This morning, our family woke up and the usual morning line-up of breakfast, coffee, gathering school items, solidifying after-school plans, quick prayer, kiss on the cheek and fly out the door took place. If you know, you know. On my way out the door, I found myself reminiscing about the slower pace of our lives last year where we didn’t wake up and immediately scatter to the winds. As glad as I am that we are re-engaging with life, I must admit…I rather liked the year of getting to spend lots of quality time with my family.
What better place for that to happen than within the faith community? What if instead of returning to “life as normal” post-Covid, this could be a time to begin to intentionally find spaces for families to worship, grow, and learn about God together in church?
It’s important to recognize that each church has a unique culture, community and mission, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to this type of intergenerational, family-focused ministry. But here are five ideas that might be a place to start.
These ideas come from a variety of different church backgrounds and traditions, so they will not ALL work for your ministry context, but chances are one might strike a chord and you will be able to begin working towards more and more times where the family experiences faith formation together with their faith community.
Family Service Projects What better way to bring the family together than in an opportunity to serve Christ and others as a unit? There are many ways to engage the family in service. Check with your local food pantries and Salvation Army to see if there are ways families can work together stocking shelves or organizing donations. Many local soup kitchens or churches who serve meals will welcome family groups to serve together. Check also with local mission and ministries that serve the poor, homeless or other marginalized groups to see how families can offer assistance.
Children and youth express their faith through actions rather than statements of belief. When asked what a Christian is they will say things like, “A person who goes to church” or “A person who does good things, loves others, is kind, serves other, etc.” Engaging the family in the act of serving together can be one of the most transformational and meaningful ways to connect faith with everyday life and create bonds in the family that last long after their time of serving has ended.
Family Worship Sundays Many churches have begun offering times of Family Worship, often once a month or on fifth Sundays, where the family stays together and worships as a unit. These Sundays should not be confused with Children’s Sundays or times where kids perform for the church. While these are special times for the church as well, they are more focused on children than they are families.
A Family Sunday will incorporate ways for the family to experience worship together such as communion, prayers said aloud with the whole church, worship songs that everyone know and can sing to, a sermon that is appropriate for all ages and elements of the service that invite participation of parents/caregivers and children such as Scripture readings by families and prayer as families. For ideas on how to include families in worship on Sunday, check out this article.
Family Worship Experiences There are a few subtle difference between a Family Worship Sunday, where the family joins with the whole congregation in a regular worship service time, and Family Worship Experiences where families are specifically targeted and ministered to. Often these experiences take place at a time other than Sunday morning and incorporate a variety of interactive activities, worship, and teaching.
Some great examples can be found at www.dandibell.com and if you want a group to come in to host, Seeds Family Worship has one they do in connection with Phil Vischer and What’s in the Bible? with Buck Denver.
Family Faith Formation For some, inviting the family to stay together takes place best in a mid-week experience. One church I served at chose this path to help the family grow and learn together. We had so much fun using these nights to explore the Bible together. We wrote our own curriculum in 5-week blocks based on what families have indicated they want to learn. Each household unit sat in chairs in a circle and explore Scripture, do activities, and participate in a time of affirmation and blessing each night. Our topics have included Prayer, Salvation, The Bible, God as Creator, and Service. This curriculum has been updated with both Gathered and Scattered items!
Kids absolutely love spending this time with their parents. Of all the programs we had at that church, this one got the highest praise from children. You can receive a discounted copy of the first five-week block of this curriculum by filling out the contact form below and putting “Family Faith Formation” in the subject line!
Family Activities If your church isn’t ready yet to host a Family Sunday or Family Worship Experience, one idea is to begin hosting Family Activities on a monthly basis. These activities should have as their central theme the idea of having family spend time together either with/around the larger faith community, around service to the larger community, or around worship and the Word as a family unit. Putting these focuses on a rotating basis can help your families begin to spend intentional time together around the topics of faith, community, and outreach.
For instance, one month you could host a Family Game Night at church (time with faith community), and the next offer an activity that families can do at home that include a Faith Talk and time in God’s word (time with worship/Word), and then the next month offer a service experience in the community that families can do together (outreach). By offering a variety of ways for families to come together around the themes of faith, community, and service, you can begin to cultivate times of faith formation for the whole family to engage in together.
This list is by no means exhaustive and I know there are many more ideas out there. I would love for this to be a place where we can share our thoughts and ideas in the comments below. What is your church doing to allow households to gather and grow together within your faith community?
This article originally appeared here.