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Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Children’s Ministry or Family Ministry?

This is the third post in a series talking about family ministry. The first was entitled “Family Worship – Good or Bad” in response to a meme that was making the rounds on Facebook. The second was entitled “Why I will never be a Family pastor”.

boy_in_pewAs I mentioned previously, a focus was briefly placed on children’s ministry and now the focus, in my perspective, has shifted back to adults with parent ministry. My call is to children, not adults, not families. Here are some reasons why I am not a fan of family ministry:

  • Family cannot be defined – pets become grandpuppies, adults become parents to pets, any group of people are called a family (church family, scout family, baseball family, football family, etc).
  • Jesus ministered to individuals
  • The focus often shifts from the children to the adults
  • We say that parents are the main spiritual influencer in a child’s life, then we tell them that they don’ know what they are doing.
  • Family ministry relies on a solid family with parents who know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus. It often does not account for children who do not have a parent who follows Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that events for families are good and families should spend time together in worship, but it needs to be handled properly. Are we truly wiling to let parents take the lead? I don’t think so. My experience… I was serving at a small church with a few youth. After a time, I began to privately call the youth ministry fluff. Fluff originated because of the emerging movement of “family ministry” and the church giving back the responsibility to disciple their children. FLUFF was an acronym which stood for, Fully Leaning Upon Family’s Faith. Since they were not participating in youth events, I had to rely on the parents teaching their children the things of God as Deuteronomy 6 instructs. Isn’t that true family ministry?

At a church where I served as a children/youth pastor, from the beginning of the church they held a “family service”. I put out children’s bulletins and crayons; I thought I was doing well. Then I saw the faces of the parents on family service Sundays. I saw that the children were not engaged in any part of the service, that some families chose to not to attend those Sundays and I knew I had to do something.  I was understanding that this new type of service may not be received by everyone and I was open to other options. See, we did not have Sunday School, just the one worship service each week, so this new type of family service would be THE worship service for the week. Throughout the service there were components designed to engage multi-generations in the songs and message. You can see an example here. The purpose of the service? To engage the children because I felt that we were “throwing a Sunday away” in reaching the children, and families came along.

I’ve worked with a parent to help ease the fears of their child as they came kicking and screaming to camp one summer. I worked with the parent, but I did it to reach the child.

I planned a lunch with the parent of a child on the autism spectrum to see how we could better minister to the child since what we were experiencing was not working. I did it to reach the child.

I have had serious discussions with parents about their children, all to reach the child.

You may call all of this “family ministry”, but I did it to minister to the child (children’s ministry), the impact on the parents/family was a by-product.

I am not in family ministry, I’m not a marriage counselor, I am in ministry to reach children with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I may be in the minority, but I hope that you understand my perspective, why I focus on children’s ministry and cringe when I hear the role of a children’s pastor eliminated in favor of a family ministry pastor.

As George Barna’s research shows, children’s ministry should be the number 1 ministry in a church. As time passes, my prayer is that the research is not forgotten and children’s ministry remains a priority in the local church.

If the world spends so much time focusing on children, not families, then isn’t reaching children all that more important?

 

The Author

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