Have you ever had to convince a child that something is important? Let’s say, for instance, your tween asks you why it was so important that they keep their room clean because, “Seriously, Mom, it’s my stuff not yours. Why should you care that it’s not perfect? No one else has to keep their room this clean!”
Have you ever just sat there thinking, “I’ve got to say something more than ‘Because I said so!’” but the words just fail you in that moment so you end up saying… “Because I told you to clean it, that’s why!”
Yeah, so… maybe that happened the other day in our house. Sometimes as parents it’s hard to remember that these kids of ours don’t put the same value on room cleanliness as we do.
Sometimes the same thing happens at church.
If you are like most of the family ministers I know, you are passionate about what God says in His Word about families. You read Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and all kinds of “Amens” and “That’s rights!” rise up in your heart. You see how God repeatedly puts spiritual instruction into the hands of parents and encourages the home to a place of active faith. So when you walk into your church and say, “Let’s do Family Ministry!” it can be hard to understand why the reactions are more quizzical than celebratory.
So, why should a church “do” family ministry?
1. Because the Bible tells us so. Brian Haynes, pastor of Bay Area First Baptist Church in Houston, TX and author of the book Shift, says that it is of utmost importance to base every action and proposed action of your ministry in theology, in the Word of God. For a list of Bible verses referring to God’s plan for the family as the place of discipleship click here.
2. Because studies tell us so. The Sticky Faith group at Fuller Youth Institute have studied the reasons young people walk away from the church, looking for a “silver bullet” for churches and parents to use to keep that from happening. Their top finding was that time spent talking and living faith in the home was the biggest indicator of a faith that sticks in kids. According to Jim Burns at HomeWord ministries, kids that talk about their faith at home with mom and dad have a 80% chance of remaining in church once they leave the home.
3. Because the kingdom of God grows from the ground up. Did you know that by the age of 9 a child has already formed his or her basic moral foundation and by age 13 they’ve come to an understanding about God, His love, and eternity? Did you also know that according to Barna research group, over half of people who come to accept Christ do so before age 12 and only 13% make commitments after the age of 21? So while kids are still at home, they are making the most important eternal choices of their life. The church needs to equip the home for these discussions and decisions.
4. Because time says we need to. Studies show that on average, kids will spend about 24-40 hours a year at church. Contrast that with the estimated 2,000-3,000 hours they will spend at home or with their parents (For more on this, click here). If we want faith to be a significant part of their lives, it needs to take place where they spend most of their time.
5. Because parents need us to. Most parents of elementary-aged kids today grew up in churches that had age-segregated, traditional models. Many times faith was compartmentalized and not talked about at home. Because of that, parents don’t know how to talk about their faith or worship with their children. They need help. They need supported. They need ministry.
6. Because the kids need us to. An average child will be engaged in some kind of media (television, video games, social network, etc.) for 40 hours a week. Remember that statistic about church? At most, 40 hours a YEAR at church. The messages they receive all week long cannot be addressed in one hour on a Sunday morning. Kids need families engaged in their faith walk at home so that faith is not a “Sunday thing” but a life thing.
7. Because God calls us to. The final commission left to the church by Jesus was to “Go and make disciples.” Discipleship goes beyond church membership, service attendance, or biblical assent. Being a disciple means being a follower and imitator of Christ and making disciples means leading others to do the same. As Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Our first mentors in life are our parents/caregivers, so if we are to make disciples, it starts at home.
Sharing these truths with members of your church won’t suddenly make implementing transition towards family ministry easier, but it will help begin to smooth the way as others begin to understand your heart and God’s heart towards families.
About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.