Unchurched Kids: 4 Things You Should Teach First

un-churched children

Just the other day my friend shared about her husband’s one and only church experience when he was younger.  The pastor pulled him aside and shared that the boy was probably going to hell because he was wearing baggy pants.  For many years later, that is what the boy remembered and associated with church. Wow.

Suppose a kid comes to any of your ministries and has zero religious background. What are the most urgent things your ministry needs to help them understand?  Sometimes we get caught up in the behaviors and the to-do’s and don’t-do’s.  Here are a few basics that kids need to learn first.

1.  God is love and He loves them.  Before you can share the gospel effectively with any kid, he or she needs to understand this essential idea.  An unchurched kid could have any possible view of God, formed largely from tv, movies, or bits and pieces they’ve picked up from other sources.  Nothing matters more than that child understanding that the God of the universe loves him.

2. You love them.  Before you can share much life-changing truth, you have to earn the right to be heard.  All kids need to know that your ministry is a safe place where people genuinely care about them.  It is through relationship that we have real opportunities to share the gospel.

3.   Sin is real.   We do unchurched kids a great disservice when we only tell them half of the story.  Kids need to understand that we have a sin problem that we can’t fix on our own.  Kids need to learn that our wrong choices are serious because they separate us from God.

4.  Jesus.  If God sends us unchurched children, and they leave our ministry without at least being initially introduced to who Jesus is, we have failed.  Pizza is good.  Games are fun.  But we miss it if we don’t share with all kids as often as we can that God sent His only son to pay the price for our sin and to make a way for us to go to Heaven.

What do you say? Leave a comment below to add your thoughts to this important question. What do you try to emphasize when children visit your ministry for the first time?


  1. Haley Cartlidge says

    Thanks for sharing that, I think what you’ve said is incredibly helpful to all of us that operate in children’s ministry and I’m so sorry that you’ve had a certain amount of bad experiences. I know muslim comments get made from pulpits at times, but I so hope that they are aimed at a belief system and not individual people, that is where we make our mistakes I believe. I run a Christian kids club that operates in a local school and is pretty much mostly attended by non church kids. We have had a family of muslim children come once or twice to special events we have had and we have kept to what we teach but been as welcoming as possible and just let them enjoy the programme. The point is they shouldn’t be ‘discriminated’ against, all the kids are not from Christian homes so what’s the major difference?

    We have a few kids with some Christian connections, some with no religious background at all and some that may come from other faiths, our job is to share the love and grace and faithfulness of Jesus no matter what background they come from, and to be welcoming and loving to all.

    Once we were doing a craft for father’s day and a little girl said to me ‘I can’t do it, I don’t have a daddy’, we have a few single parent families so that’s not unusual we usually talk about giving a gift to a male family member that mean a lot to the child so as not to make anyone feel excluded or ‘not normal’ in some way. She then said to me ‘I have two mummies’, I just said to her ‘do you have a granddad? I’m sure he’d love one!’. another child’s parent is an atheist, she made that very clear and asked that if her son didn’t want to pray he shouldn’t be asked to. We never pressurise the kids to pray anyway so that wasn’t an issue. He now comes to every meeting we have and we have a brilliant relationship with mum, she’s also been to a few Christian events.

    My point is that we could have kids coming into our sessions from all sorts of different backgrounds and whether that is a different religion, alternative lifestyles, or just no religious background at all, our job is to love them, to show them a Jesus that adores them, that he can take away the things we do wrong, or our pain and hurt and be our friend, we just have to ask him to. I feel its our job to make Jesus available to them and be the best representative we can be of him. I don’t expect we always get it right but that should be the aim.

    God bless you, your husband and your little girl, I hope you find a community of believers that will bless you and love you as a family, one that you can trust and be family with…..

