This guest post was written by Kathleen Jaoudi.
The definition of Family Ministry varies so much from church to church, and organization to organization.
- Does it mean programming specifically for families?
- Do we need to reinvent and add extra things to reach families?
- Is a specific “Family Ministry Director” or “Next Gen Pastor” required?
The truth is, every Sunday, our churches do family ministry—whether it’s intentional or not is up to us.
At its foundation, family ministry looks at persons not only as individuals but as fragments of families, parts of a larger whole. Family Ministry requires zooming out and considering the whole picture of a congregation.
I want to win you over to champion the cause of Family Ministry as a process in your church instead of a program.
In this article, I’m going to share a new definition for Family Ministry, help you to see how your church might already be doing it naturally, and how you can implement new events and opportunities that involve the whole family this weekend.
A New Definition
Family Ministry is a call for the body of Christ to operate as one large family.
It is a call on us as followers of Jesus to operate inside family units.
It is more than just a ministry that we do, it is something God asks us to do with our entire lives.
The best description I’ve heard for family ministry is from Diana Garland in her book Family Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide.
“Family ministry is not just a set of programs; it is a perspective, a set of 3-D glasses we put on to look at everything the church does.”
Think about all the programs in your church. Try to think of one that isn’t ministering to the families in your congregation.
Spoiler alert: You can’t!
All ministry is family ministry—because you are always ministering to a part of a larger whole.
So you have to be intentional to grow it.
Our job, as children’s ministry leaders, is to be the ones who remind leadership and call for collaboration across church programs to accommodate and integrate families into every area of the church.
Something simple I have started doing is constantly asking if everything we do is good for all families of all types.
And it’s led to some great examples!
So I would like to share some practical steps any children’s ministry pastor, leader, or director can implement starting this week, based on what we have been doing.
5 Ways To Start to Integrate Families into All Programs
1) Turn “Kid Only” Events into Family Events
Something we did in the past few years was take our kids’ Christmas party and turn it into a party for the whole family.
We involved some people from the worship department and recruited other pastors to greet, and invited the entire family to attend to have fun, worship, and celebrate Christmas together.
To empower families further, we introduced “Advent Devotional Boxes.”
These boxes had 12 different objects that went inside of them with a devotional for Christmas time associated with each one.
We taught families how to use them with one example up front, then they put them together as a family so they could take them home and use them!
We had a fun event where families bonded, and empowered parents and caregivers with a spiritual tool.
2) Include Kids Whenever You Can
Something that was fairly simple is I started to include my kids in opportunities to receive prayer from our trained prayer ministers.
One week, I asked our prayer ministry to come into our kids’ church and pray for the kids the same way they do for the adults.
It was a HUGE hit with all ages.
It was a great opportunity for new adults to pour into these kids’ lives, and the prayer ministers were touched by the opportunity as well.
3) Encourage Families to Be With Each Other
In Exodus, God set up his people within family units – but each family unit then had a tribe they were a part of, and then each tribe was a part of the greater nation!
God designed us to operate this way in our churches as well.
For example, I live very far from my grandparents and don’t get to talk to them very often.
I find myself missing this part of my life very often.
My husband, Mike, has lost all of his grandparents.
Lately, this older woman in the church has been coming up to my husband and me every week, and just checking in on us.
This is Family Ministry!
Try encouraging informal relationships across generations, or think about “adopt a grandparent” programs or small groups for the whole family unit.
4) Use Naturally Occurring Holidays
An easy on-ramp that requires some planning is leaning into naturally occurring holidays.
Think about holidays that already occur.
How you could create family ministry events out of them?
We use Christmas and Easter Services to try to integrate our kids and families more into the service by having them greet, read scripture, or participate in special activities together.
Some churches lean into the different celebrations that happen in the Bible and create family events from those!
5) Get Families Serving Together
A great event that requires planning is a service project that can incorporate people of all ages.
We often do a food or kit packing event at our church, and even the littlest ones can help sort and back bags!
It’s an awesome chance for hands-on, tangible learning.
Another way I do this is by having parents and teens serve together in Children’s Ministry.
I love involving teens in serving because the kids think they are so much cooler than adults!
I have one teen boy who is on the football team, and my attendance always seems to mysteriously go up when the 4th & 5th-grade boys see he is serving!
We also do something called prayer blankets at our church where we pray over blankets and send them to people having surgery.
One Sunday, I brought a blanket for the kids to pray over for one of my leaders’ fathers.
The kids were SO eager to participate and serve.
It allowed them to be a part of the care of the people of the church and served one of my families.
Plan It Out
The best way to begin is to begin this process to identify areas that could easily expand into family ministry activities.
Ask questions like: “There are places in our church that are already functioning naturally – how can we expand on things like that?” or “How could we bring families together or support families in this?”
Now you may be thinking, but Kathleen, what if I have no influence over any of this?
And I would challenge you to think about what you DO have influence over.
What small changes can you make?
As you do this more and more, you will build better rapport with your leadership team and enable you to dream bigger and empower families more and more.
And when all else fails, I say “Let’s try it and see!” And most times, after we try it, it sticks around for a long time.
Kathleen Jaoudi works as a Children’s Pastor in Westchester, NY. She has served in Children’s ministry for as long as she has been out of it, working in small and big, portable and permanent locations. She graduated from Bethel Seminary’s Children and Family Ministry program and is involved in a local children’s ministry network in her area. When not serving kids and families, she spends time with her husband, Mike, and their dog Doug.