Your KidMin is NOT "new family" friendly (and other things I learned while church shopping
3 years ago, after a ministry transition, my family and I began "church shopping" for the first time ever. It was super fun... ...for about a minute! What I quickly realized is that being a new family in an unfamiliar church is really hard. It feels kind of like jumping into a hip hop class when you've been doing the cha-cha-cha for the past 10 years. Everyone knows the moves except for you, or so it seems. To make matters worse, most churches don't do a good job of teaching new families how the "dance" works. From the moment you walk through the doors, you have a hundred questions and no idea who to ask. "Where do my kids go?" "Do I have to register them?" "Where do I register them?" "Do they start in the sanctuary with me or do I take them straight to their KidMin room?" "Where is their room?" "Are those donuts for me? "How many donuts is it socially acceptable to take?" At one of the churches we visited, we finally figured out that our kids were supposed to begin service by worshiping with us in the sanctuary. When worship was over, the person giving the announcements dismissed the kids to go to their KidMin rooms. Instantly every kid in the room popped up and began moving toward two different sets of doors on two different sides of the sanctuary. These kids clearly knew the dance. My kids did not. They looked at us like, "What are we supposed to do?" We looked at them like, "I don't know, pick a door and hope for the best!" You could see the concern in their eyes as they stood up and moved toward an uncertain future. The kids moving toward the back of the sanctuary looked taller, so my oldest daughter tried her luck with that set of doors. My younger kids went with the shorties headed out the side doors. I don't remember what the sermon was about. I'm not sure that I ever knew. I spent most of that time wondering if my kids ever made it to the right room or if they were playing traffic tag on the highway outside. After visiting a number of churches, I realized a couple of things. First, very few churches are "new family" friendly. Second, when I was a KidMin Director, I could have done a LOT more to improve our "new family" experience. The truth is that I suffered the same problem that a lot of KidMin leaders do: I didn't understand what it was like to be a new family walking into my ministry for the first time. I knew the dance. In fact, I had helped create the dance moves. And because it seemed obvious to me, I assumed it was obvious to everyone. Except it wasn't. In the near future, I'll spend some time creating a checklist of ways that you can make your KidMin more "new family" friendly, but in the meantime, I want to suggest this one thing: If you have young kids or grand-kids of your own, take a weekend away from your church and visit a different church with your family. If you don't have your own kids, borrow some. (Preferably with their parents permission!) Let your head pastor know that this is NOT a weekend off, it's a research trip. You can tell them that I said so! See what it's like to be the "new family." Check your kids into their ministry. See how easy or difficult it is to learn the new dance. Whether the experience is positive or negative, you'll probably walk away with a million ideas on how to make your own "new family" experience better. At the end of the service, despite having no idea where to find our kids, we ultimately reclaimed them. And despite the less-than-fantastic "new family" experience we had, we eventually learned the dance and began calling that church "home." But that's because we were 100% committed to finding a new faith family. There are a lot of families that are not that committed. Not because they're bad families, but because they're still kicking the tires of faith. If those families feel lost during their first visit to your church, do you think they'll come back? Probably not to yours, and maybe not to any. That's how big the stakes are. That's how much we need to get this right.