When we serve in family ministry, our goal is to equip and resource the home in ways that promote faith formation and spiritual discipleship primarily by parents and caregivers.
But what happens when a child comes to your church and doesn’t have a home life that is conducive to that model?
In addition to doing our best to engage the family and minister to the parents as noted here, we also want to make sure our church is an environment that is prepared to be welcoming and inviting to everyone.
Here are some practical ways your family ministry can minister to family-less kids.
“Welcoming” Families (or families that will welcome)
Before events that will likely bring more kids into your church, approach a few families and ask them if they’d be willing to “adopt” a child for the activities that day or week. If your church has intergenerational services where kids attend, find families or even grandparents that will welcome the child to worship with them.
Talk about Home
Just because a child’s caregivers aren’t there at church, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about home with that child. In fact, they may want and need support if they are trying to live out their faith at home without support. Give them that space to share. As a fellow minister once challenged me, “Know the names of the names they know.” In other words, know the names of the people who are in their lives, not just their name.
Invite the family
If you are having a picnic or get together, make sure to invite the whole family. A word of caution – it can be hard on that child to have to constantly hand deliver invites or handouts that their parents might not want or show appreciation for. If at all possible, make the contact yourself so that the child isn’t in an awkward position.
Give him/her a place
There’s nothing worse than feeling out of place and awkward. But there’s nothing better than feeling like you are a necessary part of something. There are lots of roles that need filled in preparing and completing a worship service. Finding a place for that child to serve can give a strong sense of self-worth. (younger kids can help hand out bulletins, help with greeting, be your “right hand man”; older kids can read Scripture, help with sound/lights, participate on worship teams, help collect communion)
Know their name
Being greeted each week by name says “You are welcome here. We want you here and we are excited that you are part of our church family!”
Appreciate WHO they are
Don’t let their identity be “The kid who comes without his/her parents.” They are a beautiful and unique child of God. A colleague of mine shared this with me about his own experience: “Once upon a time, when I was one of those kids (at church sans family), I appreciated being taken seriously on my own, not as a spare part (like so many singles do!)”
Host Cross-Generational Events
Instead of all events being focused on family groups, host events where all generations mingle and fellowship regardless of age or relationship. One family minister I know has round tables and the simple rules are 1. You can’t sit with anyone you are related to and 2. You can’t sit with anyone your age. Her church has grown to love these times of intentional intergenerational connection and no one feels singled out.
Many thanks to the Family Pastors on Facebook who sent me these suggestions to share. Original post June 2016.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, 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. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and Seedbed