Google “family ministry” and you could spend some significant time filtering through the nearly 7 million results returned by your search. For the better part of the past decade, family ministry has become a buzzword of sorts in church culture and can sometimes lead to as many (or more) questions as answers. When grappling, then, with the church’s response to Deuteronomy 6 and the need for an emphasis on discipleship and the family, how can a leader get everyone on the same page and motivated for a new (or renewed) emphasis on the church’s role in family ministry?
EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY “FAMILY MINISTRY”
First, one of the most important steps a leader should take is to clearly articulate vision and language. If a team member (at any level) cannot repeat the values and mission of the team with clarity, it probably means it is not being explained clearly enough.
As you lead a ministry focused on meeting the needs of the family and the next generation, it is paramount that your staff and volunteers know exactly what family ministry means and what it does not.
Obviously, you will structure your vision for your ministry and the words you use to explain it to fit your context, but here are a few things to consider as you formulate exactly what you mean when you say “family ministry.”
- The concept of family can be complicated and involves more than what we think of when we think of the traditional family. Be sure to include those who may feel excluded by the term.
- Think about how the activities at your church impact your families (time away from home, cost, etc.). How will your emphasis on family ministry enhance, change, or even remove some of those activities?
- Nail down your purpose for a family ministry focus. Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Read Ephesians 6:1-4. How will what you do in your ministry enforce the commands found in these passages?
- It’s not a program. Hiring a staff member and calling him the family pastor will not solve your problems. Family ministry is a philosophy. It’s a lens through which we see the other ministries under our care. Be careful not to relegate it to the periphery of your ministry.
SHARE HOW FAMILY MINISTRY COULD IMPACT YOUR TEAM
Sometimes when we talk about abstract ideas like family ministry, we lose clarity and even our audience in the ambiguity of our explanation. It’s kind of like telling your four year old that she should be more responsible. She likely has no idea what it means to be more responsible, but if you tell her she should pick up her toys before bed, she starts to understand what you’re asking her to do.
In a similar way, as adults, we sometimes hear a concept, agree with the reasoning, but don’t really know how that will change my activities on a day to day basis. Some of this will be aided by a clear vision and explanation of family ministry, but help your team by giving them specific examples of the kind of change they can expect.
In some situations, this may mean sharing with a youth pastor your desire to see parents involved in at least two events per year. It may mean suggesting volunteers physically hand take home sheets to parents with a smile to ensure they make it home. It could mean suggesting one service per month becomes a family worship time where all generations come together to worship and hear a message together.
Whatever your ideas for implementation, share a few to help your team catch the vision and start to understand what exactly they are being asked to embrace.
ASK FOR IDEAS AND FEEDBACK
One of the challenges with any kind of change or new initiative, is the lack of buy-in. It is easy to go off to a conference or read the latest book and return with lots of great ideas, but if your team does not feel like a part of the decision or like their input doesn’t matter, it will be difficult to see any real progress.
So include them. Ideally, take them with you to the conference. Read the book together. Ask for their ideas for how to best implement a family ministry strategy in your church and push them for their legitimate questions and concerns. Allowing your team to be open with you and seriously grappling over concepts with them can go a long way toward cultivating a team atmosphere willing to work hard for a common goal.
Family ministry does not come in a box. It isn’t one size fits all. Family ministry is a philosophy. It’s a wholistic approach to ministry. It’s also a biblical command. God wants the family to be an integral part in the faith formation of the next generation, and it is the privilege of the church to serve alongside those families while also becoming a family to those who need one.
Are you ready to join the movement of other churches who are building family ministry into their DNA? Have you already begun the conversation but need to be more intentional with gathering buy-in from your team? Remember to explain with clarity, be honest about change, and encourage input. This is a great place to start toward getting your team on the same page for family ministry.