There still seems to be misunderstanding or complete vagueness when I say “Family Ministry”.
“Oh. What’s that you do? Ministry to families, that means you work with just kids. No? Hmmm. How does that work?”
For the past several decades many churches have divided families into specific categories or age groups. “You’re 2nd grade—okay you go here. You’re 7th grade, you go over there. Mom and Dad, you go sit in service together. But when it’s time to go deeper in Bible Study, mom you meet in that room and dad you get up extra early on Tuesday to go meet with those men before work.”
If that’s been working for you, great. I sincerely hope it has, if that’s the environment you’re in. But chances are you don’t know exactly what your 3rd grader is learning. Which is probably completely different than your 5th grader. And by high school, well, they seem to be entertained so it’s all good.
Yet often I see that people desire more family time. But how do we fit it in between the men’s group serving here and the kids connection time there, besides the onslaught of school and sports schedules. How do we find time as a family to share in the good news of the gospel? To really learn how to be disciples, followers of Christ, in this family He has blessed us with? Where do we pray together or study God’s word together? When do we find time to bless our children and help them understand what that means? And more than just studying His word, how do we put it into application? Where do we see Him alive and active in our everyday lives?
One church I was part of decided to evaluate the environments associated with the building. If you drive into the parking lot, what is the experience as the person parks, approaches the building, walks through the doors, into the lobby and the worship spaces? Countless hours and meetings upon meetings went into this. Surveys were sent out to new attenders. All with the goal of growing a better disciple.
Do you feel a disconnect with that? I sure did. Most of the people walking through the doors weren’t single people having a singular experience. They were families, each having their own 90 minute experience. And let me tell you, it was a good experience. Worship in song occurred in each separate ministry department. The Gospel was shared in each ministry department. Lives were being changed, in each ministry department. But where was true connection in families happening? Mom is growing, independently. Dad is growing, independently. Teens and kids are growing, independently. Those are good things. But where were families learning to connect together? To grow together?
Who is teaching first time parents to pray for and bless their babies? Who is being the spiritual champion of the home, teaching the kids stories of God’s greatness? Who is showing the parents how to do this?
Don’t get me wrong; it is good to have age appropriate teaching. It’s just not the only thing. Christ loved the church just as a husband ought to love his wife. In that union they have created family. God’s intended design for passing a family legacy, including a faith legacy, was in the family. We, as the church, should honor that. Protect that. Nurture it. Grow it. Even if that means sometimes children are in worship with the adults or sometimes we don’t have a separate youth class.
Families have value. Incredible value. How can we add to that, through ministry to families, rather than continuing to segregate and break them down?