  2. noname says

    Please read this comment without judging me, but I happen to be married to a muslim from Egypt and we have a young daughter. From the beginning, I have done my best to prevent her from becoming a tug-of-war between us, so I “agreed” when she was a baby to sort of keep God “generic”, mainly out of my own fears that he might impose his religious beliefs on her. Since I would never agree to such a thing (yes, I lied when I made that agreement, and I hate that I lied, and sometimes I feel worse knowing that he has been keeping his part of the agreement!), from the beginning, I have secretly been teaching her about Jesus. But she really is unchurched, and whenever he goes away, we pick a church and attend.

    People are sympathetic to my situation and they want her to come to whatever children’s ministry that they have going on, but when she goes, she just wants to be with other kids that aren’t “bad” and I feel that she is waiting to hear something real, something genuine, and something that speaks to her personally. When I see whatever sunday school papers she brings back, it’s often so churchianity that my heart aches.

    And… “the church”, the people in the church often have very nasty things to say about muslims– hateful things, and in my opinion, the church has a serious issue with an “us vs. them” attitude. (I do know the reasons why, but True Love covers a multitude of sin!)

    My daughter loves her Dad with all her heart and he loves her with all his heart! When she has overheard comments about/against muslims– often from the pulpit, she becomes so distressed and upset and defensive because she loves her Dad! You can’t imagine how hard it is to try to share with her about the love of Christ after she has heard stuff like this! She is searching for the Truth, but I fear the door is closing because of unloving comments a child has only heard in a church setting! How will the church ever love muslims with the true love of Christ when we see their belief system instead of them as individual human beings created in the image and likeness of the one True LOVING God? And did you know they think the same about us? We are the ones with the gospel of Love, but we often don’t show that, even if we think we are “sharing” it! They don’t hear a gospel of love necessarily, so where will they ever feel it?

    I didn’t mean to sound hard or preachy, but what I’m saying is true, and if I hadn’t met and married him, I think I most certainly would have had the same attitude. And if I’m having sort of a hard time reaching my own daughter, the bigger question is how will we reach unchurched kids from muslim families? I have had the opportunity to be in contact with several muslim families and their children, and I believe the kids are the ones that need the Truth sown in them now and that means only real love for them, so that later, maybe they will usher their parents into the Kingdom, and then, Lord willing, they in turn would be so changed when they visit their families in their homelands, their families will not see them as americanized, but see them as more loving and changed from the inside. From where I’ve sat for the past 13 years, this seems to me to be the only way some will ever hear the gospel–through the testimony of their children and their children’s children.

    So often, just like it’s now possible to find sunday school curriculum that targets inner city kids, I wish someone would write a curriculum, maybe a VBS curriculum for a start, for unchurched kids that especially come from other cultures and belief systems. If someone knows of such material, I’d like to know about it. Love is universal, and the bible states that God is Love. We know the Truth, but sometimes we need to show the Love instead.

    By the way, all his friends always tell me how kind I am and how good-hearted I am. He lives with me and sees the good, bad and at times, you know… the ugly! I’m not always the best representation of Christ at home either.

    But still, the question is, how to reach unchurched kids with these backgrounds, without sounding like uptight, condescending, church people? I want my kid to hear what the Spirit is speaking to her heart, and she can’t hear it over the comments she’s heard. And if you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read this.

  3. paul pitts says

    I totally agree! We’ve decidid to not spend as much time on traditional lessons. Our focus is simple, Christ died for you. and his message revolves in two rules. Love one another as you love yourself, for this we need to learn what it is to love ourselves. And secondly, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, for this we have to define what ALL means.

  4. Vicki says

    Thank you! Thank you for this wisdom and for this wonderful ministry to make my ministry a bit easier :)

  5. nicole says

    I certainly agree, and this does not only apply to children but even adults. Sometimes we are so concerned with “how it will look” and we tend to get down on folks who dont conform to our likeness (dont get me wrong, because right is right and wrong is wrong) but people just want to be accepted. And the thing with children is that they’re impressionable. Spoke to a friend of mine recently, and all he can remember from going to Sunday School is that he was refused a glass of water and he has kept that in his mind for the past 20 years. So, first impression lasts.

