“Family Ministry” has recently become a very popular term in the realm of the Church, with definitions that range from one extreme to the other. In some settings it is defined as age-level ministries for children, youth and their parents/guardians, or equipping parents to tackle their role as primary faith formers in the home.

While children, youth and their parents/guardians are a vital part of this definition, the healthiest approach to family ministry is to intentionally involve and bring together all generations to help lead children and teenagers to know and follow Jesus Christ. This does not mean that age-level programming ceases to exist, but that these ministries no longer operate as separate programs within a church. There is intentional connection and planning to connect these ministries to the whole life of the church, the entire congregation becomes more aware, invested and involved in the discipleship process of all generations, and discipleship resources for ALL generations are provided so that faith development continues outside of the church.

Family ministry is not a new program or a simple adjustment of existing programming. It is a complete shift in the culture of how we make, connect and nurture young disciples of Jesus Christ. It requires everyone - young and old - to commit to learning and growing together. Family ministry looks a lot more like ancient church than what we typically imagine. It is about connecting people to Jesus through personal relationships that nurture faith development.

Imagine with me the possibilities…

  • All generations - young and old - working together to grow in their faith.
  • A focus on mentoring and reverse mentoring.
  • Bringing people together to celebrate God’s work in our lives.
  • A church calendar that truly connects people, instead of divides people.
  • A ministry plan that equips young children and youth to be leaders and learners in the local church.
  • Multigenerational discussions to equip each person to articulate their faith.
  • A safe setting for all generations to come together to serve God throughout their communities and the world.
  • A connection to the Church (not just your church) that lasts beyond youth ministry years.
  • A culture of connectivity that creates an environment of excitement and vibrancy that impacts all ministries.

Can you imagine the impact this would have on your church - on The Church?

I realize that many people in the pews of our INUMC churches have been rather disconnected from youth and children’s ministry, and that many of you are probably thinking family ministry is something that would never fly in your setting. Since this is a major cultural shift, it will take intentional resourcing and focus to help leaders make this necessary shift in the culture of their congregation. I am both excited and committed to walking alongside our INUMC leaders to begin to transform the way we reach and connect all generations for Jesus!

I am also excited to announce three new resources for churches wanting to begin their Family Ministry Journey:

  1. Merge Family Ministry Conference – 5/29-30/15 – This two-day conference will take place alongside Annual Conference to equip lay and clergy leaders in the areas of family, youth and children’s ministries. We have an exciting lineup of nationally respected speakers. Please plan to send a team of people from your church! (More information can be found at www.inumcconnect.org.)
  2. Family Ministry Cohorts – This yearlong program will provide in-depth training and coaching to help build effective family ministries. Through quarterly training days, personal coaching, guided reading and an on-site workshop, this program will equip your staff and lay team to build an effective family ministries plan in your setting. This program has been designed by the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church to help churches produce healthy, sustainable ministries to young people by strengthening the adult and students leaders within their congregation, designing a ministry plan, and growing congregational support. It is not a cookie cutter approach, but rather one designed to build systems and processes within each ministry at each church’s optimal level. (For more information, email helene.foust@inumc.org.)
  3. Family Ministries Facebook Group – This group has been created to bring people together to share ideas and resources regarding children, youth and family ministries. We have already experienced a great amount of sharing and look forward to even more in the future. (Search “INUMC Family Ministry” on Facebook to join the group.)

I hope you will join me in prayer as we begin the hard work to connect all generations to grow in their relationships with Jesus and each other! This is a game changer and I can’t wait to see the impact this will have on the Kingdom as we work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!