There’s a lot of talk right now about what children’s ministry and/or family ministry should look like. There are unprecedented resources available, offering so many options for programming. This is fantastic! Often times, however, we who lead in this area make the decisions about what our program will look like with little regard for what families might want.
My experience is that families have definite opinions – expressed or not – about what they want. These opinions provide a great starting point – a great connecting point – for our program (whether it’s called “children’s” ministry or “family” ministry).
Here’s a few words that come time mind when I think about what families want in my ministry:
- Fun. Plain & simple, they want program to be fun. That’s what kids are all about, right? Like it or not, if your program isn’t fun, it isn’t going to work.
- Investment. Few parents or children will articulate this, but it’s an expectation in most families. They want and expect a spiritual investment by the church. Yes, parents are primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children, but that does not mean the church has no responsibility in this area. This may seem obvious, but it requires an intentional approach that many ministries lack.
- Partnership. I believe (and studies by Barna Research indicate) that most parents understand their spiritual responsibility toward their kids. Many just don’t know how to fulfill that responsibility, so they want a partnership with the church in two areas:
- at church – knowing their kids are receiving a spiritual investment when they are there;
- at home – receiving equipping and other opportunities to help guide them in their own spiritual investment in their children.
- Flexibility. Families are busier than ever. While I don’t necessarily like it, families don’t want or need the expectation of weekly attendance, or presence at every church event. Truth is, most churches have ridiculous expectations of families when the entire calendar is combined. Men’s, Women’s, Youth, Children’s & Small Group ministries can ALL be scheduled weekly. Add that to regular services and special events and I wonder sometimes what we’re thinking! Outside activities are important, also, as is school (oh yeah!), so families want and expect flexibility when it comes to programming and expectations.
- Excellence. In this day and age, most families can access excellence when it comes to spending their time. If it’s not excellent in the church, many will find it elsewhere. Because of the unprecedented access we have to resources and learning, there really is no longer any excuse for anything but excellence in our ministry. I believe excellence means high standards in how we present our program, and variety in what program we present.
- Communication. Maybe I should say “constant” communication. There is a tremendous amount of noise in our lives today. We are bombarded more than ever by a consistent stream of gibberish. Our communication is among that noise. Making our communication stand out, offered through a variety of channels, and making it consistent, is necessary and expected for families.