What is Family Ministry?
Family Ministry is a newer phrase used in the church world to represent how a local church serves families. In the local church (in America at least), that has taken on a variety of looks over the years, but can mostly be broken up into 2 categories.
The Model I Grew Up In
I've attended church regularly since I was 2 years old, and the model I grew up in looked like this. Parents and churches took the perspective that church programs were the primary place where kids and students would grow their faith. Also, the various ministries designed to serve the family were never really grouped together from a strategic standpoint. Churches had (and still have) ministries for children, students, college-age, and maybe even something specific for marriages, but they're not integrated.
In most churches, these models have not worked well and tons of energy and resources are wasted in the process. Parents follow along and abdicate their responsibility to guide their children spiritually much like dropping them off at school or soccer practice, expecting someone else to handle it for them. If they only knew parents are more influential than schools in academic success as well. In my opinion, this was primarily the fault of parents and the Church simply met the need that was in front of them.
Family Ministry Defined
The phrase “family ministry” is typically used by many churches today to represent the one, centralized effort to serve families with the gospel. I believe a true family ministry involves:
A Priority on Family
This sounds obvious, but old methods of serving families essentially prioritized church involvement. Family ministry recognizes that parents are ultimately responsible for the spiritual guidance of their children, regardless of where they are on their own faith journey. The church's role is to support them in that effort. Parents have a much greater influence than churches and a true family ministry does not fight against that. Instead, it uses that influence wisely. How will we maximize the parent's influence?
A Comprehensive Strategy
A strong family ministry knows where it wants to lead families and has created a plan to help them get there. That plan has to encompass all aspects of the family, but churches must balance the desire to meet all the needs of families with their limited time, talent and resources. Giving families a clear path helps them know where they are and what their next step should be. It also forces us to think about how each step depends on the one before it and sets up the one after it. How will everything work together?
A Point Leader (but it can be done without one)
One person has to lead the charge for creating and maintaining a healthy family ministry. Many churches won't have someone on staff who is the Family Pastor, but that title is not needed to lead a family ministry team. Often times churches assume that one point leader is not needed, and everyone will bear the burden. However, the truth is that if everyone is responsible, no one is. There are times when a point leader isn't available, and you can read my thoughts here about how to navigate that well. Who will lead the family ministry effort?
A Unified Team
A strong family ministry requires a team of leaders to oversee the different ministries and environments designed to serve families. One person can't do it alone. This team can be made up entirely of volunteers, staff, or a mix of both. Everyone on the team has to know they're in it together. No silo thinking. Who will make up the family ministry team?
A Plan to Serve Parents
A strong family ministry will not only focus on doing a great job lead kids but it will also be built on the foundation of partnering with parents. Having a priority on family, as mentioned previously, is key, but it's important to serve parents beyond just serving their kids. This could include coordinating classes and workshops for parents to learn, organizing small groups where parents can have community together, or as well as efforts to equip parents with practical tools they can use at home to lead their children.
Family Ministry Definition
Each of those pieces is critical in creating a healthy family ministry in the local church. With that in mind, I would say one definitely of a family ministry is:
Family ministry is the church and the family partnering together to help lead children and students to follow Jesus.
It's extremely simple to say but surprisingly difficult to create. We have worked hard to include the things I mentioned above and have been incredibly blessed to learn from other churches and leaders who are out there paving the way towards this new (sort of) way of thinking.