From the President's Desk:

The Challenge of Retaining Children and Youth

The primary concern that congregations express when beginning the process of calling a pastor is retaining children, youth, and families. The way to face this challenge is the way that the Church faces every challenge put before her and that is with the Word of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify young and old alike. That Word may be delivered in a variety of different ways, but the simple solution to the complex concern is the Word of God.

Here are some of the ways that congregations are facing that challenge today…

Inter-generational Catechesis – Some congregations no longer have divided Sunday School classes, but may have an entire Family Sunday School or a teaching format where the older children assist in the education of younger children. Some adapted confirmation programs to include multiple age levels where the children learn together and parents are even involved and attend.

Family Discipleship in the Home – A growing number of congregations are providing guides and resources to assist parents in leading devotions in the home. Some use a family altar to gather for a time of reading Scripture and the Catechism, the singing of hymns, and prayer. Lent is an excellent time for families to begin devotions in the home by using a resource that guides them through the Lenten season to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

Parallel Sunday School lessons – Some congregations have an adult class that follows the same lessons as the children’s lessons to assist parents in the conversation about what they are learning.

Support from Technology – Other congregations have provided short videos for families to watch in the home during the week to support their ongoing growth in the faith, often connecting to the Scripture readings from either the previous or upcoming Sunday.

These are just a few ways that congregations are assisting families in teaching the faith to children. The solution is not to try to do a long list of things, but evaluate what your congregation is doing and determine if there is something else that would help meet this challenge.

If your congregation would like assistance in family discipleship, the Missouri District is here to help. Please contact Pam Nummela at for information about our Family Discipleship coaches. Also, come and learn more about strategies for teaching the faith to children, youth, and families at our upcoming Tell the Next Generation Conference on March 11. Click here for more information.

May God the Holy Spirit guide our congregations as we tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.

Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan was born in Birmingham, Ala., and graduated from Concordia, Seward, Neb., in 1992. He holds both a Master of Divinity Degree (1996) and Doctorate of Ministry (2011) from Concordia Seminary. Hagan served as Senior Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran in Concordia, Mo. (1996-2015) and was previously an Associate Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Evansville, Ind. (1996-2002). He has been President of The Missouri District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod since June 2015. Hagan also served as Interim Director, LCMS Rural and Small Town Mission (2011-12), on numerous District Boards both in Missouri and Indiana, and during multiple Synodical Conventions as a delegate and on Floor Committees. He is married to Jill and they have two children.