We all know that parents are meant to be the primary spiritual developers in their child's lives and the church is there to partner with them.
When I say "church" I'm not talking about you as the ministry leader, I'm talking about the whole church body. Your congregation is a part of your family and they all play a role in partnering to raise children up in their faith.
When we look back to the time of Jesus (or even just a century or two), families were different than we would picture them today as just the parents and their children.
The community of Israel had the collective responsibility to train up children. Yes, the primary responsibility was typically the parent but aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and neighbours all played a key part in raising children.
Did you ever wonder why it took so long for Mary and Joseph to notice Jesus was missing on their way home from Jerusalem when Jesus was 12? For one, 12-year-olds had a lot more independence then but also, Jesus' parents figured he was with other travellers. Communities back then were tight-knit and all looked out for each other.
To encourage this in your church community, you need a strategy. Steps that can take parents and bring them in partnership with the church so together they can raise Godly children.
The most common form of this is typically referred to as a Baby Dedication. Whether you call it baby, child, or parent dedication, the essence is still there. It's a moment where parents come before God and their community to commit to raising their child up to become like Jesus. The church community also commits to coming alongside the parents to help them in raising their children. You cannot forget this second element. The church community is crucial in raising children. As the saying goes, "it takes a village to raise a child."
Dedication services can be during your typical service or a totally separate event. And who says they only have to happen once per child. This could be a yearly event to help the church refocus on the priority of your family ministry.
Check back here again for a post on how to facilitate a dedication service.
Small groups are a great place for parents to learn from other parents and for children to really get to know other adults in your church. Have small groups that are more than just a Bible study, but have a foundation on relationship and community.
Have your small groups go through studies on spiritual parenting to help strengthen them as the primary spiritual leaders. Also, provide opportunites for them to gain support and insight from other parents. Check out a couple parenting studies here.
Another great tool for parenting communities is Facebook Groups. Make a group dedicated to parents. It can be a place for them to ask questions to other parents, share resources and highlight their ups and downs of parenting.
After establishing a great foundation with small groups, the next layer is large group gatherings. These could be during your regular weekly gathering or separate events, or sometimes both. These events are for the whole family. They engage and involve everyone. Check out these options on how to have a family service.
Have parents and children volunteer together at your church. Getting children involved in the life of the church and in places where people can see them shows your community that you value children and demonstrates that we are all in this together.
Mark the parenting milestones in your church community with memorable moments. Celebrations are important and creating these powerful moments bring people closer together and leave lasting memories for everyone. Make your dedication service a BIG DEAL. Have invitations, food, balloons, confetti, a smoke machine, bouncy castles, t-shirt cannons, and special musical guest Lauren Dangle! Maybe not quite that big; but go big for these milestones.
Celebrate when your children make their commitment to follow Jesus and when they get baptised. Make their transition to elementary, middle and high school super special with a blessing ceremony. And don't forget high school graduation!
All these things could be (and usually are) celebrated with just the immediate family. That's a good place to start, but if we are to raise children as a church family we should celebrate as a church family.
Implementing these four areas into your family ministry framework is a great place to start to implement the value of parents as the primary spiritual leaders with the church family partnering with them.
Some additional ideas to add to your family ministry framework