In my line of work, it doesn’t take too long for me to recognize trends in the churches I work with and receive messages from and lately there has been one common thread: Our families aren’t coming back. More precisely, the parents aren’t coming back. And because of that, the kids aren’t coming back.
I predict that we will soon be entering a time where more and more kids will be coming back to church without parents/caregivers present or at least not present in the way they once were.
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 our church and there isn’t intentional faith formation happening at home? How can we serve the families and the children in ways that honor them and still allow for faith formation to take place?
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 kids who come alone
Create a Place to Belong – 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 Each Person’s 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!” And, as best as we can, know the names of their family members so we can ask about them and how they are doing.
Talk about Home – Just because parents/caregivers may not be present in the church building, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the home with that child. In fact, kids may want and need support if they are trying to live out their faith at home. Ask about how they are doing, what’s going on in their family, be supportive and give them that space to share.
Assign “Welcoming” Families – Before events like VBS 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.
Always Invite the Whole Family – If you are having a picnic, 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.
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.
As tempting as it is to press forward in an attempt to return to “normal”, we need to be careful not to bring our pre-Covid mentality into our post-Covid reality. We have all be formed and changed by the past year, kids most of all. Our homes and our lives look different. Let’s do our best to reach people where they are and share the love of Christ with all we have the chance to interact with, no matter what it looks like.
It’s Time To ReFocus
Are you interested in moving your church from a traditional, age-segregated into a more family-focused, intergenerational focus, connecting the home and the church?
Refocus Ministry would be happy to begin a conversation with your team and church about the how your church can grow in serving the families of your church and community and connecting your faith community in relationship with each other.
Ongoing coaching through various means is also available as your church continues the transition including weekly emails, monthly on-line trainings, and continued conversations. In addition to one-on-one coaching calls and follow-up resources, the following large-group presentations can be made available to your team, pastoral staff, or congregation.
Options to choose from for these presentations include:
- Presenting on a Sunday morning to your worship service(s)
- A parent webinar on Everyday Discipleship and partnering with the church community
- A presentation on Connecting Generations (importance, need, Biblical foundation) for your leadership team
- A training on a specific area of ministry such as Family VBS, Partnering with Parents, Equipping Volunteers, Creating an Intergenerational Culture for your ministry or leadership team.
- OTHER – We will work to create a presentation that best suits your community’s needs
Use the contact form below to receive a customized quote for your congregations needs. We look forward to journeying with you to make Psalm 145, one generation to another, part of our church’s DNA.
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
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree who serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ. She is also wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and pastor 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 holds a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry and is completing a Doctorate of Ministry in Spiritual Formation 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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