Common conceptions of family ministry

Sure, everyone is talking about the importance of the family in the spiritual development of young people. As the movement is not well defined, many conceptions arrise. I would like to bring some of those concepts into light, and consider if they are true to the historic biblical concept of family discipleship that this movement is re-discovering.

Starting a family ministry means ending age-graded programs.

False — While we are discovering the limitations to age-graded programs, they can still play an important part in the ministry of a church. Age-graded programs provide a way for children to gain understanding in a way that is age-appropriate. These programs also provide avenues for parents to begin connecting spiritually with their children, and a place for children to connect with all generations of the church. It is important that leaders be intentional about making these things happen.

Starting a family ministry means teaching parents to be Sunday school teachers.

False — It would be great if every parent wanted to teach in the children’s program. It would be great if every parent had the time and ability to work with youth. But in reality that shouldn’t be the case. Many will want to join the ministry because of a call to the ministry or a desire to be close to the children. Celebrate that! But you should also realize that it is best to recruit in broader circles than just parents, and an “every-parent-should-serve” attitude may come back to hurt the ministry down the road.

Family ministry is like starting a smaller Sunday school class at home.

False — Family devotional times are great. Encourage them! Make resources available for parents to use for them. But starting a family ministry is as much about teaching parents to talk about their faith throughout their everyday actives. It’s not hard or formal, but it will be uncomfortable to some at first.

Family ministry requires a big budget and a high-paid staff member.

False — Many small churches do a great job with family ministry. Family ministries with big budgets may miss the everyday nature of what children need–they need parents and other mentors guiding them. Family ministry isn’t a formal program; it’s a restructuring of how and who are teaching children about spiritual matters. The process can be lead by a family pastor, a senior pastor, church leader, children’s director or youth director, or by an involved parent.

Family ministry requires the buy in of the senior pastor and church leadership.

Mostly true — Sometimes the movement toward a family ministry model begins in a children’s program or youth program. There are a number of excellent things that leaders of these programs can do to connect the family and empower parents. The family ministry with the most impact, however, will be church-wide in their development. When senior pastors and church boards are onboard with the vision and implementation, the movement will grow in ways that it cannot when it is an age-division strategy.

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