This guest post was contributed by Lynda Freeman who blogs at About the Children’s Department.
Children’s Ministry versus Family Ministry – there is so much debate about this. Should we focus on the children or the families? I wonder why we have to make a choice between the two. I believe in Deuteronomy 6 God clearly instructs families to:
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Certainly these are specific instructions to parents as we do not all live in one humongous building where we all are “sitting at home” together and are all “walking along the road” together and are all lying “down” together. Parents are the ones who are there for the day-in-day-out living of our lives. Clearly they are instructions to parents.
I don’t believe however; that these verses mean God doesn’t intend for us to be a community of believers who also join in on teaching children what it means and looks like to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength – with our whole selves! This “joining in” can have different focuses. First, do we equip parents to do as God clearly instructs in Deuteronomy 6? Over my years in children’s ministry I had so many parents who were completely at a loss as to how to do this. It is fully appropriate for us to equip parents so they can be the primary teachers of their children.
We can also join in by being intentional in our ministries and building on and reinforcing what the parents are teaching their children. This is where a vision statement comes in. What is it we want to accomplish in our children’s ministries? What is our plan to get there? When we join up with the parents by equipping and coming alongside them, we will experience real and measurable results. This matters so much, because if you read in Psalm 78 you will find the results we can be assured of if we do not intentionally join up with the parents to model to children what it means to love God with our whole selves.
So, how can we do this? Obviously there are many excellent ways we can be intentional in our ministries and in “joining in” with the parents, but one idea I like involves modeling to parents how to engage their children and how to then live what they learned! Consider my Bible Journey Events. I’m working on completing 12 Bible Journey Events where parents and children work together to prepare, present and participate together in an event for families in the church and community so they can experience God’s Word together. Not only will families experience God’s Word together, but they will also be able to serve Him together by helping with the event and by participating in a service project to help families in the community. You only need one or two people to head this event up and then recruit families, teens and single people . . . anyone in your church to help with a specific portion of the event! Families can sign up to help with decorating or be involved in the Bible dramas. They might help lead an activity or be part of a praise team. Anyone can commit to being part of the prayer team – there is something for everyone to do to help and one of the cool parts is entire families – parents and children – can help together!
I’m delighted to give you my “Resurrection Sunday Bible Journey” . . . it is an event with four stations families “journey” through to learn what Resurrection Sunday is all about. They will learn why Jesus prayed in the Garden. They will discover what happened when Jesus was arrested and put on trial. They will hear how Jesus died on the cross for an “end” none of us would have chosen and then celebrate as they learn how “the end” was really the “beginning”! In the party room families will celebrate this new beginning as they present the canned and boxed foods they brought for families in need. Each station involves families in learning, activity and discussion so this isn’t just another “event”, but rather an opportunity for everyone to come together to learn how the Resurrection was the greatest event in the history of the world!
We need to look for opportunities to do exactly this . . . come together to engage, reach and equip the children and parents – the families in our churches and communities, “so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.”