Sometimes I hear about a thing. And the thing is attached to such a good sound byte that it sticks. And then that thing kind of takes a life of its own before you’ve really thought about it much.
And that’s what I think happened with the “no drop-off” thing that’s found favor in family ministry circles. (The best I can tell it started as part of the kids ministry at Northpoint and gained steam via Reggie Joiner’s book, Think Orange. But it’s also taken on a life of it’s own, you see it expressed in a lot of ways in churches who “do the Orange thing” in their churches.)
On the one hand I get it. I think there’s good reasoning and good research that churches need to better partner with parents to create ministries that don’t consistently separate people based on age alone.
But I don’t think the “No Drop Off” thing ever really addresses these three items of push back. When I’ve pressed into it I ultimately get a response based on accepting a philosophy of ministry without actually addressing how or why the philosophy is better.
- One reason drop-off programs work is because parents legitimately want a break from their children. Embedded in the “no drop off” concept is the idea that dropping kids off at a program at church is automatically bad. This is coming from people who work at churches who don’t actually get to enjoy the benefits of dropping a child off. Don’t dismiss that! I can’t tell you how awesome it is to drop a kid off at a program and have 90 minutes to myself or a date with my wife. If I can’t do that, I’m not sure why I don’t just stay home.
- The “no drop off” thing has a program-centric view of the role of parenting. In other words, it assumes that it’s best for me to come to a church program to connect with my kid spiritually and further assumes that I’m not going to do anything at home if the program doesn’t exist. In reality, people who self-select into a “no drop off” program were highly likely to already connect with their kid at home, you’ve just made them busier. And people who aren’t connecting with their kids spiritually at home are just going to opt-out of the program altogether. They are busy enough and don’t need another thing to do.
- The “no drop off” thing eliminates people like me. I remember when I first read Mark DeVries book, Family-based Youth Ministry. On so many levels I deeply connected with the idea of parents as mentors and found hope in it. But I couldn’t shake this reality: If I needed a parent present for me to feel like I fit in at youth group, I would have never found Christ in high school. I would have walked into a room and realized it wasn’t really “for me” but church was for people from “good/church” families. My parents loved me, my parents wanted what was best for me. They were even very supportive of my religious activity. But they weren’t going to be involved. Had this been a thing when I was in high school, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable and I wouldn’t have gone back.
My first two push-backs are practical or philosophical. They are also grounded in trying very, very hard in 2007-2008 to make the “no drop off” thing work in my own church and seeing it fail. We restructured our entire church to support it… and it tanked. Hard.
But the last push-back is theological. It begs the question, “Is a ‘no drop off’ mantra from church leadership putting a hurdle in front of children and teens, preventing some from finding Christ? Are you making access to Jesus conditional on something a child can’t control– parental involvement?“