Research has repeatedly highlighted the vital role adults play in the faith development of children. Yet churches are still having a hard time finding adult volunteers for children's ministries.
A recent survey by Pioneer Clubs – a Christian ministry program serving over 3,000 churches and over 140,000 children throughout North America – revealed that 75 percent of churches struggle with leader recruitment.
"Adults have time. However, they won't invest that time in children's programs unless they believe that children's ministry is a priority with eternal significance," said Judy Bryson, president of Pioneer Clubs, in a statement.
The survey of 275 adults in leadership positions in Pioneer Clubs confirmed the vital role adults play when it comes to children and faith. Findings showed that 69 percent of the leaders "agreed" to "strongly agreed" that an adult other than a pastor or parent influenced their faith development.
Not only do pastors and parents help shape children's faith, but Sunday school teachers, club leaders and other adults have a significant impact on children's spiritual lives.
"Adults, who have on-going relationships with children, such as a club leader or Sunday school teacher, make a critical difference in children’s faith foundation. A low adult-to-child ratio lets such relationships thrive,” explained Bryson.
But many churches are experiencing high adult-to-child ratios.
"Leaders are very important in children's lives. Yet we know from the feedback that finding those [adult] volunteers is a challenge," said Pioneer Club spokesperson Louise Ferrebee. "Based on what we hear from people, it is an ongoing challenge."
In the meantime, the surveyed adults admit that their own faith was shaped at an early age.
According to the report, 71 percent said they "agree" to "strongly agree" that their "understanding of faith was fundamentally shaped by childhood religious experiences."
Still, only 48 percent see it as their responsibility as Christians to share their faith with children. At the same time, 71 percent said they like seeing a child understand how the Bible relates to daily life and 69 percent said they want to be part of a child's spiritual development.
"As Christians, we are all called to nurture the next generation of believers,” said Bryson. “We can’t hope that ‘someone else’ will shoulder the burden. If we fail to foster a child’s Christian faith, something else will quickly fill the spiritual void.”