What if my kid doesn’t have any friends at church?

We all want our kids to be happy and to feel comfortable, especially at church. Over many years of ministry, I have talked to parents who expressed concern that their child did not have friends at church. Often this is a reason that families give when they stop attending.

Friendships between kids can be challenging no matter what, but church is a different dynamic because of the limited amount of time kids spend there each week. It can be hard to make significant friendships in an hour or two a week. However, there are things that you and I can do as parents that can better or worsen the situation.

If your child is expressing these thoughts, here are some tough questions to ask yourself as the parent:

  •  How consistently is my child attending?  Think about this … if your child is only there 1 to 2 times a month, it is going to be very hard for him to make real connections with other kids. If you just spent an hour a month with someone, would you feel you knew them very well? In fact, he might even feel left out because the kids who are there most of the time are going to naturally know each other better. The more consistently your child attends, the better chance he will have at getting to know other kids and building friendships.
  • Is my child in a small group environment where she can build relationships?  To answer this question, you need to have a good understanding of what happens in your church’s children’s or youth ministry. Many children’s ministries have large group worship and small group activities.  At our church, Wednesday nights are the very best environment for kids to build relationships. We keep those groups small and kids attend more consistently during the week. Also, our Sunday morning life groups/small groups are the next best opportunity to get to know other kids. Large group environments are designed for kids to connect with God through worship, teaching, and prayer. It is a larger group though, so it will be more difficult for kids to connect with each other. Maybe by expanding your child’s involvement you can help her connect better.
  • Are YOU in a small group?  My kids’ closest friends at church did not come from Sunday or Wednesday ministries. Their closest relationships have been formed with the kids whose parents are my friends. Why? Because we spend time together outside of Sunday morning. We eat lunch together or hang out on the weekend. You need to be intentional about connecting with other parents with kids of similar ages. The best way to do this in most churches is to join a small group yourself. I guarantee the more you are connected, the more your kids will connect.
  • Are you encouraging your child to take the first step?  What I have noticed in children’s ministry is that very few kids are intentionally excluded. Kids just tend to gravitate to the people and groups they are used to being around. (Adults do too, by the way.)  Challenge your child to be the one to try to connect with another kid in class. Maybe encourage him to look for someone else who needs a friend or is sitting by himself.
  • Have you talked to the teacher in the class?  We are all on the same team. We all want your child to grow spiritually and to be a part of the church. Sometimes parents feel awkward talking to kidmin leaders and vice versa. Don’t! Tell them what your concern is. Ask what they are observing. Ask if there is a specific child your child could buddy up with. Be aware though – there is a great chance that the teachers will have no idea what you are talking about. Some kids will participate all morning and be the center of the party and then go back and tell Mom and Dad that they don’t know anyone! Or, another warning, a really honest leader may help you see some things that your child is doing that is making it harder for him to make friends. Be ready to receive those things well. Talking to the leaders can give you a whole new perspective and often relieve a lot of anxiety.
  • Have you reminded your child that friends aren’t the main point? Yes, I am fully aware how important friendships are to kids. However, this is a great teaching point to remind your child that we go to church to connect first with God and learn more about Him. Secondly, we come to church to connect with other believers. Don’t be afraid to remind them to keep those priorities straight. The more they do the first, the more naturally the second will eventually happen. Also, remember, this isn’t necessarily your problem to solve. God may have some very important lessons for your child to learn in this. Don’t be afraid you’re going to turn her off from church forever. Most importantly, please do not let them talk you into quitting church. There is a good chance that this same problem might pop up at the next church. It might not … sometimes it is a better fit somewhere else … but make sure you have tried all the other things listed above first.
  • Have you been praying about it?  I know. That is such a church-y answer. However, God cares about these things in your child’s life. Ask God to help your child connect and build friendships. Ask Him to show you what you can do as a parent and what you should not do.

Navigating childhood friendships is hard. Let’s be honest, all church friendships can be hard. However, being strongly connected with the Body of Christ is totally worth it and will provide your kids an amazing foundation and support system. Keep fighting to keep them connected to it!

