by Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International
I was early for second service recently. Approaching the patio entrance to the sanctuary, I was greeted by a family – mom, dad, and two young, school-aged kids. What a delight to accept their welcome. Looking around the sanctuary as the worship music began, I noted a few whole-family units sitting together, the children joining in as the first praise song began. And, the children didn’t leave just before the sermon, either. Some of the older ones were taking notes on what the pastor had to say.
I attend a church that has a significant percentage of active senior citizens in its membership, so it did this grandmother’s heart good to see children in the main stream of church life, too, both as participants and in service. Kids are making a difference, and it would appear the leadership believes, not only in their value to the Body, but in the value of the family unit as well.
Many years ago, when our four kids ranged in age from three to thirteen, we spent a summer in the south of England. We attended a vibrant church that had a family service. The six of us did our part in filling up a row, but I noted that, in some cases, a whole row was taken up by one family, starting off with the grandparents and ending with a baby buggy parked at the opposite end of the row. In that case, all participants in the service ministered in a lively, simplified manner, obviously aware that many in the service were youngsters. We loved it.
I’ve read comments that Sunday morning is a very segregated time for American church goers – segregated by age. Many good reasons are given for this, but I’m happy when evidence exists that in some churches children remain within their family structure when they attend church. This is closer to the model found in the book of Acts where the church was a cluster of extended family groups who worshiped within homes during the week and joined together on Sunday for the Apostles’ teaching.
Perhaps our kids would be less likely to leave the church when they reach adolescence, if they participated more fully in the life of the church from a very young age. And, blessed, indeed, is a church with leaders who understand the strategic value of the Christian home and design ministries that enable their families to be spiritually healthy. I would recommend finding a church that does these four things:
- ACKNOWLEDGES the presence of family units within the larger Body of believers,
- HONORS families, giving encouragement and emotional support to parents,
- DISCIPLES families with teaching resources and counsel,
- MOBILIZES families to serve the Savior within the church – to reach out within their neighborhoods – to participate in God’s global Kingdom expansion.
Each of my bullet points above could be expanded into a separate conversation. Let me just end with some ways I’ve seen children/ family groups serve Jesus and make a difference in their church.
- Invite whole families to participate in work days or projects of a practical nature.
- Prepare the elements for communion. Might families participate in serving communion, depending on how a church observes this?
- Support families who take in foster children. Support families who adopt children…who have special needs kids.
- Family groupings take turns participating in the preliminaries of the church services.
- Family gardens in spring/summer with a fall harvest festival.
- Adopt a grandparent/grandchild program.
- Special time to bless students/teachers in the fall.
- Encourage each family to “adopt” a missionary supported by the congregation. Change assignments each year.
- Equip family units to serve together in local outreach ministries.
Large churches often have a pastor of family life. Smaller congregations can recruit some members to serve on a family council to plan and implement effective strategies that bless the families in the church and equip them to be a blessing.
Joshua 24:15 – But, as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!