It seems cruel by today’s standards, but before we had high-tech gas detectors canaries were used to detect deadly gas in mines. Miners would bring the small birds with them when they went into the tunnels to mine coal. The small birds would succumb to deadly gasses before the miners. Therefore, if the canary died, it alerted the miners to a problem so they could respond. Theses days the phrase “…like a canary in a coal mine” is used to denote a sign that something is wrong.
I’ve been in ministry for 25 years in multiple traditions and congregations. One thing seems to hold true: A lack of children in a church is like a canary in a coal mine. If you look around on Sunday morning and do not see children, it is a sign that something is wrong.
The problem isn’t likely with the children’s ministry (although that is possible). The problem is more than likely with evangelism and adult discipleship. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but children tend to go where their parents take them. If their parents are going to church, they bring their children. No children = no parents. No parents = a potential evangelism and discipleship problem.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to invite others into a trusting relationship with Jesus. We are also called to walk with one another into deeper levels of trust and obedience to the teaching of Jesus. If we are doing this well, there will people of all ages in the church. That includes parents which, by extension includes children.
If you look around your church and don’t see children, there may be a problem. But don’t run to the children’s ministry department for answers. Rather, look in the mirror. When was the last time you invited another person to trust Jesus with their life? That is a good place to start.