When we speak of family ministry, we often land on a very popular portion of scripture in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 that I absolutely love and try to frequently share.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
If you have attended a conference or training session lately, you have heard the term "family ministry" or even "multigenerational ministry" in many of today's trends in the kids' ministry world. I love to roam through a convention center and ask parents and leaders what they think those terms mean, "define family ministry for me.” At the end of every attempt to this noble cause, I usually discover 3 truths about what we know as family ministry today:
1. We all agree on the concept that the church and home is a partnership
2. Almost all leaders definitions sum up to a bunch of "special events" or "programs"
3. The conversation always turns back to children's ministry in the church
If you know me, you know that I am kind of an extrovert (insert sarcastic tone here). I love people, love to talk, and love to learn what drives them to do what they do. Armed with that open ended question, if you plant me in a convention center full of coffee and leaders who thrive on contact, I am a happy woman who is entertained for hours. That question has led me on a journey to discover how we can teach our young adults who are beginning to have kids to impress their faith on their children.
As I have discovered those three truths above, I thought it would be fun to share my attempt at conclusions to them.
It's a partnership. Yes! As we all know, this scripture was written in the times that multigenerational households were a normal thing. PopPop would be potentially walking his grandchild along the road to synagogue. And as they walked, it was discussion of faith and stories. I am a fan of storytelling, especially testimonies.
War stories are always intriguing when you hear them from the soldier, and the same is true in faith and life. If your parents, or grandparents have a really cool testimony let them impress it on your kids.(ps:they're all really cool testimonies) As leaders we can do the same, find an older generation in the church to come share their stories! While curriculum can be entertaining, nothing replaces the twinkle in a person's eye and passion as they share how they have encountered God.
This point also showed me that in our current times, we have a gap in our generations of faith. In Deuteronomy, families were so tightly knit together often even in the same home which created an atmosphere of passing faith to the next generation. I learned this lesson first hand when I gave an assignment in a parenting class to share your testimony with your kids.
A single mom approached me and simply stated "I don't know how", we agreed that we would have coffee and I would share my testimony with the kids and she could follow. After telling the kids about when I got saved, she looked at me and said "oh, it's just a conversation!" to which I nodded yes and let her begin. After a sweet time she smiled and simply stated "thanks for being part of my village". It does take a village, and the church should be well represented in that village along with family. It was a moment that I realized she was starting again, nobody handed her their faith story and the line ended - which has become more of a pattern for generation X than any of us would like to admit.
As I stepped away that day, I realized that as a leader I had spent so much time and resources on events to bring families together for fun and memories. It is a great thing to do, but what was I giving them for their spiritual journey to continue the passing of the faith baton? So I started with parenting classes and studies. Then roundtable discussion groups and online tools. As a leader I could continue to run to the next great thing at the conferences, but they just seemed to be lacking in something. As I made my list, number three seemed to just stand out. It all comes back to children's ministry! That's because children's ministry is family ministry. Start them young, train them up, impress it, tie it to them, keep it in every word and motion. And when you have done these things, may it become part of their DNA.
We all know that seeds planted take deep root in rich soil. When kids come to Jesus, who is walking along their road? And are they equipped? We need to look at the lineage and see if there are faith gaps we can minister to. For some like that single mom who didn't have family, the church becomes her lineage for faith, the grandmas and the grandpas that will pour into her kids will be in the church.
So as you plan to implement programming or even participate as a family - look at what you are offering. Does it create a faith line in the four walls of the home and the church? Don't forget the "family" in family ministry is both at church and home.
Heidi Hensley is the Children's Pastor at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California where she lives with her husband and two teenage boys. She is passionate about family ministry, and connecting leaders in ministry to build a strong supportive network as we reach kids for Christ. Heidi loves exploring new places with her family, anything active, and finding a great cup of coffee.
1 Corinthians 1:1-13 "If I have not love, I am nothing"
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Heidi Hensley