When I first came to Oak Ridge there was only one other family with young children. As the leadership worked to rebirth the church, we made the strategic decision to focus our energies on reaching young unchurched families.
We believe that the key to community transformation lies in household reparation.
The fabric of our nation is families and the family is in trouble.
The average American family today is overextended in time and money. They live under the constant stress of over-committed schedules and under-resourced budgets!
All of this stress is taking its toll and the result is burnout at best and broken homes at worst.
As a church committed to bringing hope and healing to hearts and homes, we work hard to craft children’s and student ministries that operate on five foundational principles.
1. PROGRAMS CANNOT REPLACE PARENTS
We live in a culture of victimization that has bred a mindset of blame. If something goes wrong, it must be someone else’s fault. And in the case of children gone wrong, parents quickly identify blame. The schools failed them. The government failed them. The church failed them. If only our children’s and youth programs had been more (fill in the blank), then little Billy wouldn’t be rebelling and little Susie wouldn’t be pregnant. I know, let’s haul them across town to the newer, more popular church program! That’ll fix ’em! Right?
God did not ordain the church to be the primary spiritual leaders in the home. He ordained the parents to do that.
Churches do not exist to supplant. They exist to support.
Churches must design children’s and student ministries that provide parents with tools to lead their home.
2. CURRICULUM SHOULD BE STRATEGIC
Obviously every children’s and student ministry must be built on the Bible. The goal is to get God’s Word into their hearts for life.
However, it’s important that the right scripture is applied at the right time. “To everything there is a season.”
We believe that there are three basic curriculum stages:
- Birth through Elementary need to know all the Bible stories including the main characters.
- Middle Schoolers need to know what the Bible teaches about identity, purpose and biblical morals.
- High Schoolers need to know how to defend their faith.
Of course, this is a very broad sweep, but suffice it to say that it is imperative that churches know how to apply the timeless truths of scripture to the timely stages of development and growth.
3. THERE MUST BE A BALANCE OF FAITH AND FUN
The number one question parents ask their child/student when they pick them up from their class is not, “What did you learn?”
The number one question they ask is, “Did you have fun?” If the answer to that question is “No,” it’s basically game over.
Every church must work hard to find the balance between providing great theological content while delivering it in an entertaining package. Swing too far on either side and the program will bomb.
By the way, what kids think is “entertaining” changes nearly every year!
Churches that want to win the battle for the family will work hard to constantly provide powerful truths in playful containers.
4. THERE MUST BE A HOLISTIC APPROACH
It is critical that the family be thought of as a unit and not as silos. It’s far too easy to look at preschool, children’s ministry or student ministry as “what they do over there.” Family ministry is not childcare or activities to keep teens out of trouble. Family ministry is an age-graded strategy to inject Bible truth into every family member in order to build Christ-honoring homes.
It is imperative that children’s and youth ministries are working in sync to move the child towards adult ministry, not conditioning him to hate it.
It blows my mind when someone says, “Little Billy likes the main church service. How do we get him out of there and over to the kids/youth?” Please think through this. Little Billy might be in kids/youth ministry for 18 years, but the goal is to move him into “big church” where we hope he’ll spend the rest of his life. If he integrates early we consider that a win!
5. FAMILY MINISTRY MUST BE GOSPEL-CENTRIC!
Research has shown again and again that the longer a person is lost the more likely they are to stay that way.
Barna research group notes that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. One out of eight born again people (13%) made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old. Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their twenty-first birthday.
Every aspect of family ministry should be rooted in this one supreme goal – to lead every single young person to a life-changing decision for Jesus Christ!
If that is not the end game, then we are just playing church and not being the church.
Family ministry has the potential to be the most powerful engine of the church, but it doesn’t happen by accident. There must be a deep and deliberate commitment by the church to run to the front lines in the battle for the family.
We must invest our time, our energy and our dollars to the irreplaceable resource of our future.