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3 Questions to Ask Before Planning A Family Ministry Event

3 Questions to Ask Before Planning A Family Ministry Event

As I’ve spent time with other children’s and youth ministry leaders over the years, I’ve noticed that the idea of “family” ministry has seen a resurgence amongst churches of various denominational backgrounds and sizes.  However, many peers in ministry (and you might be one of them) have been given the role of “Family Ministry” without being told what exactly that title means.

For many churches, the assumption is that, once someone is given the responsibility of “Family Ministry” they’ll simply run a couple “Family” events during the year and meet some sort of unspoken quota by which families will then feel cared for and invite their friends to the church.  Though family ministry is more than simply just running a couple picnics during the year for your congregation, it’s important to ask yourself 3 questions before planning a Family Ministry Event at your church.

1. Would a Dad want to Show Up?

I begin with this question as someone who has written and spoken at great length about reaching out to modern families and understanding that not all families have a father present in the home.  Also: not every dad is the same – offering an electronic shooting range during the event or a BBQ competition isn’t the simple answer to getting dads to show up.  It will take some time for your team to think about dads in your context and what kind of an event would draw their attention.  With that said, your most effective Family Ministry events will be ones where dads are excited about bringing their families.

When marketing a Family Ministry event, keep in mind that you’re often not marketing to the children in the family – they’re not the ones who will be driving the family there anyways.  Instead, parents are your primary audience and churches tend to struggle at creating events that husbands and fathers want to attend.  If you’re planning an event that you want the entire family to show up at and you cannot name why a dad would want to attend, you should start your planning over.

2. Why would a Family Bring a Friend to this Event?

Our churches should never be just for those who are already in attendance and our Family Ministry events should keep that idea in mind as well. Aside from thinking through how you’re going to equip families to invite their friends to your events, you should also be asking yourself why a family would want to invite their friends to attend with them.  If your events are announced in front of the congregation during your weekend services, consider naming this during that time – “This is a great event to bring your friends to because…”

If you’re unable to name why a family would want to invite a friend to your event, the answer might be closer than you think.  For some churches, large events provide a chance for visitors to spend some time at the church outside of a worship service as a first step into church life – attending a Back-to-School carnival is less intimidating for some neighbors than attending services on a weekend.  For others, Family Ministry events feature inspirational bands or speakers who can craft a message that offer families an encouraging word in the midst of busy and hectic lives.  Whatever your answer is – make sure that you can name why a family would want to invite a friend to your next event.  If they don’t know why they’d invite a friend, chances are that they won’t.

3. What’s the Next Step for a Family who Attends?

It’s easy for those of us in church work to feel as though we’re becoming cruise directors at times – we run so many events that it’s easy to forget that we’re actually in the business of seeing lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus.  So, before you plan your next event, consider what the next steps are for a family who attends.  Are you creating a clear path from that event into your next weekend worship gathering?  Do you have clear invitations available for parenting classes or small groups that you want to direct parents toward?

Every event that you host at your church should lead a family toward a next step in their journey of faith – even if that next step is simply to go home and have a discussion at bedtime that night about where they’ve seen God at work in their lives during the week.  However – families won’t know that’s your objective unless you’re intentional about what your goal is for each event that you host and what you want a family to do next after attending.

Though Family Ministry is SO MUCH MORE than running events, there is an expectation in many of our churches that we’ll run events for families during the year.  Because of that, it’s up to you to make sure that you’re answering the three questions you need to be asking in order for those events to be successful.

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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Thoughts

 

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Loving with a Broken Heart

empty table

Loving with a Broken Heart

Living with the echoes of a miscarriage

This post will go live on Valentine’s Day, but it could be written on any random day over the last few months.

I sat this morning, looking at my children, and my heart ached for the baby who’ll never sit in a Bumbo, a child who’ll never have chocolate smeared on her face, a little girl who will never have the chance to forget her Disney Princess lunch bag at school.  Our family of five has a sixth member who we’ll never meet and, on mornings like this, the feelings of loss that have slowly faded to the background of life come rushing forward in a moment that makes me catch my breath.  I miss the baby I never met.

It feels funny to write that last sentence.

