THE GREAT EXCUSE:
"Kids these days are involved in
so many things that they don't have time for Sunday School."
Wish I had a nickel for every time I heard this
excuse for why kids don't come to Sunday School or fellowship, or ________.
(insert your event here).
The question is: IS IT TRUE?
really "too busy" ?
After hearing it ad nauseum, I decided to
see if there was research to support this popular excuse. And hey! ...I
actually found some! Keep reading... I also came across all
sorts of anecdotal 'evidence' that "kids these days are
overscheduled." That "travel teams and sports are taking kids away from
the church." Several newspapers around the U.S. have run stories about
how "sports on Sunday" are pulling kids away from church. Interestingly,
many of those articles are wire reports, picked up by local papers and run
with a local anecdote. That's how many papers get their "news" ...from other
papers. No research, no statistics, no investigation.
The Blind leading the Blind.
We live in an "ain't it awful" world where
pet theories about why this, and why that
are turned into FACT by reporters, talk show hosts, and authors with books
to sell. And in my humble opinion, church people are too quick to make
excuses. Churches have been guessing at the reasons
for the decline
in their Sunday Schools without a serious investigation of the facts.
There are two possible explanations for that: (1) They have bought into
conventional wisdom. (2) The conventional wisdom helps cover for their poor
performance! (btw...regarding "poor performance" -you should
read my experiences looking for a new church here in my new town. The
lack of follow-through on visitors was surprising. These are the same
churches probably complaining about kids being too busy too!)
Who's to Blame?
Depending on who you talk to, the problem is "busy kids" or "parents not
spending time with their children," --or a general decline in church
attendance. "The Secular Culture" is often blamed. A few will date the
decline to the removal of prayer from schools. Lately it has been "sports on
Sunday." [Of course, few blame the lousy 'product' many churches pass off as
preaching and ministry, but that's another article!]
But do "busy kids" or "kids
playing sports" really translate into
Yes, if we want to believe it. No, if we look at the stats and refuse to
make excuses. One problem is that up until now we have only been
waging a war of words and anecdotes in the church. As easily as some can
cite dramatic examples of families trading church for sports and sleeping
in, I can counter with my own personal anecdotes that. "y kids are busy, but
they go to church." Fact: My older teen works at the mall, takes honors
courses, and has a boyfriend, -but she goes to church. My youngest plays
select travel soccer with its practices and travel game schedules, but she
goes to church. I'm busy, I work a 50-60 hour week and part of every
weekend, and I go to church. My wife works full-time and she goes to church.
And there are more in my congregation just like my family. So who's examples
By nature I'm a contrarian. I don't readily
accept the stock excuses that we in the church have created to support our
failures. So I began this investigation Googling the internet. I wondered if
there were any statistics about how kids spend their time, including on
Sunday. Lo and behold, there were. Then, as I answered one question,
I Googled other questions. The following is a report of what I found, and
my thoughts about what it means.
The Research into What Are Kids Doing with Their
There's actually a bunch of it out there.
In 1997 a study was conducted by the
University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research on 3,500 children
nationwide to determine how they spent their time. This study was widely
quoted in venues such as Newsweek, Time and the Associated Press. Excerpts
from it can be found all over the Internet.
Here's a simple chart of the results.
"A breakdown of the estimated average number of hours and minutes children
spend weekly in major activities."
||70 hrs, 44 minutes a week
This chart suggests we should be ranting about
television and school, rather than commitments to sports teams
(you'd think this would be especially true given the direction television
and the schools seem to be headed, but no, "sports" is an easier target.).
Update: PC magazines October 1, 2007
issue there's a chart comparing internet usage to TV watching in the major
countries of the world. For the first time in the U.S.A, internet usage
out-paced TV viewing. This stat included adults in the study and time
spent on the computer at work. So even as we speak, things are changing. So
I wonder why we don't hear the complainers blaming "Increased Internet
Usage" as a reason why people don't go to church?
TV, internet, and school 'usage" aside... maybe the
is with sports on Sunday(?)
seems to be the knee-jerk conclusion. Problem is, the stats don't support
According to a 2003 study by
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services,
61.5% of children aged 9--13 years do not participate in any organized
physical activity during their non-school hours.
Worse: 22.6% do not engage in any free-time physical activity. This means if
you're going to complain about sports in general as your church program's
major competition, you can only use it as an excuse for 38.5% of your kids.
Ok, in your hyper-hockey or soccer community
--maybe 50% are participating in organized physical activities after school.
But are all 50% playing year round, and on every Sunday morning?
You might have a few kids who always seem to be gone playing sports, but as
the study points out, odds are the rest are simply staying away for other
reasons mentioned later in this article. For those of you in hyper-sports
communities, read my aside below.
[Aside: Can you imagine planning a
weekly church event for all your adults at 1 pm every Sunday? No, you can't.
Then you'd really come up against sports. So why in some communities where
Sunday morning sports 'may' be a serious competition, do we plan Sunday
School exactly at a time they can't come? Excuses, in my humble
opinion, are often the last resort of those who don't care enough to
By contrast we know for SURE that 43%
American adults do NOT attend church in a typical weekend. (Barna
Research, 2002 Survey). Why then the backlash against kids in sports?
Because in some ways kids and sports are an easier target to blame. [Yet
rather than complain about sports, some churches are creating sports
ministries. They are trying to meet the needs of their student-athletes, and
helping young athletes see their sportsmanship as an opportunity to
demonstrate Godly values. And others are creating more flexible schedules
for kids rather than the "all or nothing" proposition of Sunday at 9 a.m.]
[Another Aside: Four times a year
my daughter's soccer team would join with dozens of other soccer teams
and descend upon a community for a weekend tournament. Never once have I
seen a church set up a tent next to the concession stand and offer
Sunday morning services, coffee or a donut to traveling families. In
rethinking Sunday School, we need to look at ways to "move the mountain
to Moses" in some churches, communities, and times of the year.]
So if it's not sports, then, who or
what's to blame?
Maybe it's "all the moms working outside the home
that we have these days" ???
Chew on this statement:
"Contrary to popular belief, the increase in
female labor force participation has not led to a decrease in the amount of
time children spend with their parents," says John Sandberg, sociologist at
the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR), the
world's largest academic survey and research organization.
"Even though parents, and especially
mothers, may be busier than ever, many seem to be managing to fit in
time with their children than an earlier generation of parents did."
Maybe its a general lack of parental involvement in
the lives of children?
Nope. According to the University of
Michigan study, children between the ages of 3 and 12 in two-parent families
spent about 31 hours each week with their mothers in 1997, compared with
about 25 hours in 1981. Time spent with fathers increased from 19 hours to
23. In general, parents and kids are spending MORE time together these days!
Read the full article at
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UPDATED and REPOSTED TO
You can print it as a PDF from there.
Neil MacQueen is a
Presbyterian minister, Christian educator, President of Sunday Software
Inc., and leader in the Workshop Rotation Model movement for reinventing
Sunday School. Over the years he has written and published numerous articles
and two books on Christian education and led numerous conferences and
seminars on these subjects. Neil and his wife Malinda have three daughters
and now live in Sarasota Florida. This article was first published at
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