Being the church implies discipleship. It’s important to disciple believers as individuals but also in their roles and relationships in family life. With the pressures on the family today, the church has solutions that can equip family members to embrace the gospel in their homes and rely on God’s grace in practical ways.
Churches that develop a discipleship mentality that equips parents, do it in four areas. This isn’t about a program or a system. It’s about vision and relationships. Each of these components provide a church with a window into ways to strengthen families through the mission of the church.
Component #1: Provide Engaging Children and Youth Programs and Invite Parental Involvement.
The church who works independently of the home runs the risk of giving both parents and children the impression that the home isn’t relevant for spiritual training and that the professionals at the church do the work of discipleship. More and more churches are realizing the importance of the church and home working together to reach children today. Children’s directors and youth leaders look for ways to extend their work into the home. Take home papers from Sunday School are common, but also inviting parents to participate with their kids or giving parent/child assignments that complement what’s happening at church can empower parents.
Component #2: Offer Parent Training Programs
Parents need help raising their children today. The world offers plenty of behavior modification strategies, but, as Christians, we know that people are different than animals. They have a heart. So training parents with biblical tools and strategies that reach the hearts of their children is an essential part of the discipleship mandate for any church. God gives guidance in his word about how people change and when those kinds of ideas are applied to the family, parents find hope and encouragement as they embrace God’s grace in their homes.
Component #3: Provide Opportunities for Intergenerational Experiences of Worship, Teaching, Fellowship, and Service
The church offers many programs and activities and some of those are well suited for cross-generational interaction. Sometimes it means Father/Daughter nights or family camping trips, but other times families can join together in mission trips or holiday worship services. When children watch older believers practice their faith, something significant happens in their lives. Furthermore, families can serve and grow together, further increasing their spiritual closeness. Families learn to pray together, watch God work, and trust in his grace. The church becomes the vehicle to provide opportunities for families to be touched spiritually.
Component #4: Helping Parents to Be Disciplemakers at Home
Sometimes parents delegate the spiritual training of their children to the church or the Christian School. Although they are great partners, they are not a substitute for what God designed for the family. But parents often don’t know how to pass the faith on to their kids. Following the model of Jesus using creativity and life experience is the most effective way to help kids grasp biblical truths. Parents need inspiration and coaching to enable that process. While all of these components can add to a family ministry in a church, the leadership needs to determine which areas to focus on at any given time. The question isn’t whether family ministry is optional. It’s not. It’s part of the discipleship mandate given to the church. The question has to do with what parts of family ministry are best to emphasis at any given time in a church’s life. For more information on developing the family ministry in these four areas in your church, visit the website for the National Center for Biblical Parenting.