Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Family Worship Services – Good or Bad?

The topic of family ministry, inter-generational ministry, and family worship services is permeating the children’s ministry landscape. Yesterday, I saw this image on Facebook…


In general, I agree with the caption, but you cannot make a “blanket statement” without knowing the full picture. What is the culture of the church? Do they have something for the children and this is a second service they are attending as a family? Is this typical for every Sunday service? You cannot answer those questions with this one image, but the comment indicates that this is the norm.

Images like this are very polarizing in children’s ministry. The comments on the picture on Facebook ranged from people posting in full agreement, those fully offended because they need their children to be quiet so they can focus on the service and you’d be surprised what the children remember, that “parent shaming” needs to end, and everywhere in between. I’m guessing that when you saw the image, and statement, some strong feelings came out in you as well. It is when we try to hold a discussion from those feelings that communication ends, walls go up, and people try to simply prove their philosophy and believe that all should be doing what they are doing.

We all come from a bias and I am no different. I hear people talk about family ministry all of the time and it disturbs me on many levels. I know that I am in the minority in children’s ministry on this but if you heard my story you may understand my view better. If I heard your story, then I would understand your view as well. So can we truly talk about it, the pros, the cons, the flawed stats, and more.

The image and caption to me encapsulates the whole family ministry debate that we are afraid to talk about honestly without forcing our perspective on the other. We need to communicate honestly about our stories realizing that “our way” may not be the best way for everyone, even if it works in your ministry setting.

The questions that abound from the picture, and family ministry are:

  • Should children be in the “adult” service?
  • Does separating children and youth from the adults cause them to leave the church when they turn 18 (or are they already gone before that)?
  • Are parents prepared and able to properly disciple their children?
  • Does the picture truly depict a family worship service?
  • and the list goes on….

Can we have an honest discussion?

Beginning next week, I will share my story and my concerns with “Family Ministry”. I am not saying that my perspective is the correct perspective, but it is my story and I hope you will understand my perspective and that it can open up conversations, without barriers, about reaching children. I hope that you will join me in this discussion.


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  1. It’s seems that you are equating “family ministry” with a family service. For me family ministry is simply an umbrella that covers all he generational ministries. However, a “family service” is something entirely different.

    My concern with “family services” is that a true family service is an exceedingly rare thing. Rather most churches that claim to have a family service really have an adult service that they force kids to go to. How about we force adults to go to a children’s service and then call that a family service. Do you think they would go for that?

    I spent a lot of time in big church as a child. Did I learn some things? Probably. Heck I came to Christ in big church. Does that mean that we should force kids to go to big church? No. It just means that the Holy Spirit is strong enough to work in spite of the circumstances.

    Ok, now your turn. What are your thoughts on so called “family services”?

    I have some thoughts on what it would really take to make a family service, but that can wait for later.

    1. I am not equating a family service to family ministry, but in today’s ministry climate, they seem to be a integral part of “family ministry”.

      In regard to family services, I agree with you. Most are simply a “regular” service where parents are forced into a decision between having their children in the regular service or not to attend since there are no activities for children during that time. IMHO, if it is a special designated family service, then it should engage all members of the family, all generations.

      I also grew up in “big church”. Sunday mornings there was the age graded Sunday School hour and then the worship service for everyone. In upcoming posts I’ll be sharing “my story” about growing up in that church (which is a main reason for my heart for children’s ministry) as well as my view of a family service and what I did as a result.

      Thank you for your comments.

      1. My experience has not included the idea of a family service as a typical part of family minsitry, but the idea of family service has gained much momentum. I LOVE the idea of families worshipping together.But, seldom is that the case when churches push kids into an adult service.

  2. In our ministry we try to have occasional and intentional times when we invite kids to be part of a Family Friendly Service. We average 600-700 people on Sundays. These are usually special Sundays around holidays when we have extra special music planned with perhaps a visiting instrumental or vocal group. Sometimes our kids sing on stage, sometimes our kids sing with our youth. Sometimes the youth might lead worship on their own…or combined with our regular Worship Team. Sometimes an adult will read a portion of scripture, then a child, then a young adult. Perhaps we have a family testimony. We will probably have some type of funny or poignant video that relates to the message, or family life. As the Director I invite kids to come forward while I read an engaging, relevant story with pictures up on our screens. Adults enjoy this as much as the kids. On our Christmas Sunday at the end of the service we have families come forward together and each child gets an ornament to place on a tree we have and then they exit together and go upstairs where we have a Family Reception with kid-friendly food, face painting and a Christmas movie playing. On that Sunday we provide volunteers to help the Senior Adults exit the service and get to a table and bring them food from our reception. We provide FREE portrait style family pictures for anyone who wants them.
    I agree to provide a truly Family Worship service every week would be a challenge for most churches to do effectively. For us trying to be strategic about when we CAN provide something special for all ages helps. If we never have kids in an adult-type service they will be very shocked when it’s time for them to enter as a young adult. Our oldest elementary kids go into the service with their families on the 1st Sunday of each month so they can observe or participate in communion. This is intentional. This same group is then part of Kids Ministry the other Sundays but the leaders bring them into the balcony of our service each Sunday only for the Welcome & Worship portion. This begins to give them a picture of the service, allows their parents to be fed and worship independently but also helps parents realize that welcoming young adults into the service is the goal. It’s certainly not always a home run….but then again neither is each and every Sunday in Kids Ministry with Kids leaders, kids rooms, kids curriculum, etc.

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