Many churches seek to provide ministries to families and venture out to do new programs and activities. However, there is a difference between being family friendly and a family ministry. Here are three identifiers of Family Friendly churches vs. Family Ministry churches:
1. Family Friendly churches offer activities for all ages / Family Ministry churches offer activities for families to do together.
If your church is family friendly, you will offer classes and programs for each age to attend. However, most of the time these activities and classes will be totally separate of one another and often times conflict with each other on the calendar. Churches with family ministries will coordinate their calendars to work together with families and provide activities and classes for all ages to attend together. While this may not ALWAYS be possible, it is a good idea to include family activities and classes as much as you can.
2. Family Friendly churches are available to parents / Family Ministry churches partner with the parents.
Chances are, if you are in a family friendly church, your parents will know they can come to you with any questions or concerns they have and you will help them find a solution. This is great in theory, but many times parents will not be “brave” enough to admit they cannot figure out something on their own. Churches that provide true family ministries will actively pursue the parents to provide them with information and solutions to problems BEFORE the question or concern arises. You may not always answer ever question but the more prepared the parents are, the better off they will be.
3. Family Friendly churches teach children about Jesus / Family Ministry churches teach parents to teach their children about Jesus.
Teaching children about Jesus is certainly an important task for the church and something that every church should be doing. However the difference between family friendly churches and family ministry churches on this one is night and day. Family friendly churches often times share the gospel with children and disciple them in the classrooms, without ever breathing a word to parents on how they can continue the discipleship at home. Many times parents may feel inadequate to do the job and rely on the church to complete the task for them. A child, at best, will be in a church setting 4 or 5 hours a week. Compare this to the many hours they are with their parents each and every day. Discipleship would be much better done by parents who are with their children many more hours in a week and have a much closer bond with the children than any children’s worker or minister ever would. We must teach parents to disciple their children to most effectively reach out to them.
Children’s ministers need to decide which model works best for your church. While the newest trend is the family ministry model, the trend swings like a pendulum from one model to the next. The facts however are that God believes using families to minister to children is important (Deuteronomy 6) and a parent’s influence upon their child will certainly never go away. If God’s way is the family way, we should definitely consider joining together with families to reach the next generation.