A few years back when I was writing my first book, I came across a great list from Reggie Joiner. It was so great that I wanted to include it in the book. The problem was that as hard as I tried, I could never track down where the list was originally published, so it gave me a good excuse to call Reggie and ask. I’ll never forget it when he told me he wasn’t sure where it came from either, but he liked it, agreed that it was probably his, and gave me permission to print it. I know what you’re asking. What’s the list? (I’m a great mind reader.) Here you go:
5 Facts You Can’t Ignore
1. Nothing is more important than someone’s relationship with God.
2. No one has more potential to influence a child’s relationship with God than his or her parents.
3. No one has more potential to influence the parents than the church.
4. The church’s potential to influence a child dramatically increases when they partner with parents.
5. Parents’ potential for influence increases when they partner with the church.
That’s a pretty good list; agree? What’s it mean for the church to partner with parents and for parents to partner with the church? Some churches are rethinking everything they do and others are simply being more sensitive and open to families in their church. The most important thing is to start. (That’s a key word, “start.”) You need to start thinking about this and then do your best to determine what’s best for your church. (Did I mention that the key word is “start”?)
Here are a few simple steps that will get you started in the right direction. (This list is adapted from an article published by Gary J. Oliver, Executive Director of The Center for Marriage and Family Studies. As you can see, I like copying lists.)
1. Start with prayer.
When developing a family ministry, it is easy to start by asking, “What is working for others?” At some point that will be a good question to ask, but it is the wrong place to start. Instead, start with prayer. Get people around you who will pray, on a regular basis, about what this should look like in your congregation.
2. Keep the Word of God the focus.
To ensure the long-term effectiveness of any family ministry, it must be bathed in prayer and grounded in the Scripture. After all, you aren’t chasing a new fad or trend. Helping parents be the primary spiritual leaders at home was God’s idea and is the best way to disciple children.
3. Evaluate what you are currently doing.
Since time and resources are precious, it makes good sense to see what is already being done with families. What are some existing models of family ministry? What are the questions we need to ask as a church? What has worked well in churches like ours?
4. Understand the needs of your church and community.
Every church and community has a unique DNA. Develop an understanding of the specific needs of your church and community. Then ask yourself what the church is already doing that has had a positive response. Make a list of the existing strengths and resources, the opportunities for ministry in your own church and community, and some of the challenges you will face as you take family ministry to the next level.
5. Develop a plan
This is the most important and the most difficult step. Build on what you are already doing and add to it as you have leadership and resources. Don’t be afraid to start small.
6. Do it, review it, and re-do it
Take some first step and don’t be afraid of mistakes. In fact, if you’re not making a few mistakes, you’re probably not doing something right! Besides, if you believe that power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), then you aren’t going to have a powerful ministry unless you are willing to allow a few of your weaknesses to show.
So, what does this mean to you? What do you need to start doing today? (Remember, the key word is start.)