A danger in children’s ministry is that it becomes disconnected: children are disconnected from ministry to adults on Sundays and Sundays are disconnected from any wider ministry during the week. Here are a few key ways to help a children’s ministry grow to be an integrated family ministry.
1. Train parents to raise their children as Christians
In the last article we saw God’s persistent encouragement for parents to disciple their own children. This is the most important facet of a family ministry. Parents need to be trained in reading the Bible with their children, helping children to pray, leading family devotions, praying for their children, talking to children about creation, death, Easter, Christmas and so on. This training could be done through small groups, seminars, church bulletin letters, or any other way that suits your context.
2. Train kids’ church leaders to disciple children
Given the warnings to be careful in how we raise children in the kingdom of God, it’s also crucial to train kids’ ministry leaders well. You could do this in your own church, partner with other churches or (at least in the Sydney Diocese) take up opportunities at the many youth ministry conferences that happen. Junior leaders can sometimes be thrown in the deep end and expected to learn just by observing. Instead, it may be helpful to develop deliberate pathways for junior leaders to be trained in ministry.
3. Assist parents and kids’ church leaders to partner together in their joint task
Both parents and children’s ministry teams are working towards the same goal. This creates an opportunity for real and active partnership. So it’s helpful to have these two groups work together as much as possible. This also guards against a sense that children’s work is ‘outsourced’ to other members of the church so that parents can enjoy church on their own.
Practically, this could mean:
- combined training sessions with parents and children’s ministry teams together
- informing parents what is taught on Sundays
- creating opportunities for parents to join in with children’s ministry
- hosting a ‘launch night’ at the start of the year to outline and plan for the family ministry and explain ways to get involved, or
- establishing a group of parents and adults to meet regularly to pray for family ministry across the parish.
4. Create opportunities to connect with the community
Family ministry is a great way to connect with other families in the community. You could try special Sundays at church such as Grandparents’ Day, or celebrating Education Week and coordinate something with the local school. In the past I’ve also run parenting course, holiday programs and kids’ programs to coincide with Pupil Free Days.
Some of these events may simply be ‘connecting opportunities’ to make new contacts and raise the profile of the church in the community. Others may have more of a Bible teaching purpose such as Scripture. Many will be a blend between the two.
5. Create opportunities for the church family to enjoy being together
Relationships within the church family will not grow and develop if there are not opportunities for people to spend time together and get to know one another. Sundays are often the only time when the whole church family is together and then people within church tend to find similar people to build deeper relationships with outside of Sundays. It’s helpful, therefore, to provide opportunities for all members of a church family (children, teenagers, parents, grandparents, those who are single, or married without children) to be together. This could be done through regular lunches (or dinners) after church, church family fun nights, weekends away or anything else that fits your context.
With a clear vision and some sturdy theological foundations, God-willing these ideas will help grow an integrated and engaging family ministry at your church.