Discipling Families Isn’t Optional: 4 Pillars of Church Family Ministry

How are you discipling families in your church? You may not have a formal family ministry, but having some sort of discipleship plan for parents and children isn’t optional.

In days like these, where churches, schools, and kids’ extracurricular activities aren’t operating like they used to, your families need discipleship and community more than ever.

After all, if people aren’t finding discipleship and community in your church, they’ll go somewhere else—like Facebook or Netflix. And while those things aren’t bad in themselves, they’re bad by themselves. Meaning, Facebook is a terrible disciplemaker (as evidenced by a quick scroll through the comments section).

However, there are lots of ways your church can grow in partnering with and discipling parents and children—and some of them take no time to start and sustain.

Take up the charge with these four practical, easy-to-apply pillars for your church’s family ministry:

1. Know the families in your church

You can’t personally minister to someone you don’t know. Period.

You and I both know that ministry isn’t one-size-fits-all. In every conversation, you’re talking to someone with a different story and struggles than you. But those differences don’t disqualify you from ministering to them—rather, they’re an invitation to witness God’s work in someone else’s life.

For example, look at Paul’s ministry. Throughout Acts and the Epistles, Paul clearly understood something about the people he talked to and customized his message to fit their setting (Acts 17 is a great example).

You don’t have to know every single thing about a person to offer pastoral care, but you should know at least some of the basics, such as

  • What was their childhood like? (You don’t need a full backstory—just a little detail about their home and family.)
  • Who’s in their family? (Specifically, spouse and children, but extended family can sometimes be relevant, too.)
  • What are some of the most formative events in their life?
  • In what areas are they struggling most? Where do they need help and/or encouragement?

Once you know those details about a member or family in your congregation, you’re responsible to remember them on behalf of your church. After all, a day may come when a family you know well needs pastoral care, and you’re not available. Do the others on your staff or leadership team know enough to offer specific care for the families in your church?

Servant Keeper church management software from Faithlife was built to help you and your leadership team know and minister to your congregation:

  • Notes. You can pop open your mobile app to jot down some notes after meeting up with someone in your church. It’s super easy to do, and you can set each note to be completely private (you only), or visible to other leaders in your church. 

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2. Communicate well

Now, communication may seem like a no-brainer to you, and I’ll be honest—a few years ago, I would have thought the same thing. But with technology moving so quickly, church communication is growing more complicated by the day (or so it seems).

Think about it:

  • When my grandparents were young parents, they kept in touch with their church through in-person announcements, mailers, print bulletins, and phone calls (remember rotary phones?).
  • In my parents’ day, churches started using websites and email on top of analog communications. What an advancement!
  • My generation has seen churches move away from analog printed pieces—some churches even flirted with churchwide texting services.
  • Today, churches are leaning more heavily on digital communications. Mailers are out; text messaging, church apps, QR codes, and social media are in. Some high school and college students even skip reading email entirely.

I can’t tell you which communication channels are right for your church. So much of that depends on who calls your church home.

But I can say two things:

  1. Communicating well is essential for church family ministry.
  2. Your church communication can unintentionally leave out certain groups of people. You can say you value diversity in age and ethnicity, but your actions may tell another story.

For churches to communicate well with everyone, you’ll need a multi-pronged strategy. There’s no silver bullet here. That means you’ll need to weigh all the options available (including printed items, mailers, email, texting, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.), and choose a few to focus on. You’ll want to make sure you’re reaching different groups with each platform. For example, if I were choosing which channels to focus on, I might pick email, texting, and Instagram, since those tend to connect with groups that overlap less.

3. Give them community

When parents in your church have questions, do you want them to go to Google or more experienced parents in your congregation? If we’re talking diaper rash cures, sure, Google will do. But what about when it comes to having “the talk” or answering kids’ never-ending questions about where God lives?

Wouldn’t you rather be the place where Christian parents in your area can share wisdom and encouragement?

For some churches, this looks like establishing a family ministry—and you’ll never hear me discouraging formal ministries inside the church. But that’s not an option for everyone due to capacity, budget, or ministry philosophy. However, you don’t have to run life-stage specific ministries to give parents a place to connect.

Instead, you can create an online group for parents and ask a couple of your most trusted members (who are also experienced parents) to be moderators. They can be the loudest voice when controversial issues come up or redirect unfruitful conversations, though if you set the ground rules early, there may not be much to do. (Those ground rules can cover things like being gracious toward others and respecting different opinions on matters of Christian freedom, like discipline and schooling methods.)

Depending on what serves your congregation best, you can create one group for all parents with kids in high school or below, or you could even have multiple, more focused groups like

  • Parents of preschoolers
  • Parents of kids with disabilities
  • Parents of teens
  • First-time moms
  • Homeschool parents

When you use Servant Keeper, you can set up groups for parents in your church who have kids at home. Or if you prefer, you can send segmented communications to parents with kids under 18. 

4. Equip them with biblical content

Do a quick exercise with me for a moment. Count up a rough estimate of the time you (and your kids) spend watching TV or reading books in a week. Then, estimate how much time in a week you and your family spend at church, reading the Bible or other Christian books, or watching edifying TV. Is it about the same for families in your church?

Now, I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m as bad about losing track of time on entertainment as anyone. But when we recognize how much more time we spend on secular entertainment than the things of God, we realize just what’s forming us.

If you spend 5 hours a day in front of a screen1 and 15 minutes in worship or Scripture, is it any wonder that God’s voice seems quieter than all the other noise?

But getting your family out of typical screen-time routines can be tough! After all, flipping on a TV is often a parent’s sanity-saver around dinnertime.

If you want to try reorienting your entertainment around the things of God, it’s best to start small. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes, “One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day, and then stack your new behavior on top.”2

That’s so true when it comes to a family’s TV and reading habits. Instead of guilting yourself into eating your vegetables (or switching all your media choices overnight), try reading a chapter of the Bible or a spiritually enriching book for every show you watch. And for the kids, you could add edifying, age-appropriate TV shows to the routine, such as Faithlife TV’s Bible Agent 7 or short courses on biblical topics.

There’s no life hack for training Christian families, but encouraging families in your church to create healthy Bible, TV, and reading habits is about as close as it gets.

***

While ministry to families takes work, it’s absolutely worth it.

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/10/29/survey-average-time-young-people-spend-watching-videos-mostly-youtube-has-doubled-since/
  2. Clear, James. Atomic Habits (p. 74). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
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Written by
Jennifer Grisham

Jennifer Grisham is a writer for Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software and other tools for churches. She previously served as director of administration at a church and managing editor and administrator for a ministry to worship leaders. Her work has been published by The Gospel Coalition, The Gospel Project, and Doxology & Theology, to name a few.

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Written by Jennifer Grisham