Fall is always an exciting time in church world. People are coming off summer vacations, rest, and a different pace of life. They are typically ready to re-engage with church on some level. Kids move up into their new Sunday school class or small group. Then, youth group cranks back up with some kind of a Fall Kickoff that often involves some amazing creativity and energy. Finally, families are building a new rhythm, getting settled into new schedules. They’re deciding what they will make a priority in the new season. Will it be family ministry?
As church leaders, we often put lots of energy into planning a great fall launch for the ministries we lead. We want to create excitement and energy as people walk back into the doors of the church. And that can be great! But do we strategically embrace this season as a real opportunity to not only reel in kids and teens, but intentionally engage parents, too? We have the opportunity to equip and encourage the whole family along their journey of life and faith.
In addition to relaunching our children’s and youth ministries, what if we spent some time, thought, and energy into doing more? Let’s do things helpful not just to the kids and teens, but to the parents as well. What if we considered our fall through the lens of the whole family?
As you think though how you can kick off your fall for families, consider focusing on these three keys:
1. Take time to talk to parents.
We all know that to do effective ministry with kids and teens, it’s important to build relationships. We even call it “relational ministry.” The same is true with parents. If we are going to step into the world of helping families, we must be in relationship with them. We have to know their stories, their celebrations, their pains, and their struggles.
Early in the fall, add these two strategic things. Firstly, schedule individual times with parents (coffee, lunch, or phone conversations). Secondly, add more formal focus groups to listen to parents. You might be surprised at how much information and relational mileage you’ll get by simply gathering a group of parents and saying, “As the church, we want to partner with you as you raise your kids in the faith. What could that look like?”
2. Offer practical help for felt needs to families in your ministry.
As you spend time with parents, you’ll learn about their pain points. So, are they struggling with navigating screen time and social media? Has their teen started to vape and they have no idea how to handle it? Is their child struggling with friendships and becoming more isolated? Are their children walking away from faith and moving away from the church? Are their kids and teens asking tough questions about their identity?
When you hear about these issues, strategically offer spaces for parents that provide:
- Opportunities to talk with other parents.
- Education on topics and applicable ideas for what to do in their home.
- Encouragement to hang in there.
These don’t have to be elaborate events with food, décor, and a complicated program. For example, a simple seminar with a trusted leader will go a long way towards helping parents feel like their church is “with them” in their struggle.
3. Create moments at church for the family ministry.
As individual programs crank back up and we step back into the tendency to silo kids, teens, and adults, look for opportunities to bring the whole family together. Again, don’t feel the pressure to have to plan big events.
Instead, look for ways to bring everyone together in the normal rhythm of your church:
- Could Sunday school classes gather for 15 minutes of coffee, juice, and donuts all together instead of in their individual rooms?
- Could you invite parents to the first half of youth group, let them see some of the “controlled chaos” and then offer snacks and prayer for them?
- Could one Sunday service be for the whole family, suspending all classes for that day?
Brainstorm ways that bring together all life stages, fit your context, and intentionally support moments when the family can be all together.
One of the things I have started to say recently is this: Family ministry matters!
It matters because our families matter, no matter what they look like. It matters because kids and teens are formed and shaped most in the context of family. It matters because we are all a part of God’s family, the church, and we all have both the opportunity and the responsibility to care for the family.
As you prepare to step into the fall and a new season of ministry, think about how you can not only minister to kids and teens, but really minister to the whole family.