(you can read more about how we’ve processed our story here: http://westcoastcm.com/?s=miscarriage)

Before our miscarriage, I could have never understood the way that losing a child hangs with you like a cloud on days like today.  I never understood why parents would buy into the myth that our lost children spend the rest of our days hovering over us as guardian angels.  Now I understand – there are days when it feels like there is literally something hanging over you.  It’s hard to explain.  If my understanding of Scripture and the historical Judeo-Christian understanding of angels didn’t get in the way of this belief, I’d consider buying in.  I blame Hallmark, Precious Moments and It’s a Wonderful Life for making this belief a popular option for mourning families.

For those of us in ministry, we need to go out of our way to make room for families who will find themselves mourning the loss of a child at random times.  If you’ve been impacted by the loss of a child, this isn’t news to you.  However, if you’ve never suffered through a miscarriage, still birth or loss of a young child, I’d encourage you to consider keeping tabs on The STILL Project.

I’d encourage you to watch the trailer below, and to say a prayer today for families who have an empty spot at their table today that could be filled by a child they’ve had to say goodbye to.

So, today, help me leverage our loss for the greater good.  God’s heart is for those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).  Share this post, or the video above.

Point people toward this post: http://meredithannemiller.com/2012/01/09/the-world-has-stopped/

Or read and share this post: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/12/miscarriage-fertility-and-my-broken.html

Or share your story.  Our communities need to speak openly about this topic.

Today, I’ll keep loving my wife and my kids, even as my heart breaks.  I’ll pick up my son from school.  Help coach a T-Ball team.  We’ll cuddle on the sofa later and watch Charlie Brown movies together.  The echoes of our miscarriage still bounce off the walls of my heart sometimes.

Thanks for listening in with me.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Partnering with Parents: Workshop Prezi

(pictured above, Westwood United Methodist Church)

Partnering with Parents

Workshop Prezi and LINKS

This weekend, I was asked to present a workshop on Partnering with Parents at a West Coast gathering for ministry leaders in the United Methodist Church.

Here’s the Prezi I used for the weekend’s presentation… which should look familiar because the content was very similar to what I presented in Chicago last Fall.

PREZI LINKOrange-ology: Turning Parents into Partners
(you’ll notice a shout-out to Orange in this workshop, because I wanted to pitch the Orange strategy to these leaders in a way that I felt would have been distracting at Kidmin)

Other posts related to this topic:

Reaching a New Generation of Families

http://westcoastcm.com/2011/10/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families/

Reaching a New Generation of Families: Redux

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/03/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families-redux/

Turning Parents into Partners: An Introduction

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/06/parents-into-partners-an-introduction/

Parents into Partners: Strategy #1

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/06/parents-into-partners-strategy-1/

Casting a Vision for Partnership

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/08/casting-a-vision-for-partnership/

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Kidmin, Resources

 

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Hiring: A Partner for our Family Ministry Team

Image

Hiring: A Partner for our Family Ministry Team

Job Description (and feel free to share this post!)

You may or may not have been reading this blog when I posted this:
http://westcoastcm.com/2010/05/17/top-10-reasons-i-want-you-on-staff/

Context: You see, a good friend of mine had left our family ministry team and I knew that only the right person could fill the gap left in our ministry team.  Our church was in the midst of restructuring in such a way that we could strategically partner with parents of kids, cradle to college, to pass the faith on to the next generation.

And, because Jesus knows what he’s up to, we hired the only person who could have filled the position we created.

Now, a few years later, we are looking to add another person to our team.

Earlier this year, our Middle School Director got married.  That life-transition led him to begin interviewing at churches so that he and his new wife could take on a bigger role at a place that was looking at doing some of the same creative things in ministry that we’ve been doing to reach families in our community.  Hard to blame him – 7 years ago, I did the same thing.  I’m stoked (and a little sad) to say that he found an amazing fit out in Colorado, where he’ll be able to help lead that church in a direction that’s a little more Orange than it’s been.

So… we’re hiring.

The job description is here:
http://www.glenkirkchurch.org/page3-52/ResourcesJobopportunities

We only hire people who are passionate about partnering with families, who are innovative in ministry and have a track record of building teams who pass the faith on well to the next generation.

