4 Principles for Creating Family Ministry Opportunities
It can not be stated enough how important the family is to the spiritual growth of our students. In the olden days (I’m 49), there was an expectation that the church was responsible for the entirety of spiritual training for the children and students within the church. We have realized over the years that we were all mistaken. Deuteronomy 6 gives us a clear understanding of the need for family involvement in the discipleship process. In verses four through nine, the Bible tells us
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (ESV)
With only one to three hours out of 168 each week given to youth ministry “programming,” there is no doubt that the family is going to have a far greater impact on our students. Our students live with them, eat with them, vacation with them, and endure the difficulties of life together. While student pastors can be an important part of their lives, we are not their parents or even members of their families. With that in mind, it is vital that we pour into the families of our congregations and give them opportunities to grow together in the relationship with Christ and their service in the church. Here are four ideas for promoting not just family time, but family ministry time.
Get them to serve together.
Seek out opportunities for students and parents to serve together. It can be as simple as serving on a soup line together or providing mission trips in which the whole family can engage. We have seen the bond that is formed when students do something hard together. Our families deserve that type of opportunity as well. Plan service and ministry days for the whole family.
Get them playing together.
My wife is a licensed professional counselor and play therapist. If there is one thing that I have learned over the years with her, it is this. Play is a natural part of a child’s language. We tend to lose that pattern of communication as we grow older. Play can close the gap between parents and children. Let’s give our families every tool available to have great communication at home. I can tell you from personal experience that it is a blast to watch students and parents duke it out in a Nerf battle or water balloon war. Life at home can often be too serious. Let’s give our families the opportunity to play.
Get them talking together.
At our house, our children never stood a chance. I’m a youth pastor and my wife is a mental health therapist. We talk about it all. However, I have found out over the years that not every family talks about things with the same openness that we do in our home. In fact, communication is often stifled in the home. Consider having a family class for a summer or semester. Have your small groups consist of the parents and children in each home. Ask good questions and have fun activities. Challenge them to build cities out of popsicle sticks. Have them create a family crest with art supplies. Our families need to interact around concepts as units.
Get them discussing God’s Word together.
This is one step deeper than just talking. It is having them engage around God’s Word. Try sending a follow-up to the Sunday message to your parents. It can simply be a handful of questions that your families can talk about in the car on the way to school or the store. Listen to the Sunday message with purpose and then email or text your parents the two to five questions that can open the discussion of God’s Word. It can be deep and theological, or it can be about the pastor’s illustration. Just get them talking about the message.
If we want to see our students grow and have a lifetime of faith, then it is time to invest in more than just the student walking into our youth spaces each week. We need to see that student as part of a system. If we seek to impact that family system, our reach can be much further.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.