A new study reveals that an increasing number of American Christians see time at church as a competitor with time devoted to the family. It attributes this trend to overcommitment in all spheres of life:
The phenomenon of overprogrammed kids in the last decade or so is well documented—to the point of satire. (A recent sitcom showed an alien begging off an invasion of Earth because his kid had "a thing.") What isn't so well documented is the effect this legion of extracurricular activities has on church life.
The pastors we surveyed report the overall busyness of families is keeping families away from church. Asked whether people are spending more discretionary time on family activities or church commitments, 76 percent said the scale tipped toward family activities. This contrasts with the perception of 62 percent of respondents that a generation ago, free time was more likely spent on church commitments. The balance has shifted.
Carol Welker, children's ministry pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida, says the impact has been felt especially in weekday programs.
"We stopped doing Wednesday night programs a couple of years ago after they just fell apart," she said. "We did a survey to find out why families stopped coming, and several said, 'That's the one and only night we have together as a family.'"
Al Mohler comments:
When "church time" is seen as a competitor to "family time," something is wrong at church. When family members hardly see each other at church activities, the congregation needs to take a quick inventory of its concept of ministry.
Indeed. As Andy Bryan observed some months ago, it is easy for the Church to become a place of busy-ness instead of Sabbath.