The focus on ministry to families is increasing. So, what is it? We spoke to four of our churches who are seeing this as a discipleship imperative and are putting staffing and resourcing into this area of ministry.
Brigitte Crowe, Children and Families Pastor at Pakuranga Baptist writes:
At PBC we are becoming more intentional about what “family ministry” means for us. We are excited about what God is doing. It may seem that we are jumping into deep water, but this journey actually started two or more years ago.
Andrew Brown, our senior pastor, together with Karen Warner, the former children’s ministry leader, had multiple conversations on where we were heading and what we wanted people to know about us in terms of what we offer for children and families.
A number of books have been instrumental in helping us rethink where we are going as a church, most recently, Mark Holmen’s Church+Home and Take it Home. From these we have added our own contextual flavour and voila!, or almost, we have a foundation for Family Ministry.
One of the things we realised was that we were were operating in different silos when we actually wanted to be cohesive and strategically integrated. One of our initiatives was to pilot one of Mark Holmen’s Take it Home events. On Fathers’ Day, we made our move. We invited all the dads to come out to Kidzone. With the senior pastor leading the way, they could hardly refuse.
The children had prepared stories about what they enjoyed doing with their dads. They told their stories and then we taught the dads how to bless or speak life into their children’s lives. For the kids without dads on the day, Pastor Andrew “adopted” them and blessed them. A number of other dads also “adopted for 30 minutes” and blessed these children.
The team at PBC is excited about introducing the Take it Home series, starting with one per term. We want people to know that this church community will partner with them. We’re in it for the long haul!
Jan Ozanne, families pastor at Otumoetai Baptist, has been journeying with parents to help raise kids with a faith that lasts:
“Design a strategy that combines the family with the faith community to demonstrate the message of God’s story, in order to influence the next generation.” – Reggie Joiner, “Think Orange”
As a family pastor, I have been inspired by Reggie’s words and his strategy of partnership between home and church. The challenge is how to become, in practice, a church that encourages and equips parents to be intentional in passing on their faith.
Focus on the Family’s Raising Kids with a Faith that Lasts is a 6-week course we have successfully used. This provided a great forum to discuss the partnership between church and home and to encourage families to use the resources we give them.
The key with running any course is to make it easy for people to attend.
- We ran the course fortnightly after church so people wouldn’t have to come out twice.
- We organised lunch and asked people to bring $2 each (no food for families to provide and eating together was valuable).
- We paid teenagers to supervise the children after lunch, making it possible for couples to attend the course together.
- We watched the DVD teaching sessions, which included Mark Holmen, Tim Kimmel and Larry Fowler, and then broke into smaller discussion groups, which we limited to 30 minutes. It was important to have an early finish so families knew they weren’t committing their whole Sunday.
The response was encouraging. We had 20 adults at each session, representing 13 families. The feedback was also positive. Many expressed a desire to keep meeting once or twice a term to discuss parenting issues and to pray.
One parent who attended said, “The DVD series has helped reinforce how important it is to be proactive with the resources sent home and not let them sit on the table collecting dust!”
Whakatane Baptist have been using the Family Forum concept to begin their faith at home journey. Nicolette Flint, families ministry coordinator, writes:
We believe that families are looking for a church that will support and partner with them as they raise their children as Christians. Consequently we have looked for ways to help our families with this task.
Mark Holmen’s Take it Home contains inspiration and advice for the planning of events to help parents achieve spiritual growth for their children.
Following the guidelines suggested, we organised a Family Forum. We had a get-together over lunch after the Sunday service. This seemed to be a good time as people were already on the premises.
The topic was family devotions. The children helped to present the material and particularly enjoyed an object lesson, which involved a large tube of toothpaste!
Prior to the meeting we acquired new resources, which volunteer families agreed to try out then report on at the forum. Others shared details of the material that they were using. We took notes, which were available to families unable to attend.
Establishing relationships between families and listening to the needs of parents is important if we are to be able to offer effective support to each other. This is our second forum and we hope that it will continue and become a regular event.
Manurewa Baptist, under the leadership of Dave Diack, has been resourcing families to pursue faith at home. Along the way Dave has become aware of an issue:
What does family ministry look like? We’ve been on this journey for a number of years and have developed some great resources that we send home to our families, helping to take the Sunday morning conversation into the home.
Although I believe passionately that equipping parents with excellent resources can go a long way to encourage and inspire them, there is a much bigger issue.
If you’ve ever been on an aeroplane you are familiar with safety procedures. The flight attendant states that if the cabin should lose air pressure, a mask will drop down from the ceiling. If you are with a small child, put your own mask on first because only then will you be able to care for your child.
It is the same for Christians. We need to be taking care of our own spiritual needs before we are able to help others with theirs. In church circles there appears to be a growing awareness that the spiritual air pressure is dropping rapidly in our society and that it is impacting our little ones. There is growing evidence to suggest that more than 80% will have left the church by the time they reach their twenties.
In family ministry, it is easy to focus on developing awesome ‘masks’ for the kids and utilising new techniques. We can partner with parents in helping them put the ‘mask’ on their kids, but neglect the fact that the parents need to have theirs on first.
If we are honest, the majority of the church are struggling to keep their masks on. In fact, most of us probably have the thing dangling in front of our faces but have somehow convinced ourselves that we don’t even need them. We are slowly suffocating, yet puzzled when our kids spot this and walk away from the faith.
Mark Holmen, one of the guest speakers at this year’s Gathering, has been behind a movement called Faith@Home. What I have found really encouraging about his approach is that the emphasis is not just on families but on every individual in the church.
I think a lot of parents struggle to pass their faith on to their kids because they are not exactly sure what it is they are passing on. They are being encouraged to foster faith disciplines that have not been part of their own faith journey, or, if so, with little consistency.
Somehow, in church culture, we appear to be drifting away from the basics. Across the board people are finding it harder to live out their faith at home because they are no longer sure what that means. Family ministry appears to be trying to re-correct this slide, which is both exciting and somewhat depressing at the same time.
The problem is, they can’t do it alone.