In a recent conversation with a friend who is also a pastor, I explained the vision behind our company Family Ministry Tools. I told this friend how we create resources to help churches equip their families to have faith conversations at home. He nodded his head in approval and said, “I have always said that discipleship begins at home.”
Pastors and church leaders agree that discipleship starts at home. The Message translation of Deuteronomy 6:6-8 gives us some practical parenting advice, “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” We all agree discipleship in the home is important, but what specific actions can a church take to actually help parents “get them [God’s Word] inside of you and then get them inside your children.” Here are some practical suggestions.
Provide parenting classes and support groups. There are many great parenting for faith resources available. You might offer the wonderful and free online Parenting for Faith course. This course from Rachel Turner helps parents discover that they are perfectly positioned to show their children the reality of a life with God and empowers them to have their own vibrant two-way relationship with him. There are also many resources for parenting support groups. These types of groups allow parents to support, encourage and pray for one another.
Provide home discipleship resources. Even if a family comes to worship every weekend, that is only an hour or two a week. On average the church has roughly 40 hours to invest in the lives of the children in any given year. Parents, on the other hand, have 3,000 hours to influence their kids in a year. Churches must find ways to equip and encourage their parents to disciple their children at home.
- Family Ministry Tools creates interactive, fun, and Biblically sound resources such as Advent in a Box and Lent in a Box to help families have faith conversations at home. These boxes include all-age devotions, hands on activities and interactive prayer activities. Everything a family needs to do the various activities will be in the box (aside from normal household supplies). Your church purchases a download with all the devotions, activities and detailed instructions for creating the boxes and then your church prints the materials, buys the supplies, and packs the boxes.
- Create a lending library. There are many great Bibles and books for children that our parents may not know about or have the resources to buy. Create a lending library with not only a selection of your favorite story Bibles such as the Action Bible and the Shine On Story Bible, but also a selection of high quality books such as Easter Love Letters from God, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing and the Christian Heroes Then and Now book series. You could also create story bags that families could check out. These bags are filled with resources to help families dig into various Bible stories together. Flame Creative Children Ministry has many wonderful suggestions for creating story and prayer bags.
Provide intergenerational opportunities. Our children learn from seeing our faith modeled. Does your church provide your families opportunities to worship, grow and serve together?
- Messy Church, a movement which began in England 15 years ago and has grown to over 4,000 Messy Churches worldwide, is one way to give people of all-ages an opportunity to worship, grow and even play together. At a Messy Church gathering you explore a biblical theme through hands-on creative activities, a short worship celebration of story, song and prayer and conclude at a table sharing a meal.
- It is challenging to find projects where all ages can serve together in a meaningful way. Rise Against Hunger has a goal to wipe out hunger by the year 2030. At their food packing events all-ages can work together to pack meals which are to sent to those in need all around the world.
Are these ideas worth the investment of time and money? Carey Nieuwhof, pastor and author, says “The more you prioritize families, the more families will prioritize Sundays.” Consider what steps your church could take to show your families and community how invested you are in their faith development!