What is Family Ministry?

“Dad, will Gilligan be in heaven?” my daughter recently asked as Gilligan was laying on his back and she was scratching his belly.  Gilligan is the family dachshund.  She loves him, and he tolerates her, though he is playing with her more as she is getting older.  She is a huge animal lover, and I would not be surprised if she is a veterinarian when she grows up.  It makes sense that she would be concerned with his eternal welfare.

“I’m not sure, that is something we will find out when we get there.”

That seemed to pacify her for a moment, but then she continued her thoughts.  “If he does go to heaven, I hope I am there to see him.”

Wow.  That made my wife and I stop what we were doing to talk together as a family.

“Don’t you know what it takes to go to heaven?” we asked her.  Of course, she did, and told us that she has asked Jesus to forgive her.  By the end of the conversation she was sure that she would go to heaven, though we are not sure if she will see Gilligan there.  To borrow a line from the great chef Emeril Lagasse “BAM!”  That, my friend, is family ministry.

What is Family Ministry? If you have not heard, there is a long list of people writing blog posts attempting to answer the question.  Today is my turn, so here we go.

Family ministry is ministry that happens within the family.  Simple as that.  It happens when parents or guardians pause and hear what their kids are saying, and engage them in spiritual discussions where they are.

Some think that family ministry happens at family bible study.  And it could, but it doesn’t have to.  Some believe that family ministry starts with church.  It could, but it doesn’t have to.  Family ministry is simply taking time out of your day to discuss spiritual matters with your kids.

In my mind, it is easy in definition, but difficult in practice, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think.  I have 1 thing to say to parents, and 1 thing to say to ministry leaders concerning family ministry.

Parents:  Take advantage of daily activities and conversations in order to build upon your child’s spiritual foundation. (more on that here).   When your child falls and scrapes their knee, you can talk to them about God being able to heal them, and you can pray.  BAM!  Family ministry.  When they have toys that they don’t want to play with anymore, talk to them about showing God’s love to someone less fortunate and donate their toys.  BAM! Family ministry.  When you get angry and lose your temper (which I am sure you never do!), take a minute to apologize and explain that even adults commit sin and need to ask forgiveness.  BAM! Family ministry.

Ministry Leaders: Understand that it is not your responsibility to create a spiritual foundation in the kids in your ministry.  You can help build upon the foundation and also teach parents how to build upon it.  Do what you can to assist parents in creating that ‘ministry time’ at home.  That may be through parenting seminars, providing devotional resources, or family programming.

As simple as it sounds, it is not always easy to do.  I think it is important to remember that when talking about family ministry there is no right or wrong.  Our focus should not be on how to do family ministry.  Our focus should be to make sure family ministry is happening.  No matter what form it takes, whether I mentioned it or not, parents and guardians should be doing all they can (with help from the local church) to ensure their children grow up with a strong spiritual foundation, because at its core, BAM!  that is Family Ministry.

How do you define family ministry?  What did I miss?   What do you do to encourage spiritual growth in your kids?


9 Responses

  1. Good stuff Ron. The day-to-day conversations are so important. I find that the big thing is being “Intentional.” It’s not that it’s hard…it just takes paying attention enough to notice the opportune moment when it’s there!

    • Yes, that is so true. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around kids knows that there are plenty of questions and ‘life lesson’ opportunities. The trick is to be sure and take advantage of the moments when they happen.

  2. Nice post Ron. Of course, my first though was “What about the Captain and Mary Ann?” But, I got over it. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Family ministry is not a program or an approach or an event. It is a lifestyle. It is a worldview. It is the lens through which we see the world and talk to our kids about the world. It does not happen in pre-defined moments so much as it happens in the day-to-day ins and outs of normal life.

    • Thanks for reading Wayne. Somehow Gilligan made it off the island. No more ‘Three hour tours’!
      I think sometimes people think that they have to ‘schedule’ family ministry time. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is so much more than that. Bedtime prayer time is not the actual family ministry time. It is the conversation about the day that is the ministry time. And if we pay attention, those moments can happen all day long. It is how we react to those situations that makes family ministry time happen. Like Keith said, it is important we pay attention so we can be ready to take advantage of those times when they happen.

  3. I LOVE the questions that kids ask!

    • Sometimes all I can do is shake my head at some of the things she comes up with. often she reminds me of the old Art Linkletter ‘Kids say the darndest things”

  4. Ron
    Just wanted to say great post… I plan to pass this along to as many parents and kidmin folks as I can. I have shared much of the same ideas with many over the years. I think what we see being offered to us in Deuteronomy 11:19-21 is the same kind of encouragement that you are describing here. Thanks for what you do… keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Chip! There is no magic formula to making family ministry happen. It is very much Dueteronomy 11:19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
      Thanks for reading and sharing!

  5. Great post Ron. It’s so important to use every moment you can to teach your children about God.

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