“If you could eat dinner with anyone, who would you pick?”
Before you keep reading, take a moment and answer the question. Where did your mind go? Someone famous? Someone from the Bible? A hero or a friend?
I recently saw a commercial from Australia where this question was asked, first to a group of adults, and then to their kids. The adults picked well-known people from movie stars and famous activists. Then they watched as their children were brought out and choose their own heroes; Mom, Dad, and family. Consistently, the children picked their parents and their family.
It was a touching commercial about making dinnertime count, but surely, it was just a stunt right? The kids had a script. They were told to pick their parents, right? So, I asked my own kids and a few neighborhood kids the same question.
Much to my surprise, I got the same answer. Hands down, every single child I asked said, “Mom and Dad” or “My family.”
Let that sink in.
The next day I saw a commercial from Hersheys. In it a young girl wants to spend time with her dad, but he is busy videoconferencing for his job. She get the idea to get a life-size poster cut-out of her dad made, brings it home, and replaces her real dad with a cut-out for work and takes her real dad to the kitchen to make S’mores.
The overall message is the same.
Kids want to be with their parents.
We get a lot of conflicting messages in this world. Messages that say kids want their freedom, they want their friends, they want their space. But more and more, studies are showing the kids really don’t want all that stuff as much as they want quality time with their family. Parents and caregivers are by far the greatest influence on their children and by far the most desired by their children in terms of time and attention.
Disney gets this. A quick look at what makes their theme parks so successful reveals that at the heart, it is a place for families to be together. Every effort is taken to make sure that each experience, each magical moment, is shared as a family.
Our local zoo gets it. They offer overnight packages for parents and kids to sleep at the zoo and explore the zoo together at night.
Hersheys gets it. An Australian food company gets it.
And, in my opinion, it’s high time the Church gets it too.
God created family. Something special, something unique, takes place between parent/caregivers and their children. Something precious and valuable. Something desirable.
If creators of dinner food and makers of chocolate, if amusement parks and local zoos, can recognize the value of a shared experienced for families, then as the Church, it behooves us to recognize the same thing.
Giving families a place to worship together, to explore their faith together, to be in the faith community together and experience the love of God together – that is liturgy (the work of the people), that is the body of Christ, that is Church. And while there are times where age-appropriate ministry is needed, it should never trump family.
To be clear, I am not against age-appropriate ministry but if that is all we as the Church offer to our families and there is never a place for families to be TOGETHER, we are missing a fundamental need, want, and desire of our children.
Surely we can recognize what Hershey’s, Disney, the local zoo, and some company in Australia have already figured out – doing life together is a fundamental need of families.
I wonder if we asked kids, “If you could pick anyone to go to church with, who would you pick?” I just bet I know the answer.
Want some ideas on how to offer places for families to connect in church? Check out this link and feel free to comment below on ways your church is bringing families together.
For more information about
- Kids in 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 D6 Family, Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.