Over my 20 years of church ministry experience, I have seen several shifts in church culture. My first youth ministry/pastor job was to oversee kindergarten through 12th grade. That meant providing classes geared toward their age group on Sunday mornings and evenings, as well as on Wednesday nights. While I was providing classes for the kids, mom and dad went to their own classes. Church was a place where families split up into age groups, came back together after three hours of different lessons and then hustled off to beat the other churchgoers to the local restaurant.
Today, more and more churches encourage families to worship and study together instead of splitting up. Here are some suggestions to help churches engage families better on a weekly basis:
- Staff members of churches need to remember they are working together to help families grow in Christ. That means that the senior and youth pastors need to work together to design a uniform teaching plan that works for adults, teens and children. The material should be the same, but the method used to teach is different for each age group. Even if families split up for age-appropriate classes, they are all hearing the same basic principle or Bible story.
- Encourage families to worship together once a month, or even every Sunday. We have a local church in our area that has a kids’ program that families attend together on Sunday morning. Basically, mom and dad go to “kids’ church” as their worship time instead of splitting up.
- Make your next work day or service project a family project. Encourage congregation families to attend together and serve side by side.
- Recognize that your congregation is made up of families. Have sermon series on raising children, on being parents with active kids or even one geared toward kids on how to deal with parents. (That last one would interest my teen – she thinks I’m stupid on a daily basis). Plan some family-friendly messages each year in adult church for the family.
- Encourage small groups. This is not a new idea, but there are several ways to have a small group for study or worship. Some families will be able to meet once a week with their family at somebody’s house. Other families will form a small group on the bleachers watching their kids play sports. My wife and I have had some of the best conversations over the last 10 years with the other families at sporting events. We’ve been very intentional about this and make it a point to support one another’s families. We’ve prayed for family members, laughed about our mistakes as parents and encouraged each other when somebody’s kid is pushing boundaries. The best part? We didn’t have to clear a schedule to meet together. Churches need to embrace this concept and encourage families to partner with others on similar life journeys.
- Provide weekly family devotions via email, text, Twitter or even a good ol’ handout passed out on Sundays.
The best piece of advice is to talk to the family when you see them. Make it a point to ask families how they are doing and ask how you can help. Then, listen and put the suggestions into practice!
To learn more about how to engage families in your congregation, contact us today.