If I’m honest, I’m a little sad at the state of where our teens and young adults are today. It seems to be increasingly difficult for our kids to grow up and become mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually healthy. It’s getting harder and harder for them to embrace the grace that God offers and truly live in the freedom of Christ. They have so much coming at them every day, and they often have no idea how to process it all.
Over the last ten years or so, I have come to believe that the best way to really help these kids, teens, and young adults is to focus more on those who have the greatest influence on them:
Their parents and leaders.
Don’t get me wrong, what we do directly for kids and teens in our churches really matters. My two children have greatly benefited from those people and programs that have fostered their faith over the years. I also know that many of us put a real emphasis on equipping and training teachers and leaders. We should.
But I wonder if, as we think about “family ministry,” we sometimes miss the boat. So, what should this endeavor look like? I’ve been working on a few projects over the past several years. And I have come to believe that what we really need is a whole family ministry. In most contexts, we think we have a family ministry. We put kids and teen programs under the same umbrella. We hope they play nice when it comes to money and facilities. And finally, we communicate about all we are doing for them at church. We can sometimes call it a ministry to the next generation. I’ve started calling it “Family Ministry 1.0″. If I’m honest though, I’m not sure that’s really a ministry for the whole family.
Most of us got into this kind of work because we love working with kids and teens. Although it has its share of challenges, it can be a lot of fun. We know that working with adults and parents is necessary, but it often doesn’t make our heart sing.
We may need to sacrifice some of our desire to work directly with kids and teens. In return, we may just get the impact with kids and teens that we so desperately want.
Put another way, if we want a ministry for the whole family with long-term impact, what we need is:
- A solid ministry for children where we introduce them to the basics of faith. We help them build a strong foundation on Jesus.
- A dynamic and engaging ministry for teens that helps them internalize their faith and make it their own. Somewhere they can learn how to live for Jesus every day.
- A practical and helpful ministry for parents where we help them embrace their role as spiritual leaders. We can offer real encouragement and resources.
That’s a whole family ministry. It not only focuses on the kids which, if we’re honest, often come to us. It also puts real thought, time, energy, and resources into the parents and leaders who are called to lead these kids. I often hear parents say that they have lost hope and have no idea how to guide their kids. I often hear leaders say they feel ill-equipped to answer the tough questions that come their way, and they fear steering young people in the wrong direction. If the key adults in their lives don’t feel confident and equipped to lead, these kids will have little to no chance at coming out on the other side of their adolescent journey with a healthy sense of self and a solid faith in Christ. If these same key adults do feel equipped, hopeful, and ready, the kids and teens will no doubt have a better chance to succeed. I feel like our job is to equip and encourage those who are leading these kids, teens, and young adults.
Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
That’s our job. Not only do we need to minister to the kids and teens who are in our midst, we need to do everything we can to make sure we are investing in and equipping the teachers and leaders who influence these kids at church. Find people who have authentic faith and can build relationships with kids and teens. Train these people and help them be prepared for the issues and questions that will come their way.
But – we REALLY need to do everything we can to equip and encourage the parents who influence these kids at home. We need to build a real ministry to parents that is relevant, helpful, hopeful, and proactive in providing parents with what they need to lead their kids in life and faith. Building this kind of ministry matters!
It matters because…
- Our kids matter, and they need help.
- The world is changing fast, and we need to keep up.
- Parents and leaders often get discouraged and don’t know what we are doing.
- It’s what God has called us to do.
As you continue to evaluate how you might better step into the specific ministry God has called you to, think about how you can be a part of building a ministry that isn’t for the family in name only, but a ministry that targets the whole family and truly helps them step into the vision God has for them. I know you might be overwhelmed with all that you currently have to do, and you likely don’t have the bandwidth to add something else. You should know that there are churches and ministries who are working hard to figure this out and step into a ministry that is truly for the whole family. You should also know that you can do it, too.
Questions to Ponder:
- Are the leaders under my care trained and ready to shepherd the kids and teens who come their way?
- How can I insure the parents in my sphere are hopeful and equipped to lead the kids God has given them?
- What things do I need to delegate or let go of in order to give energy towards truly equipping and encouraging leaders and parents in my context?
- What is my next step?