Family Ministry Starts at Home
Where’s the best place to begin a ministry to families? Right where you live.
By: Jim Wideman
Jim Wideman is president of Jim Wideman Ministries, an Orange Strategist (orangeblogs.org), and a pioneer of the children’s ministry movement. He has spent over 40 years helping churches and leaders thrive, training thousands of children’s and student-ministry leaders from all denominations and from congregations worldwide in his capacity as speaker, teacher, author, leadership coach and ministry consultant. Jim and his wife, Julie, have two successful grown daughters.
I love working with kids and families. Of all the things I could have spent my life doing, this is truly an honor. But even greater than this has been the wonderful privilege of being Julie’s husband, Yancy and Whitney’s Dad, and Sparrow and Rhythm’s “G”! Being an Orange thinker you’ve heard me say this before, “What you teach and train your children about God matters to Him!” It’s my responsibility, priority and privilege as a parent to do this. But it’s also my responsibility, priority and privilege to teach them about marriage and family by setting an example and modeling God’s Word.
How do we do this? In my book Connect With Your Kids, I offer 12 things you can do as a parent to connect your kids to God. Here are five of them to get you started.
- Realize That Family Ministry Starts at Home
Decide you and the inhabitants of your household will serve the Lord. You have heard this verse a thousand times Joshua 24:15: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” What does this mean? It’s simple: make Jesus an everyday part of your lives. Live out what you are asking the families at your church to do at their house.
We never did devotions as a family instead Julie and I still to this day take advantage of every opportunity to apply God’s Word to the thinking of every member of our family (including each other) not to allow a stronghold to be formed. A stronghold? Yes, I define a stronghold as wrong thinking that does not line up with the truth of God’s Word. As a parent, be careful what and who you allow in your home. It’s easier to start strict when kids are young and relax as they get older and allow them to make good choices based on the Bible. The bottom line is, be an example!
- Be an Example in the Way You Love Your Spouse
I don’t know why we think we can have a strong family and not have a strong marriage. A great marriage is a work in progress and happen when you make it a priority. You’ve heard me say if you aim at nothing you hit it every time. You need a plan to make your marriage strong. Whatever you did to win your spouse’s affection is the same actions you need to choose to keep their affection. Spend as much time together as you can.
Also, spend quality time; have a plan for your time together. Communicate well. Learn to be a listener. Be intentional when it comes to dates and trips, and make special times together a regular part of your life. Set a night as your date night and make it a priority. Just as we want our children to see we love the Lord first and foremost, so also let your spouse see firsthand that there is no other person on this earth you love other than him or her.
- Spend Lots of Time With Your Kids
My kids are my third priority, so when it comes to controlling my schedule and not letting it control me, making time for my kids is a lifestyle choice I make. When Julie and I became parents for the first time, we chose to be a close family. It’s what we wanted. Even though our kids are grown, this is still a priority for us.
Because of the time we invested when our children where young they make time for us now that they are grown. Our children know they are always invited to go on family vacations. Sunday lunch is a special family time for us. Long before my girls ever went on a date they had dates with Dad. I’ve tried to make the time I have with my kids all about them not just including them in things I want to do. I’ve tried to not miss anything that was important to them. If I work hard to plan times with the kids at my church, why don’t I look for ways to make off days and evenings special for the kids who live at my house!
- Respect the Uniqueness of Each Family Member
Seek to understand how God has made each member of your family differently, and allow them to be different. My wife and I are very different, and I believe different is a good thing. I’m a spender and Julie is a saver. I am overly generous; she can be a little tight. We need each other. Our kids are a different mix of both of us. Even though our girls had the same parents, ate the same food and lived in the same house, they are as different as night and day. I realized when I first started working in the local church that God makes us all different as part of His plan. We are the body of Christ, and just like every part of His body has a different purpose and function, so do the members of our family.
Different personalities call for differences in how we parent, how we discipline and how we communicate our love, as well as how we communicate information. Celebrate the differences, strengths and gifts of each family member and dare to speak in their language, in a way they can receive you and understand you. Dare to be an encourager. To encourage means “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope, to spur on; to give help to.” Be a helper, an encourager and a cheerleader for every member of your family, especially your mate.
- Be Open and Honest at All Times
Learn to admit your mistakes and demonstrate repentance. Why do we try to hide our mistakes from the people who see them the most? My mom taught me early in life: “Things are not as bad as I think they are.” She also told me I’m not as wonderful as I think I am; reality is always somewhere in between. Our families know firsthand our struggles and inconsistencies! But what makes the difference is when we don’t try to hide them or pretend they aren’t there. Rather, we admit our failures, mistakes and struggles and let our loved ones see that we’re doing something about them.
Your family needs to learn godly repentance from your example. You see, there’s a big difference between, “I’m sorry,” and true repentance.” Repentance calls for different behavior. When your family sees you modeling repentance, it’s easier for them to apply it in their own lives.
Establishing a family ministry starts with our own family. Others will follow your example! It’s never too late to make right choices. I am so thankful we serve a God who is the God of a second chance—for me and my family, and for the families I get to minister to at church.