We hear a lot of talk today about family ministry, but what exactly is family ministry?
My thoughts about family ministry have changed over thirty-five years of ministry. I have a different view of things than when I started.
This is my definition of family ministry: family ministry is comprised of the church and the home working together to lead our children to Christ and help them grow them into strong Christians.
The church and the home are a powerful team.
When the church and the home are working together, we will have more success in making disciples of our kids.
A couple of questions you need to ask yourself:
- What is your pastor’s vision for family ministry? Family ministry begins with the senior pastor’s vision. You might be really excited about family ministry and partnering with parents, but if your pastor is not, you might end up hitting your head against the wall.
- What is the size of your church? Some of the strategies for family ministry are created for mega churches. The smaller the church, the less need for what we have come to call “family ministry.”
Strategies of Family Ministry
The Family Pastor
Many churches are hiring family pastors to oversee all of family ministry from birth to eighteen. The goal here is to get all of kids’ ministry and youth ministry on the same page. I think this is a good idea if the church has the resources to hire a family pastor, but the reality is that this is one of those strategies that really only works for mega churches.
Small- to mid-size churches don’t have the financial resources to hire a family pastor in addition to a kids’ pastor and a youth pastor. I have seen some mid-size churches promote their youth pastor to family pastor, let their kids’ pastor go, and run their kids program with all volunteers. Common sense tells you that if you fire your kids’ pastor, your kids’ program is going to suffer.
For churches under 2,000 people, the senior pastor should fulfill the roll of keeping the youth ministry and kids’ ministry on the same page.
This is another great strategy that works some of the time but not all of the time.
The concept here is for everyone in church from preschool to the sanctuary to be taught the same lesson, same memory verse, same Bible story, etc.
This strategy takes a lot of effort and coordination, but it is worth it! However, it begins with the senior pastor. You are going to have to follow his lead on what to teach. The bottom line is that this only works if it’s something that your senior pastor wants to do.
My experience is that you can do synchronized series a couple of times a year, but there are subjects that need to be taught to teenagers that should not be taught to grade-school kids and vice versa.
Take-home pages and/or parent curriculum is another great idea, but my experience is that only 10-20 percent of parents actually use it.
The percentages go up dramatically if the senior pastor will mention them from the pulpit and tell the parents to minister to their children.
Either way, I think this is worth the effort. Don’t get angry with the parents who just throw them away. Be grateful for the parents who do take the time to minister to their kids.
One of the best ways to partner with parents is through a family service. When parents and kids have a shared family experience at church, it’s a powerful thing.
There are many different ways to do this.
Some churches have a thirty-minute family service following the Sunday morning service, but this only works if the main service is an hour or less.
If parents have already sat in the main service for ninety minutes, they aren’t going to want to hang around with their kids for another thirty minutes.
I have found the best way to get good participation in a family service is to do it once or twice a year on Sunday morning in place of the main service. If your pastor gives you permission to do this, make sure it’s really good.
We made a difficult decision to shift the focus of our VBS from a kids’ event to a family event. We had 1,000 kids coming to our VBS every year, so this was a hard decision to make because I knew I was going to lose some of the kids to reach the parents.
Here is what we did to change VBS to a family event:
- We moved VBS from the morning to the evening.
- We shortened VBS to a one-hour event.
- Parents could not drop off their kids—they had to participate. The end result was we still had 1,000 in attendance, but 30 percent of them were parents. This was without a doubt the most successful family ministry event of the year for us.
I know this is incredibly simple, but one of the most effective things I do to engage parents is send out a monthly e-mail/ blog post introducing our series for the month and letting them know about any special activities. The key is to keep it short.
Anything you can do to get communication going is worth doing.
If you can get parents to engage and respond to your e-mails, you are doing a good job.
Not only has Mark served in the local church as pastor, associate pastor, and family ministry pastor but he is also a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team.