren't prepared.
  • Families are busier than ever. Their time is precious, and they prioritize it. Those who quit might not say it with their words, but their actions say the return is not worth the investment of their time.

Churches that don't create relevant worship environments for kids will have a hard time getting them excited about coming. When parents have to drag their kids to church, they eventually stop dragging.

Fewer millennials are attending church. They are the young parents with children. You can read more about this here

Families are attending church less frequently. You can read about why this is happening here.

So what's the answer? How can we engage families and see them make church a priority?

For this family, we derive from her story, that her family needed:

  • A church that was prepared to minister to her child who has special needs. 
  • A church that provided a children's worship experience for the kids instead of expecting them to sit in an adult service and act like adults. This could have resulted in the kids being excited about coming to church instead of mom having to drag them there. More about why kids should have an age-appropriate worship service here.

What are some other reasons families stop attending church? I'd love to hear your thoughts and insight ... If we're going to help more families engage in faithful church attendance, we've got to find out what the barriers are and find ways to remove those barriers. 

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in South Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool MinistryChildren's Ministry in the 21st CenturySunday School That Worksthe Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.

For the original article, visit

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