Fall programming is getting ready to kick off in churches all across America and I see one question get asked a lot, “How can I do family ministry with the kid who comes alone?” That’s a valid question especially if a good portion of our programming, follow-ups and interactions are based around parental inclusion, equipping, and involvement.
When you serve in family ministry, your goal is to equip and resource the home in ways that promote faith formation and spiritual discipleship primarily by parents and caregivers. But what happens when a child comes to your church and doesn’t have a home life that is conducive to that model?
In addition to doing our best to engage the family and minister to the parents as noted here, we also want to make sure our church is an environment that is prepared to be welcoming and inviting to everyone.
Here are some practical ways we can have a family ministry to children who join us on their own.
Before events that will likely bring more kids into your church, approach a few families and ask them if they’d be willing to “adopt” a child for the activities that day or week.
If your church has intergenerational services where kids attend, find families or even grandparents that will welcome the child to worship with them.
Talk About Home
Just because mom and dad aren’t there, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the home with that child. In fact, they may want and need support if they are trying to live out their faith at home without support. Give them that space to share.
Invite the Family
If you are having a picnic, make sure to invite the whole family. A word of caution – it can be hard on that child to have to constantly hand deliver invites or handouts that their parents might not want or show appreciation for. If at all possible, make the contact yourself so that the child isn’t in an awkward position.
Give the Child a Place
There’s nothing worse than feeling out of place and awkward. But there’s nothing better than feeling like you are a necessary part of something.
There are many roles that need filled in preparing and completing a worship service. Finding a place for that child to serve can give a strong sense of self-worth. (younger children can help hand out bulletins, help with greeting, be your “right hand man”; older children can read Scripture, help with sound/lights, participate on worship teams, help collect communion)
Know the Child’s Name
Being greeted each week by name says “You are welcome here. We want you here and we are excited that you are part of our church family!”
Appreciate WHO They Are
Don’t let their identity be “The kid who comes without his/her parents.” They are a beautiful and unique child of God.
A colleague of mine shared this with me about his own experience: “Once upon a time, when I was one of those kids (at church sans family), I appreciated being taken seriously on my own, not as a spare part (like so many singles do!)”
Host Cross-Generational Events for Family Ministry
Instead of all events being focused on family groups, host intergenerational events where all generations mingle and fellowship regardless of age or relationship.
One family minister I know has round tables and the simple rules are 1. You can’t sit with anyone you are related to and 2. You can’t sit with anyone your age. Her church has grown to love these times of intentional intergenerational connection and no one feels singled out.
It is always a privilege to minister to and share the love of Jesus with the next generation but it is a uniquely special blessings to share with those who don’t experience these life-giving conversations in their home. Embrace the blessing and seek to find ways that say, “You belong here. You are family!”
Many thanks to the Family Pastors on Facebook who sent me these suggestions to share
This article about family ministry originally appeared here.