Posted on March 4, 2021

Jenny serves as Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. She is passionate about equipping the church to disciple children to follow Jesus. Jenny also  loves investing in other children's ministry leaders.
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  • We have been going to a certain church for two years, the social isolation is real, my daughter was so socially isolated, the kids would remove all the chairs away from near her and crowded up the other side of the table leaving her alone and not a single way for a different kid to be sitting with her. The same thing happened to me during junior Bible quizzing regionals and nationals tournaments by people of my own church. For 6 rounds the mothers made sure to move all the chairs away from me and crowded up in a corner of the room to talk while the kids were having their quizzing when people are to be silent during the Bible quizzing . This year instead I suffered having to sit on the floor by being told by those mothers the empty chair was taken and I was not welcome to sit in the empty chair . I sat on the floor for all the state tournament quizzings . My son was bullied for about a year in a half by an older teenager, threatened he was going to pulverize him and slamming him up against door frames, I eventually complained enough that the staff had to pull the two boys aside and say we can’t do that. The executive pastors teenager son has pushed my little boy down several times making him BLEED every time . We sit alone and I have pulled my kids out of the kids church and youth programs . This is the second church in three years and it seems to be the same beat of abuse and neglect with no love . It has nothing to do with size our old church had 100 people this new church has over 1000. It’s the domination I believe. Evangelical church. We have gone to Baptist churches and they are nice and friendly but they lack in kid programs and youth programs. We thought youth and kids programs would be full of love and structure. We were wrong. At first we thought what is wrong with us we don’t stink , we are not dirty we don’t look scary we are not disabled any way whatsoever . So why would they do this ? It represents the church and is making the kids really DISLIKE the church . I can tolerate sitting on the floor because I guess the people there think I don’t deserve a chair . I can’t tolerate the people at the church making my kid bleed , bullying my son and daughter. We don’t talk to anyone at that church and have been pretty quiet and to our selves since the beginning but now we are very quiet . Silently suffering while trying to worship Jesus, cause after all the purpose is not to make friends at church as this article says. But to be abused in such a way is insane to me but we keep trying. Maybe one day it will change .

  • Concerned Momma says on

    I have been dealing with this for a while. You see, my kids grew up without friends in the church and now are adults who have no true fellowship within the church and are just as excluded as they have always been. Sadly, they do not believe church is important as they can learn and watch online.

    We have noticed one contributing factor (there are likely more) to the lack of love among the teens. If the youth leader or church is so focused on doctrine (which is very important), the kids and teens may miss the opportunity to learn to “love others as yourself” through the church adults actively modeling this, encouraging the kids to have compassion for one another, to have fellowship with one another and to build each other up. We should be creating disciples. We, as adults and more mature Christians, should be helping the teens thoroughly understand what it means to serve one another, and to lift each other up. Heb 10:24-25, Eph 4:1-16. John 13:1-20. Even Jesus washed his disciples feet. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Read James 2. Having partiality or faith without works, is clearly not good. 1 John 4: 21 says, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Also, 1 John 3:10, 17.

    Kids that grow up without connection in the church learn an awful lot through the actions of the teens and adults. The church is not a building, it is a gathering. We are to be imitators in Christ. And love is an action. If the teens and adults in a church are not displaying this or striving for this (while not expecting perfection) then it should be a concern.

    Do you know what you get when all you have is doctrine? You get a faith like the Pharisees.

    John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  • If your child isn’t making friends in church, it’s more than likely because Christians aren’t truly friendly. And their children reflect it. They are “happy face” friendly. It lacks anything authentic resembling true friendship and kids pick up on it. Children are great at being truthful, no matter what adult expectations are. They pick up vibes in a natural way, so don’t crush that. Kids respect real friendships not the superficial kind you find in church adults. Why push something on them they may not want!

  • Robin G Jordan says on

    It has long been recognized that if adults do not make friends at church, they are not being assimilated into the congregation. The same holds true with children. A child who does not have friends at church will not be able to focus on their relationship with God. We can admonish them that they should get their priorities straight but if a child’s other needs are not being met, they will not be able to attend to their spiritual needs. That has also been recognized as being the case with adults too.