Ideas for Family Focus in Youth Ministry

Ideas for Family Focus in Youth Ministry

Bonnie and John Hebenton

Practical Strategies on How To Focus on the Family First

Ideas collected and collated by Bonnie and John Hebenton, Regional youth Facilitators, based in Mt Maunganui.Question: How can we get parents more involved in our youth ministry?

Answer: Let’ try another question. How can we make our youth ministry more connected with the lives of parents and families?

First step ideas

Know the make-up of the families you are in contact with. Collect some information by talking to the young people or by visiting their families. Record your finds so that you can see the diversity.Get to know the parents and families. A personal relationship in any ministry is the key to effectiveness. Build a rapport with parents and siblings and encourage them to feel you are in partnership together in youth ministry.

Discover the needs. Visit a range of families and discuss with them some of the issues and concerns that they are facing. Talk about some ways the church could offer support to them.

Find the gaps. Visit local community and government agencies to discover gaps in the services and resources for families in your area. Consider whether the church could help to fill some of the gaps.

Strategies for family ministry

1. A Program StrategyDevelop a long-term plan for involvement of families in the programs you run. For example:

Plan a family social event twice a year; maybe a picnic or dance or meal together.
Choose an all age Christmas pageant and invite families to be involved together.
Run youth group programs in the homes of members instead of based at the church site. Move around to different homes and involve the parents and siblings when it is at their place.

2. Christian Education StrategyMeet the needs of families by developing the education program of the church.

a. Establish a mobile video or book library or have one based at church.

b. Support and resource family faith discussions in the home.

c. Run two fun-and-learning camps during the year for all ages.

d. Develop an education time-slot where all ages go into groups for learning at the same time.

3. Family Crisis Strategy

Train members of the congregation, teenagers and adults, to deal with grief, loss and crisis situations.

Send in trained visitors when a family is in need. Develop a system of follow-up for at least 12 months after each crisis situation.
Start support groups for families in similar situations for defined periods of time.

4. Life-Stage StrategyFocus your family ministry on families experiencing transitions:

divorce/re-marriage/new step-siblings
students changing schools
entering the teenage years
leaving home

Provide two or three sessions on each relevant topic during the year for parents and/or young people to attend with others who are in the same situation. The most helpful discussions at times like these are for participants to share their own experience and to hear that they are quite ‘normal’.When we create an atmosphere that allows parents to address their immediate priorities, we’re laying the foundation to talk about faith and religious issues as well.

5. Family-time Strategy

In an age when many adults and young people are working long hours and 6-7 days a week, develop programs where families can spend quality time together rather than making the church another occasion to separate them.

Family clusters in homes for meals and games.
Parents versus children debates.
Families working together on mission or justice programs.
Family overnight retreats in small clusters.
Book out the local swimming pool after or before public hours, for a group of families to swim and have a meal.

6. Worship StrategyEncourage families to worship together. Model the principles of family worship when you worship together in a youth group or camp setting.

Remember that families are families, not little churches. The worship life of a family must be based on its everyday life, and not allowed to become a replica of church programs.

Use the natural features of the family to develop the style of worship. It may be reading, singing, being outdoors, dancing, doing crafts.
Celebrate days that are important to the family (not necessarily the days that the church considers important). You could use birthdays, passing exams, pets dying, moving house anniversaries. Add in some global days to broaden the horizons, e.g. Hiroshima Day.
Worship at a time that enhances family life, not impedes it. Be flexible.

Encourage families to honour each individual’s gifts and feelings and to take their developmental needs into account.Articles used:

Communicating Faith in Families, Cheryl Kristolaitis, 1990.
The Home Connection, Leif Kehrwald 1996.

Books Used:

Ministry with Families � what your church can do, Heather Busch, JBCE, 1993; Helping Families Care, James McGinnis, Institute for Peace and Justice, 1989.