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Family Ministry Easy as...1, 2, 3

You already have the secret ingredients to powerfully impact families!

With all the talk about children's ministers needing to add family ministry to their repertoire, many children's ministers are throwing up their hands in exasperation. How exactly are we supposed to do that with all our other responsibilities? (We've heard your lament.)

And you can put your hands down! Relax. Take a look around at all the amazing things you're already doing to reach families. In the extensive research Children's Ministry Magazine has conducted related to family ministry's intersection with children's ministry, we've discovered that there's a surprisingly easy strategy hidden within all the great things you're already doing. Find out how to double the potential of your ministry with the help of three churches that are doing it well.

Weekly Faith Conversations

By Sharon Stratmoen

Are your families talking? Are they talking to each other? Are they talking about matters of faith?

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

This passage in Deuteronomy does more than imply that parents should be talking to their children about matters of faith; God commands parents to "talk about them at home…away…when you go to bed and when you get up." That leaves no time when parents are not to be involved in faith talk with our children. Faith talk must be woven into the very fabric of family life.

In our church, we believe strongly that our children and family ministries must support parents in their role as primary nurturers of faith development in their children. Initially, parents may find talking about matters of faith to be awkward or uncomfortable. So how do we support and equip them to have successful faith conversations? We've found two things that have worked in our ministry.

Keys for Daily Living

Our church embraces the Four Keys for Daily Living to nurture faith life in the home, created by Dr. David Anderson of the Youth & Family Institute in Bloomington, Minnesota. These four keys are:

• Caring conversations-Christian values and faith are passed on to the next generation through supportive conversation. Listening and responding to the daily concerns of our children makes it easier to have meaningful conversations regarding the love of God, and is itself a way to express God's love to others.

• Family devotions-To pass on the Christian faith to children, adults need to learn the Christian message and biblical story as their own. Christianity shapes the whole of one's life and therefore involves a lifetime of Christian study, reflection, and prayer. Infusing caring conversations with God-talk elevates our caring conversations into devotions. We find God in our everyday experiences. We learn God's stories and find ourselves in them. We share a lively awareness of the sacred in the daily.

• Family rituals and traditions-Daily routines, celebrations, and other ways families choose to identify who they are and tell their family stories, speak volumes about what the family values, believes, and promotes. Here we braid God into our everyday interactions with one another. We bless one another, pray for one another, depart from one another with a litany of faithful caring. We light candles at the dinner table, remembering the Light of the world. We say grace and have bedtime rituals that include God's presence. Holidays and family celebrations involve God-talk.

• Family service-Filled up with caring conversations, devotions, rituals, and traditions, we pour ourselves out in service to God's world. It isn't an obligation, but a loving and grateful response to God's love for us. We include all the generations. We live this faith.

Weaving Faith Into Life

We also use FaithWeaver curriculum in our ministry because it allows the entire family to study the same Bible story in an age-appropriate way and focus on just one Bible point each week. Because all family members have studied the same Bible story with FaithWeaver, parents don't have to ask their kids what the lesson was about. They can simply start maximizing the lesson by asking questions from the take-home tool as they drive home.

I know, the big joke in children's ministry is that take-home papers end up on the floorboard of the car or as paper airplanes in your facility's hallway. That's why Group has transformed the traditional take-home paper in FaithWeaver to an innovative "one conversation-starter" slip-no crafts, devotions, or other things to overwhelm parents. It's called FaithWeaver Family Connect, and it's all about simple weekly faith conversation. Designed to either be emailed home ahead of time or handed to parents when they drop off their children, it makes "in the car" or "Sunday lunch" faith conversation easy, achievable, and powerful.

So as God commanded in Deuteronomy, our families are talking-and yours can, too. As families get into their vehicles after worship, they can begin a caring faith conversation before they leave the church parking lot and continue the discussion and life application at home. That's maximizing family time!

Sharon Stratmoen is director of children and family ministry at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota.

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