The 3 popular approaches to family ministry that churches use today have their strengths and weaknesses. Find out what they are.
Family Ministry Approach #1: Common Curriculum
One strategy many churches use is to attempt to unite families around common curriculum. Working within the traditional age-based Sunday school model, all the children study the same Scripture in their separate classes. The lesson is adapted for the developmental level of each family member. Some curricula go as far as offering adult Sunday school classes where parents study the same Scripture as their children. All of these curricula supply take-home resources for parents to lead faith conversations in the home.
A common set of lessons makes the task of talking about faith much simpler. Imagine having four kids who learned three different Bible lessons at Sunday school. You’d need an organizing system just to keep the faith conversation straight. A common curriculum lets a parent talk to all children at the same time, and each child is able to add their own ideas.
Some Bible lessons are more teachable to older children than younger. Some curricula attempt to walk entire families chronologically through the Bible. This means that tough Bible teachings like “The Stoning of Stephen” have to be adapted for 2-year-olds when exposure to this particular lesson could wait several more years.
Family Ministry Approach #2. Shared Experiences
A second strategy is to host shared family events. This model draws from the Disney approach of creating compelling experiences that appeal to parents and children.
Churches that use this strategy create a fun hour of worship and learning that engages the entire family. Quality worship and drama teams pull families in and teach a Bible truth, which, if applied, has the potential to strengthen everyone. When the experience is over, the parent is given enough take-home resources to continue the faith conversation at home until the next shared experience.
Having a shared experience helps parents bridge the “What’d you learn at church today?” question because the family was together. The high-energy shared experiences are momentum-builders that can elevate the value of children’s and family ministries in the church.
It takes a lot of time, financial resources, and volunteers to pull off these events with regularity and keep the excellence level high. With the “show” aspect of this shared experience, families rarely-if ever-have an opportunity to share a conversation, which would be a great addition to this model. Some churches struggle to find a common time where most of their families are free to attend these productions.
Family Ministry Approach #3: Common Milestones
Lastly, a third strategy is to unite families around common faith milestones. There are a handful of times during the raising of kids where families have high interest in spiritual input (Baby Dedication, Bible Presentation, Preparing for Adolescence, to name a few.) At these strategic junctures, the church provides families with training and celebrations to help parents lead their children through these spiritual transitions.
This strategy acknowledges how families are different. At the same time, it also enables the family ministry to position itself to provide aid at the time of greatest need. This model capitalizes on the times that parents are most open to training-right before a milestone celebration. The milestone strategy is sustainable and won’t burn out parents. It helps parents catch a vision for parenting over the long haul.
Vision dwindles and needs to be replenished every 30 days. However, the milestones are years apart from each other. Pastors who use this strategy will need to consider additional means of keeping the vision for spiritual parenting in front of parents.
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