We know that strong families build strong churches. And we know that parents have far more impact than we do—whether positive or negative—on their kids’ faith development. Alone, these two facts should compel us to invest more time and talent in preparing parents to be ministers in their own homes.
Listen, I know what many of you are thinking: “I have a hard time getting parents to help with anything in my youth program. What makes you think they’ll do anything extra to nurture their kids’ faith at home?” Well, maybe we’re giving parents the wrong responsibilities in our ministries. God has already called parents to be the primary faith nurturers for their children and teenagers. I believe they want and need your help to be successful at their God-given job.
So dream a little with me. Can you see moms and dads teaching the faith, having fun, serving, and building solid biblical values into their teenagers’ lives? I can. Think of yourself as a parent trainer, and think of parents as your students. What could be better than trained youth ministers (parents) in every church home?
We’ve used the following three ideas in our church, and I know they work. So open the door to a dream and give these activities a try.
A Grocery Scavenger Hunt
The church can empower families to work and grow together in faith and life around everyday, home-based tasks such as grocery shopping.
Here’s how it works:
Goals: (1) To bring the family together to get the week’s family grocery shopping done in less than an hour from start to finish; (2) To give teenagers an opportunity to learn a life skill so they’ll learn stewardship principles; and (3) To have fun while getting the work done.
Getting Started: Invite parents to a meeting at church to share the idea with them. Create training and resource handouts. Build a devotion around this verse from the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Tell parents how important life-skill training is for their kids. Offer pointers on getting kids excited about doing this activity as a family. Offer do’s and don’ts for working on projects with teenagers.
What to Do: Have someone in the family compile the grocery list and divide it so each family member has a portion. The list should be generalized whenever possible. For example, we simply list six cans of vegetables instead of two cans of corn, two cans of peas, and two cans of beans. This way, shoppers can choose their favorites. It makes for interesting eating. Everyone should understand the family’s budget for groceries.
When the family returns home, and after they’ve stowed the groceries, have them celebrate with a special treat as they talk about their shopping adventure. Starter questions can include: What surprised you most? What was the best deal of the trip? What did we learn about shopping? What would it feel like if we had only half as much money to spend? What would we do without?
Someone should read aloud a Bible passage; then the family should pray for each other and thank God for his provision.
The hardest task is setting a time when all are available. After 9 p.m. works with our teenage daughters—that’s when the stores are almost empty.
A Home-Style Service Project
The church can empower families to serve others together. Here’s one way:
Goals: (1) To create family memories; (2) To teach biblical truths about Christian service; (3) To have fun; (4) To create opportunities for teaching life skills; and (5) To provide teenagers with opportunities to see their parents live out their faith as role models.
Getting Started: Recruit a family that has done a service project together to tell their story at a kickoff pizza party.
What to Do: Have parents and teenagers gather at church to make pizzas (have the ingredients available, but parents and teenagers should work together to make their own pizzas.) Have the family you recruited tell their service story to give families a vision for home-centered service. After the story, begin a Servant Bible Study that families will finish at home. Have a list of home-based service-project ideas available for families to pick from, and make sure you provide them with worksheets and other resources to pull off the ideas they choose. Potential ideas for your list include:
- At Home-cleaning one room, raking leaves, washing windows, cleaning gutters;
- At Church-cleaning pews, raking leaves, folding bulletins; Invite teenagers into an epic adventure with Jesus. Check out Pierced: The New Testament today!
- In the Community-adopting a nursing home resident, doing work tasks for an elderly church member or neighbor, volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank.
Set a pizza-party date two or three months later so families can gather to tell about their service projects. Ask them to bring photos and videos.
You can use home-based worship to help families discuss their faith and grow together spiritually. Here’s how to do it:
Goals: (1) To get families talking about God together at home; and (2) To help parents assume their primary role as the teachers of the faith.
Getting Started: Invite families to a special Worship Together service at your church. The service should emphasize the importance of worshiping together as a family. Then challenge families to try this idea.
What to Do: Have each family member make a special invitation for each person in the home to attend worship together and have a special meal together afterward. Give each family member a list of things to evaluate during the worship service; for example, friendliness of those around you, the music, the message, the way other children and adults are behaving, how child- or teenager-friendly the service is, and so on.
At the meal after the service, families should discuss their findings using these ground rules: (1) No family member may evaluate another’s findings; and (2) When one family member is talking, all others must listen.
Ask the families who try this idea to list their findings so you can share them with the church staff.
Ben Freudenburg is a family minister in Missouri, and the subject of our July/August 1995 cover article on family ministry.
Principles of Family Ministry Activities
Remember these tips for each activity you plan:
- Prior to the activity, gather interested parents to give them directions and training. Start small-three families who’ll give it a try is a great beginning.
- Your goals are to support the home as the primary agency for faith formation and to help parents be more involved in passing on their faith to the next generation. Work to make the home the primary place of ministry.
- Either you or your staffers should followup the activity with a call or visit to each home that participated. Explore what kids and parents learned and affirm their efforts.
- Tell families they’re participating in a pilot project for GROUP Magazine. If their activity works, and they send GROUP their story, it may get published. (Send the ideas to: “Family Ministry Ideas,” GROUP Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80538.)
- Make sure you provide written resources to help parents on their way-worksheets, discussion questions, home Bible study materials, and so on. You’re probably preparing these materials already for other church activities. Simply adapt them for the home with parents as leaders.