Family ministry is quickly becoming a buzz word in the church. More and more resources on how to equip families to disciple their children are cropping up each and every day. With all the hype, I have one concern.
I’m worried it will become a fad.
This isn’t going to be an “X Amount of Ways You Can Equip Families” type of post. Those are very important, and they are numerous. That’s a good thing, but that’s not my purpose here.
Family ministry cannot become a craze like children’s current obsession with making slime. (Can’t find Elmer’s glue anywhere? That’s why.) It needs to survive past all this buzz.
Why does family ministry need to be enduring? The answer is simple but humbling.
You can’t do it alone.
By “it” I mean effecting significant spiritual change in a child’s life.
As children’s ministers and leaders, we have no greater joy than seeing children come to the knowledge of the Truth. We truly live and breathe for those moments. Yet, we must be careful because pride will demand that we desire to be the ones who make this change happen, that we are the only ones the children look to, that we are the ones that children confess all their needs to.
Let’s leave the work of Savior to Jesus, shall we?
Before I found myself in charge of a children’s ministry, I applied one summer to a school to receive a degree in “Children and Family Ministries.” I was excited about the children part, but family? I didn’t understand why that was necessary, but they were lumped together, so I would just have to go for it. My classes were to start in the spring.
Before I started attending the school, my viewpoint shifted quickly. In the fall, I began leading the children’s ministry. I quickly realized that even though I put my best effort into preparing for that Sunday morning with the kids, it was still only an hour and a half that I had them with me. Salvation can happen in an instant, but discipleship is a long process. How could I possibly teach them everything I thought they should know?
The truth is, I can’t be there to pray with them before bed. I can’t be there to embrace them as they come home from a tough day at school. I can’t be there to give them spiritual instruction when they see things on TV or the internet that are biblically unsound.
While I can’t be there, there is someone with that role built right in.
When I began my classes in the spring, all of the thoughts and feelings I had been mulling over about the role of parents were confirmed. It was then that I truly embraced the “family” part of “Children and Family Ministries.” I learned many valuable tips and strategies in that program that have had a serious impact on the way I do ministry.
Parents are uniquely positioned to influence the spiritual development of their children. D6 Family often uses the fraction 1/168 to illustrate this concept. Each week has 168 hours. The one in the numerator represents the amount of time we as children’s leaders have with kids. If we put all our energy into the one hour, we don’t have enough left to impact the other 167.
What do we do about the 167? We equip parents to do the work of the ministry. After all, isn’t that what we’ve been called to do?
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. – Ephesians 4:11-12
Our job is to equip the parents, and their job is to pass on the faith. The often quoted Deuteronomy 6:7-9 states:
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
What about children with physically or spiritually absent parents? This is where the church comes in to become a spiritual family to that child. In order for this to happen effectively, time must be spent outside the church service with the child, but that is a subject for another article.
Considering the influence of parents, it is imperative that family ministry be enduring. This is a plea to all children’s ministers and leaders out there: don’t let it become a passing fad. Let’s invest beyond our one-hour church service by equipping families to do the work of the ministry. The future generations depend on it.