I’ve heard some concerned discussion lately regarding family ministry especially as it pertains to reaching children who do not have engaged caregivers or believing parents in their home.
Specifically the concern is, 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 focused on age-specific ministry to one that is more focused on reaching the family unit as a whole. And to be honest, there is no easy answer but here are some things to consider as we approach this topic.
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.”
Some ways we can do that:
- Provide Parent/Caregiver Workshops or Seminars, free to the public, without an overt spiritual focus. For example, host a Social Media workshop that open to the whole community, and focused on the internet and 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, and Summer Movie Nights are examples of 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 caregivers that your faith community is 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.
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 being ministered 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 we can reach the families we serve.
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 is offered will transform their homes into places of discipleship. Those who choose not to use the tools 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 there is a call by God for us to partner with and minister to parents as they raise their children and to offer them a broader community that will support and encourage them along the way. 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
- 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
Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.
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, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed
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Love this blog. Families are defined differently in this century, but we can still respect their choices. God calls us to love, so we do that. Bringing families together for community events (outside of the church building) demonstrates acceptance. Many will feel safer to attend without having walls that make them feel trapped or cornered into believing something they’re unsure of, etc. Consistency with God’s love is the key to bringing them to Jesus. Thanks for writing this, Christina.