Three Truths About Messy Families

Family / Ministries //

Pretty much everyone who works in children’s ministry spends their time thinking about ideal families. We think about, talk about, and dream about the good things we want to define the families in our community. We envision families where parents are committed to each other and committed to being their children’s primary spiritual leader. We envision families with family times set aside, mission statements and a willingness to serve.

The only drawback with dreaming about ideal families is that fact that they don’t exist. All the families we work with (even our own) fall short of the ideals we promulgate. And since every family we work with is messy in some way(s), it’s possible to get discouraged when we are striving for ideals that can’t be met. Sometimes it seems like the messiness in families around us is overwhelming. If that’s the case for you (as it sometimes is for me), here are three thoughts to help you see the messiness inherent in ministry in a new light.

Messiness is why we’re here. We’re all sin-sick. We all need the healing power of Jesus. As ministers, we’re called to exemplify the love of God to broken people, and point them to a better way. If you served in a congregation with no visible messiness, that would only mean that the brokenness is well-hidden and therefore more dangerous. So remember, when you encounter the hurt and disappointment of messy lives, that you are encountering the reason for ministry. We are representatives of Jesus to those who need him, which includes ourselves! (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

There’s no messiness too big for God. After a few years in ministry, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to run-of-the-mill family imperfections. Frequently, however, I’m faced with situations that just seem hopeless. In these times, I’m thankful that God sees hope where I don’t, because he has power I do not. Simply put, God can make wonderful things come out of dark times, things we couldn’t even imagine. When you’re faced with heartbreaking messiness, remember that God is one who has the ability to radically change lives. Don’t pressure yourself to do the impossible, but do remember to continue to move forward in hope and love. Even in the darkest times God does offer hope to us.

God works through our mess. There may not be any ideal families out there, but God does great things through messy ones. When I think about some of my favorite volunteers, I can also recall some of their pains, struggles and flaws, and you know what? They haven’t gotten in the way of God working one bit. In fact, I’ve seen God strengthen those imperfect families by using them to minister to those around them. Simply put, God wants to use your families as they are, even though they’re far from ideal.

Here’s the bottom line, we can let the messiness all around exhaust us, or we can let it energize us. After all, it’s only when people let their flaws out that there is the chance of change. So, when you’re confronted with the pains, flaws and hurts of life in a sin-sick world, don’t be discouraged. Be thankful for the chance to actually see God move through it.

What about you? How do you approach the messiness of life around you? Please share your thoughts!





About the Author

Collie Coburn is the pastor of children's ministries at First Christian Church in Santa Maria, CA. He loves doing, strategizing, and writing about children's ministry. He loves spending time with his wife and son even more. Collie blogs at, and is also on twitter.