A few weeks ago I just finished Barna’s book, Revolutionary Parenting. I bought 10 copies to distribute among church staff and leaders (not just kids staff). I just can’t stop thinking about what this book talked about. I think the premise of the book hits the nail on the head. What we in children’s ministry would truly see as success is a child who enters adulthood with a solid biblical worldview. Yet that’s not what we currently track to measure ministry success, is it?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 4-5 years, you’ve seen “family ministry” become the big buzz word among children’s pastors. Incredible new resources have been developed and powerful ideas have been presented. I love what’s happening in the world of family driven ministry. However, I can’t shake the sinking feeling in my gut that a lot of these “solutions” aren’t going to work in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m anything but a pessimist and I do love what is being developed… but I just don’t think I’ve seen that silver bullet yet. Maybe the silver bullet doesn’t exist, but I haven’t seen the thing that I can really wrap my arm around and say, “Holy Cow! This is it! Let’s throw all our eggs in this basket.” Maybe I’m being unrealistic to think that something like that exists, but maybe we’ve not discovered that “ah ha” idea yet. I think too many of us have gotten caught up in the family ministry resources like family productions, take home papers, family curriculum guides and aligned services and somehow we think that’s going to be enough to develop kids who will walk into adulthood with biblical worldviews. Yeah, I think they’ll help, but it’s not the answer.
Gateway’s a church that’s been raised out of the culture… and Austin is a very lost culture. I understand that in Barna’s research, a significant number of parents with biblical worldviews are letting their kids become adults without passing along the worldview piece. However, what do you do when MOST of your parents don’t have a biblical worldview? What does your family strategy look like to keep parents literally one or two steps ahead of their kids?
So, sorry for my wandering thoughts, just processing out loud. Any thoughts?
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Kenny, YOU hit the nail on the head when it comes to ministry. We are so program-oriented and curriculum-driven (yes, everyone says they aren’t, but let’s be honest), that we lose sight of the relational and missional aspects of ministry. We get so caught up in making sure the machine keeps moving that we take no time to get out of our collective office chairs and take a look at our individual communities and build relationships in those communities. If there is a silver bullet, it’s not going to be in a program or curriculum. It’s going to be in taking a page of missiology and contextualize the message of the Gospel to each of our communities. It is also going to be about switching the paradigm that the people exist to keep our churches going to a paradigm that churches exists to make a difference in their communities.
Then, to tackle the question of how we work with families who are completely removed from any shared Christian culture or history, we come alongside them and disciple them. It takes a holistic (or village) approach. All areas are working together to help all people experience God on a continual basis, decompartmentalize their lives, and continue surrendering their lives to the Holy Spirit. How that plays out in your context and church will have to be crafted by the leadership there. I think the key, though, is to make sure all ministries are on the same page with vision and objectives and then work together to make those happen across the generational and lifestyle spectrum.
.-= Henry Zonio´s last blog ..Innovative and New in Childrenâ€™s Ministry! =-.
Hmmmm… let me jump in here…
The church is set up for worship, teaching and ministry. I believe most churches do fine when it comes to the worship part. Some might seem odd or stiff to the rest of us, but we all worship differently, even within our own congregations. But, most churches are blessed with musically talented people who do a fantastic job. I can’t think of ever hearing someone left a church because the worship was awful.
Again most churches take the ‘great commission” seriously and do pretty well with ministry – reaching out into the community and the world. Finances usually dictate what churches can do in this regard, but it’s accepted by congregations that as much as possible will go toward ministry to the lost.
But, then there’s the teaching.
Gone are the days of worshipping as a family – because apparently our kids can’t learn the “grownup” songs. Or maybe they need hand gestures to truly worship. I mean, come on, their kids – they gotta have gestures, right?
Gone is the hearing of the word with your husband and children at your side so you can later discuss it over Sunday dinner around the table. Instead, we drop our teens off in one area, our little ones in another, the baby to the nursery and drag ourselves in (late again, therefore, missing the worship) to the church service.
I challenge you, Kenny, to explain to me how the church isn’t also causing division among families.
I’ve always thought that destroying the family is the best way to ruin lives, truncate productivity, increase selfishness and otherwise lose the world. Yet, how many things are set up within our own churches that separate family instead of bringing them together?
I’m not saying men don’t need to get together and pour over the scriptures to deal with manly things – being a father, better husband, dealing with lust.
I’m not saying women shouldn’t get together away from distractions of family to pour over what the scriptures tell them about being a wife, better mom, dealing with bitterness.
And children most definitely need to do “kid” stuff where they don’t have to sit still or be elbowed every few minutes because they’re falling asleep. They need to be with other “like-minded” kids as much as adults need to be with “like-minded” adults.
But, apparently we can’t fit in all of that within a couple hours on Sunday and another hour and a half on Wednesday night. Maybe the true problem is that among the 168 hours in every single week, most families give less than 3 of them to God. And the church doesn’t tell them there’s anything wrong with that. Every family leaves on Sunday, heading out to dinner, knowing they’ve done their chore and can get on with their week.
It’s a core problem. People at their core only want to give as little as they can without feeling guilty. And the church is afraid to make them feel guilty for fear they’ll leave.
The church has made being a Christian simple and easy and they provide awesome stuff just like the world so we won’t mind being there. Problem is, if people are there for the easy and the awesome stuff, they aren’t going to give of themselves or truly build their own family.
Is there really family ministry? Can you teach a family how to grow spiritually, support each other, hold together through bankruptcy, survive job loss, defend themselves against attacks from evil, in a couple hours on Sunday?
Those are my thoughts.
