What do you see? Do you see the son or the father in this picture?
When we do children’s ministry often we only see the children. But we need to change our perspective to see the families as well as the children. That’s because families matter. They matter because they matter to God. And they matter because they are the most influential thing in a child’s life.
In the Old Testament the family was the primary place for faith development. Being the people of God was their identity and anyone born into a Jewish family took on that identity. Wherever family members went they would know about God. He would be all around them woven into the fabric of everyday life. Parents and family members were told to pass on the stories of God’s people through the generations so that the children would know that they too were part of the story. The God who did these amazing things was their God and could be trusted in all situations.
But our situation is different. In many ways we span two cultures: the secular world around us and the Christian community to which we belong. This means that as children’s ministry leaders, we need to work hard to undergird the family as the primary place for faith to grow. Our challenge (as it was for many believers in the New Testament) is to help parents find ways to affirm God’s story and make it express it through their homes and family life.
As children’s ministry workers, we want to
1. equip families to help their children’s faith grow
2. strengthen the links between home and church
We can do this by:
Encouraging good role models
- encouraging parents and grandparents to share their faith
- encouraging parents to read the Bible and pray
- visiting with children in their family context
Valuing family time
- protecting family time - not making too many church demands on time
- showing parents how to read the Bible and pray with their children
- promoting courses, books and ideas to help parents learn to develop their children’s faith
Supporting families with needs
- offering meals for people with new babies
- offering to babysit as appropriate
- ensuring families under stress are cared for
Making the whole experience of church family-friendly
- showing families the whole church values them
- being welcoming and inclusive
- looking for ways to make any church experience easy and stress free for families of whatever size and shape
- making sure that every time different generations are present, church works for all the ages
- communicating with parents so they are a part of what is happening with their children in church programmes
Let’s pray for the families we are working with as they put these words from Psalm 78 into action.
We're not keeping this to ourselves,
we're passing it along to the next generation—
God's fame and fortune,
the marvelous things he has done.
He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God
Hilary Hague enjoys helping churches work closely with families in the important task of developing children’s faith. She works for Scripture Union where she is the Director of the Children and Families Ministries.