I looked at my front window one sunny day in June to see a trail of kids walking, skipping and shuffling along the sidewalk in front of my house. My eye caught the face of a girl who attends our church. I rushed onto the front porch just in time to hear her say to a friend, “I know the people who live here. Really, I do.” I called her name and waved. Delighted, Katie* ran over for a hug and proudly strutted back to the line. I’ve gotten to know Katie pretty well during my time in the ministry. I’ve gotten to know her family too.
- Recently, I had many a phone conversations with Katie’s mom about a possible teenage pregnancy in the family.
- Katie’s older sister comes to my house every other week for some hang-out time and casual mentoring.
- Her grandma just emailed me to ask if she could bring a birthday cake for Katie to our mid-week program.
- Katie’s cousin stops in occasionally to our house for dinner and a cooking lesson, usually with board games afterwards.
Family Ministry Means Being a Family
My husband and I don’t do this stuff because family ministry is our heart’s burden. We do it because that’s how the church is supposed to work. Family ministry isn’t about creating programs to meet the needs of every family member. It’s about being a family. It’s about being a community. It’s about being a part of each other’s lives in a way that’s authentic and meaningful.
Family Ministry is not a new concept. You see a beautiful picture of the kind of community God envisioned for his people in Zechariah 8:4-5:
4 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there. ”
This happened just last night at our Summer Blast program. The thing I love most about VBS is how it pulls a congregation together. People serving as small group leaders, people running games, people doing crafts and projects. And old people, some with canes in hand, sitting along the edges of the gym, watching the kids running to and fro, sipping their coffee and smiling.
Brand new parents, who had never stepped inside the doors of our church before, were playing right alongside their kids, gluing hearts onto paper plates and clapping to the music. The teenagers from the youth group were running cookies and little napkins out to the snack table and filling up water balloons as fast as their fingers could tie. Young kids were greeting new guests and telling them “I’ll be your friend! I’ll show you where to go and stuff”.
That’s family ministry. It’s about being a family. It’s about being a community. It’s about being a part of each other’s lives in a way that says, “You belong. You matter. You’re important here.”
What Does Family Ministry Look Like?
Ever since the rise of the “Family Ministry” movement, I’ve tried to determine how it plays out in our church. I’ve realized it plays out in ways like these:
- Watching fireworks with a couple families from the church and a few friends from the community. Chatting and wrestling with our kids the way people do when they are gathered around a living room
- Hosting a Story Time in the Park to reach out to stay at home parents and grandparents who are looking for a community where they can belong
- Running into a grandma that attends Story Time in the Park at the grocery store and stopping to ask how her weekend was
- Inviting one of the youth group girls over as a Mother’s Helper
- Taking one of the youth group guys (this was my husband on this one) on a two hour drive to Pittsburgh so theycould see the Lecrae concert together
- Revamping the entire Sunday School program so everyone, 2 years old and up, is learning the same Scripture passage each week, making spiritual conversations a little easier to start
- Going to my friend Michelle’s house for a Coke and to hear her wisdom, Titus 2 style
- Showing up in droves to help a family move
- Handing my crying baby over to a small group leader on Wednesday night (hey, she asked!) so I can grab a few more props out of the storage closet
- Going to a summer bonfire at another families house and learning what’s important to their family as we sit around and talk
- Laying blankets next to each other at the church softball games and talking with other moms as the kids run in the field nearby
This is stuff families just naturally do. This is stuff the church should naturally do.
I agree this method isn’t very systematic, but it may just be what people need. Sure, a child dedication class can be helpful (we started one this year). But I think the friendships formed during the class are even more helpful. I’m thinking…less programs and more community. Less checklists and more chatting. Less pressure and more enjoying the moment. Less trying to think of new ideas and more of just talking to moms and dad (I’ll admit having kids really gives you an in on this one!)
You’re Important in This Family
When you’re a part of a family, you’ve got a role to play. Have you ever checked out the Duggar’s show? Every kid has a jurisdiction in the house. And they take serious ownership of that job. They know they have responsibilities that come with being a part of a family. Perhaps you too remember the delightful sticker chore charts mom used to hang on the fridge? I wonder if we’ve stolen something from the people of God by catering to their every need instead of treating them like part of the family. That’s my dream for family ministry. That it will become less of “ministering to the different members of the family” and more of “becoming a family”.
How about you? What’s your dream for family ministry?
Leave me a comment and let me know!
This post is part of a Family Ministry blog tour. Check out this page to see all the other great posts!
*Not her real name