Thanks Henry for your thoughts. Good stuff for sure. I’m still processing all this stuff. I’ll probably write more of my thoughts in the coming weeks.
Karen, so glad you jumped in on this one. I feel your pain/frustration. You’re absolutely right on several things you said.
“Can you teach a family how to grow spiritually, support each other, hold together through bankruptcy, survive job loss, defend themselves against attacks from evil, in a couple hours on Sunday?”
“The church has made being a Christian simple and easy and they provide awesome stuff just like the world so we wonâ€™t mind being there. Problem is, if people are there for the easy and the awesome stuff, they arenâ€™t going to give of themselves or truly build their own family.”
You’re absolutely right.
“Maybe the true problem is that among the 168 hours in every single week, most families give less than 3 of them to God. And the church doesnâ€™t tell them thereâ€™s anything wrong with that. Every family leaves on Sunday, heading out to dinner, knowing theyâ€™ve done their chore and can get on with their week.”
Isn’t this sad. It’s true in so many ways which makes it very sad.
Wow, where do I even begin? So much to say. Maybe I start with your challenge. “Explain to me how the church isnâ€™t also causing division among families.”
When you say the church, what do you mean? Your church? My church? THE church? This depends on who you’re talking about. I don’t believe that every church does cause division among families. I think that most churches that have adopted a “family ministry” approach are creating ways to unify families spiritually. Although kids have their program and adults have their program, they do find common ground. Many of these churches offer a short service between normal service times once a month or every week where parents and kids attend together. It’s fun and upbeat where parents and kids can share a spiritual experience. Some churches follow a strategy of having one “big idea,” where the main point is taught in all age groups so that families can all talk about it later that day. There are several other tactics being used by others.
One of the key concepts steering this “family ministry” approach is the idea that “what happens at home is more important than what happens at church.” Studies prove that the most influential spiritual influence on a child is the parent and unfortunately MOST parents are surrendering their influence fully to the church. The result is this. Less than 1% of 18-23 year olds in the US have a Biblical world view and MOST 18-15 years olds leave church within one year of graduating from high school. If a parent’s strategy for raising a spiritual champion is to let the church do it, they’re gonna fail becasue the church doesn’t have nearly the influence than the parents.
You nailed it with the idea that most parents give their 3 hours a week to God and they feel that’s sufficient. I’ll be very honest. If my church was ever okay with that, I’d resign immediately as I’d want nothing to do with that kind of church. It’s why so many people are disgusted with Christianity. They see people punching a spiritual time card and then going about their normal lives.
This is what I was writing about concerning “family ministry.” A lot of the existing strategies are efforts to create spaces where parents can learn to be the primary spiritual leaders. There are materials and tools to help parents spend time during the week talking to their kids about spiritual things.
Does that help at all? I’ll be honest, so much has changed in my approach in ministry since you knew me as the Children’s Pastor at GBC. Although I had so many rich and amazing relationships with the kids (which I totally loved), in the long term it wasn’t a strategy that worked. I’d only be a strong influence for a few years in their lives, I didn’t have that kind of relationship with tons of the other kids and I could never compete with the influence of a parent. I didn’t know any of that then. It was near the end of my time there that I was starting to see the handwriting on the wall though. My last year there I got to preach on a Wednesday night about the importance of Children’s Ministry. As I was preparing the message and digging into the Bible for content, I was so strongly convicted that the strategy I had created for reaching and leading kids was not God’s strategy. I ignored my convictions and talked about the great opportunities of serving kids, but my heart knew that THE church was missing something big.
.-= Kenny´s last blog ..Dedicated to my friend Sam Luce =-.
I agree with a ton of what is said here. The main thing that I am pondering is this…
How can you create a shift, when so much apathy is present?
I don’t know the answers or even where to begin but I am praying so hard that we find the answers to help parents re-evaluate the influence that they have in their kids lives.
Questions need to be asked. But I’m beginning to pray way more than I’m asking questions, cuz I seriously have no idea how this thing gets solved, apart from a movement of God.
Thanks for your commitment to writing the tough stuff as well as the make us smile stuff.
.-= J.C.´s last blog ..Wowâ€¦ =-.
In response, I agree and disagree. I do believe family ministry is the key to reaching kids and families with a foundation of Biblical truth. Maybe not the way that it is being promoted but family is the key. The Bible says that parents, not the church are the spiritual leaders in the lives of their children. As the church we are called to come along side parents in the building of a spiritual foundation. I’m mean come on we see kids maybe 3-4 hours a week and their parents see them at least 3-4 hours a day.
In response to Karen I do not think that having kids in service on Sunday is appropriate or even helpful in the building of a spiritual foundation. Many time adult service is way over the heads of kids and they are only there because parents make them. They aren’t listening or caring what is going on.
We have at The Summit tried to fix this decline in family relations and the degeneration of Biblical basics for kids by providing a worship experience for kids that is designed from birth- 5th grade to teach on their level. That’s right we do teach newborns Bible truths. We have abandoned all traditional curriculum and created our own custom curriculum that compliments what the adults learn in their worship experience. This creates harmony with our teaching and allows families to discuss what they learned on Sunday, which is all related and build on each other. For instance we are currently in a marriage series, kids really don’t care at 4 what a covenant marriage is but they do understand that loving our family like God loves us is important and that build on a loving covenant marriage. We then further enforce the Sunday lesson with family devotions that relate directly to what was taught and give families a chance to talk about and become the spiritual leaders they are called to be everyday of the week for their child.
So yes family ministry is the answer. It’s all about how you do it!
.-= Robert´s last blog ..Parents And Tweens, Letâ€™s Talk! =-.