I’ve heard a lot of concerned discussion lately regarding family ministry.
Maybe because it’s still perceived as a “new thing” or because people don’t really understand it or the heart behind it. For whatever reason, there seems to be an almost caustic response from some about moving towards an intergenerational, home-focused ministry platform.
One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard raised was in regard to reaching children who do not have engaged caregivers or believing parents in their home.
Specifically, if our ministry at church is focused on families, what happens to kids that don’t have a believing family or Christian home life? Are we just going to turn them away or not provide for their spiritual needs?
It’s a legitimate concern and one that deserves addressing, especially if a church is looking to transition from one that has been primarily age-focused to one that is more family-focused. And to be honest, there is no easy answer but here are some things to consider as you approach this topic.
1. Reach for Home – More than likely, some kids will get dropped off who do not have parents that attend the church. But, that does not preclude us from reaching out to their home.
It is important for us to recognize this need to welcome children who aren’t in “church families” in a way that is both accepting and embracing, providing for their needs spiritually, physically and emotionally while they are with us (Ideas for how to do that, click here). But it is equally as important to recognize that we are sending them back to a home that will have profound formational effects on their faith and to not further our reach by extending our arm of welcome to the home is to miss an opportunity for “going and making disciples.”
- Provide Parent/Caregiver Workshops or Seminars, free to the public, without an overt spiritual focus. For example, we are hosting a Social Media workshop this month, open to the whole community, and focused on the internet and our kids, not necessarily religious in nature. Our faith will be discussed but the topic is one that all parents have questions about.
- Provide Activities for the Whole Family. A lot of parents/caregivers look for free, fun things to do with their kids. Fall Festivals, Family VBS, Summer Movie Nights, etc are all ways to engage the home.
- Visit with the parents/caregivers – Drop by, say hi, get contact information, introduce yourself, offer resources, tell them what you are doing, bring a pie :). Show them that you are excited about serving them in their home even if they don’t come to church. And express your desire to serve not only their kids but them as well.
Of course there is no guarantee that this will lead to anything beyond what is already happening.. but it might. What you do for one, do for all. If the church family is getting a handout, a parent letter, an invitation, make sure the others families do too.
Connect the church to the home as much as possible.
2. Embrace Family – Sometimes when we think “family” we get a picture in our head of a Dad, Mom, two kids, a dog, maybe a cat and a cute Cape Cod with white shutters. That’s really not an accurate picture of “family” today. Family has grown to mean many things. Sometimes family isn’t even people we are related to by blood. Sometimes Grandma is Mom or Uncle is Dad or family friend is Aunt.
One main goal of “family ministry” is to minister to the family as a whole. It is important then to find out how family is being defined by those you are ministering to and the needs that their unique situation gives rise to. For more on this, check out this blog on “The ‘Family’ in Family Ministry” and consider ways that you can reach the families you serve.
3. Encourage Faith – Even atheists believe something (they believe that there is nothing). It takes faith to believe anything so everyone has faith.
Our job as Christian family ministers is to equip the home to be a place of faith formation in Christ. However, that can be complicated if the leaders in a home don’t believe in Christ. That doesn’t mean you don’t equip or resource them anyway. Providing materials, information, and training for faith formation at home is key to an effective family ministry. Those who desire what you have to offer will transform their homes into places of discipleship. Those who choose not to use the tools you’ve given are still being given them and that in and of itself makes a difference in the home.
God is the ultimate home builder; we are vessels of His grace and love.
Finally, I feel like it is important to point out that while we need to be aware of this potential area of concern, there is another glaring fact we cannot ignore that the family unit itself is a mission field for the church today. Ministering to families is important. Missionaries to other countries or inner cities or specific age groups train to reach a specific group of people in that context.
If we look at families in that same light, as a mission field in need of missionaries to bring the good news of the gospel to their homes, I believe we could see a revolution in the church of children and youth who graduate ready to serve Christ in their homes, church and community; discipled in the faith and grounded in their love for Christ because of their intentional faith formation they experienced at home and intergenerational relationships at church.
There is no cookie cutter family ministry model.
There are no easy answers for the concerns that arrive.
But I firmly believe there is a call by God for us to equip the home, minister to parents, engage children in the broader community, and disciple families. And if that is a call from God, then we know He will provide all we need to reach each and every family He sends our way.
For more information about
- Practical Strategies for Welcoming Kids into Corporate Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- And much more!
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.