  6. says

    God has burnded my heart to work with children of poverty, circumstance, and those who have not been churched before. The church that I am now working at has commited to a local apartment complex. We spend time on Saturdays with the kids and invite them to come to church with us. I have practiced what is listed above and have seen true life change!
    Thank you for posting great things for Children’s Ministry! They always prove to be helpful.

  7. Tyronne King says

    This is such a great idea as well as importans an it good to let kids know that they can play a part in the ministry as well if they become beleivers of christ as well so they know that once they get on board jesus is all way s with them when they become beleiver an theres work for them to do as well and that all man were created equal that they have just as much right as any other kid to be a child of God and brother n sister of jesus christ

  8. Sharon Klein says

    The Theory of Evolution is man’s attempt to disprove there is a God and that we are accountable to Him. Why would we try to make God’s Word line up with man’s blatant attempt to prove His Word wrong? We only make ourselves look like fools to claim to believe half of the revealed Word of God. See creation.com -There are real scientists who believe every Word as plainly written.
    By the way, this is a great website!! God Bless and give us His Wisdom.

  9. Margaret says

    God is still making the world. Evolution and the Bible don’t contradict each other unless you only read the Bible with a Fundamentalist approach and no sense of context/literary criticism. God made me, but he also made my brain. I don’t need to close my eyes to Science to know God’s love.


  10. Joseph says

    Thank so much for pointing out these points ! It got awesome insights that can help one to remain focused especially when reaching out to the unchurched kids.
    I was just wondering if by any chance you have any free materials that i can use to run a bible study for Teenage boys-grade 6 and 7.

    Please advice me,
    Stay blessed,

  11. paula says

    Great article! I would like to add that kids need to be taught from a young age that God MADE them. We have to counteract the lie of evolution/Big Bang theory that all the public schooled children will be taught from kindergarten or even preschool. Kids are smart enough to understand that nothing can create itself out of nothing and also that our world is so amazing and complex that it was obviously created by an awesome and loving God!

  12. maria elena says

    This is so timely. God has reminded me in my childrens ministry about these fundamental facts. God is good. God bless you for sharing this article with us. Now, im thinking back if i have done all of these and if not, God gives me the chance to do them all asap.

  13. jon jones says

    I like the list but it might do to be careful with the first because just teaching that God is love would easily lead to a false sense of salvation. You seem to follow up well with # 3 and the reality of sin. However the other two definition statements of john are just as important

  14. says

    Awesome! Thanks! Can I reprint this article (in a booklet form) to pass to my ministry team?

  15. Diana says

    We have a Pastor that needs to read this! As a fairly new Sunday school teacher I am proud to say I have covered all this and am glad that you pointed it out so others can follow it. Thanks !

  16. April says

    Very good points. We have to let the children feel GODs love in us and the church especially the visitors. Thank you for the wisdom! God is good! What wonderful revelation!

  17. says

    thank you for writing this. i love how you addressed the need for sensitivity for these children. it is so imperative. whether they come once or continue to come, what they will remember is the love of jesus and the church. thanks again:)

  18. says

    Good points here. Every ministry should include Jesus. Where some children’s ministries go wrong, I think, is pressuring kids to “accept Jesus.” Children need to learn who He is and what He’s done for them, and then let the Holy Spirit prompt them when the time is right.

  19. says

    Great points! We need to show God’s love to visitors. I appreciate the comment “If God sends us unchurched children, and they leave our ministry without at least being initially introduced to who Jesus is, we have failed.” Church should be fun and inviting, but the main focus needs to on learning God is real, we are sinners, and how to apply the Bible to our lives.

  20. Amy VanPutten says

    Excellent article. I would say these sums up the basics that any child needs to learn. Thank you for calling our attention to what matters most!

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