Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Why I Will Never Be A Family Ministry Pastor

I know, never say never. Today I continue my brief series on Family Ministry sharing “my story”, my perspective, regarding Family Ministry. As I noted in my post Family Worship Service – Good or Bad?, everyone approaches this topic from a bias, and I hope by sharing my story, it opens honest dialogue and helps you see my perspective. I am not saying that you must agree with me, but I trust you will understand as I seek to understand your story and perspective.

I grew up with my parents taking me and my siblings to a small church. There was your typical Sunday school hour that was age graded, and then there was the worship service where everyone attended. Yes there was a small nursery for infants available. Some might say that it was an inter-generational service, a family service because the entire family, multi-generations, attended. I continue to serve in the church and so that must verify this model, right? After all, this was when we sang hymns out of the hymnal, no fancy “church band” leading worship, families worshiped together, no separation (except for the Sunday School “hour”). Isn’t this what some people, long for to combat the stat that 80% (or whatever stat you quote) of young adults leave the church when they turn 18?

Let me share some staggering stats with you. All throughout history people have “walked away” from God. It is often interpreted that 33% of the angels “walked away” from God and followed Satan. If 33% of angels who have personal knowledge of God, then wouldn’t more
men” “walk away” having not seen, but relying on faith? But that’s not a reason to stop sharing the Gospel, but something that was freeing for me in understanding.

Here is another stat. My siblings grew up attending the same church, the same ministries, had the same parents being the spiritual influencers and of the four of us close in age and still living, I am the only one who regularly attends, and serves, in the local church. So in my family, living in the “good old days” before families were separated within the church with “silo ministries”, before “family ministry” was the latest buzz word, 75% walked away from the church. It is not a new phenomenon, people have “walked away” from church, from God, since shortly after God created man.

As I grew up in the church, I saw that children were often neglected. Sure there was Sunday School, VBS, and I even got to serve in various ways, but something was missing. I wasn’t really engaged with the church, there had to be more (and not just Jesus). I sat there “learning to worship” from my parents as I saw my father listening to the sermon with his eyes closed. As I grew, a passion to reach children was embedded in my being and from the very beginning, I was a different breed.

I was licensed for the ministry in the denomination and as I was being mentored by an older minister I was asked where I felt led to serve. I remember that conversation vividly. I answered with children and youth. He responded that (at the time in the mid early to mid 1980’s) that they did not normally ordain youth ministers and that I would probably grow out of it. It is now over 30 years later and my passion to reach kids burns stronger.

In the early 2000’s, George Barna came out with his study in his book, Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions which led a “revolution” in the need for children’s ministry to be the #1 ministry in the church. I was elated that the stats were backing me up with what I had always known, and a vision I had always had. Awana came out with the Rorheim Institute and a vision of what children’s ministry should look like, how they were building a bridge to what was to what is should be. I was stirred in my spirit in agreement with all I was hearing…. sadly, that bridge was never built and less than a decade later, after hearing how children’s ministry should be the #1 ministry in the church, how it had the greatest harvest of souls for God, a new philosophy overtook the landscape. Churches had taken the parent’s responsibility. Parents are the key spiritual influencers in a child’s life and family ministry was “born” and became the new “buzz word” in ministry. Children’s ministry was no longer seen as the most important ministry, it has shifted back to adults and how the church can help adults disciple their children.

As I stood in the minority of my denomination several decades ago, I seem to still be standing in the minority when it comes to “family ministry”. My burden is not to reach “the family”, it is to minister to the child. I admit that by ministering to the child that a side effect is that it ministers to the family, but my main emphasis and focus is the child. In my next post on family ministry, I will share how I have ministered to children and youth which also impacted the family. Some may say this is family ministry, but to me, it is children’s ministry, and my calling.

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