If that’s you (or you know someone who fits that description), let me know.  You can send me a message on Facebook (HERE) or Twitter (HERE) or leave a comment below and I’ll put in a good word for you 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Orange

 

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Parents into Partners: Strategy #1

Parents into Partners: Strategy #1

Be Like-able

Partnering with parents in your church often begins with your heart; before any strategy is put in place, there has to be a relational bridge between you and parents in your community if you hope to partner with them in ministering to their children.  If the phrase “partnering with parents” makes you roll your eyes, you’re going to need to get your own heart into the right place before you try to launch a new partnering initiative.

People help who they like

In general, when they have a choice, people choose to spend time with people they like.  Consider what it might do to your attendance numbers, or at least the frequency of a family’s attendance, if the volunteers and staff in your children’s ministry made the top of a family’s “favorite people” list.

Think back to your years on the playground as a child.  If you had the choice to play a game with other kids, you probably would choose to be on a team with someone who was a good teammate, right?  The last person kids on the playground want on their team is the child who goes around tripping everyone or the one who decides that they can win on their own and ignores the rest of the team.  Friends, if you want to partner with parents, work hard to be someone who is fun to play alongside.

Think about the last time your family had a bad/unhappy/unfriendly waitress at a restaurant – most people, when given the chance, would try to get a different waitress the next time they went out.  And, seriously friends, we have something better to offer than any waitress at any restaurant in your town – don’t let your attitude or friendliness get in the way of a family choosing to come back next weekend.

Leverage social media: be a person

Because I go out of my way to leverage social media, I know that some parents from my church (my pastor’s wife included) read this blog.  With that said, I kind of feel like writing what I’m about to write is like walking out to take the garbage to the curb and realizing I forgot to change out of my pajamas.  Just because there are moments of my life when I wear Guitar Hero shorts, my neighbors don’t need to see what goes on behind the scenes.  However, because they are not my primary audience in this space, I’m going to share some thoughts on how I’ve helped them learn to like me over the last few years.

I work hard to be a face that families care about and one of the most effective ways I’ve found in helping families learn to like me is by leveraging The Facebook.  My wife and I stay in constant dialogue about what we reveal via social media and, typically, transparency wins out over privacy.  We often ask ourselves, “is this a part of the story of our family?” If it is, then we share it.  If it’s something divisive (political views, posts of judgement, complaints about people in leadership) then we back off from posting those thoughts.

This week, for example, a young teacher at my son’s school told me that she’s been praying for my son and was thrilled to see the picture of his cast getting removed that I posted to instagram.  This teacher went on to tell me, during a 50 second conversation, that this was the first thing she’d prayed for since someone she loved lost their battle with cancer three years ago.  Families in our community are watching our story as it unfolds and are finding moments along the way where they relate to us and engage our story.

This is more than just making a space online for parents to see your church events (people engage with and relate to faces more often than logos) – it’s a place for families to get to know your face and your story in such a way that they begin to like you.  It’s not being manipulative as long as you make sure that being authentic is a high value of yours.

Return phone calls and emails

This one is (mostly) for the youth pastors in the room.  But I’ll let the children’s ministry folks in the room listen in.  Parents will not partner with you if they cannot get a hold of you.  Partnership is a two way street – if you send out weekly or monthly emails to families in your church, you better read and respond to emails that families send to you.  If you want families to call you in times of need, you better return their phone calls when they call your office and leave a voicemail.  Boundaries are important, don’t get me wrong.  I often tell families that I don’t look at my phone between the hours of 6pm and 8pm every night because my family owns that time.  Just keep in mind that families who cannot get a hold of you will be less likely to partner with you.  It’s as simple as that.

Smile. Often.

If you hate The Facebook, or can’t stand listening to voicemail, there’s still an easy first step that you can take this weekend as you begin trying to partner with families.  Smile.  Often.  I have a friend who, when she relaxes her face, makes a frown.  It’s not because she’s upset – it’s just how her face works.  I’ve watched other parents avoid conversations with her when she’s letting her kids play on the playground because they don’t want to engage the angry person.  If you have a face that easily looks angry, stressed or sad, you may have to work harder at smiling when you see people on a Sunday morning (even though you’re tired, your rooms weren’t set up right, a child just threw up in the toddler room and the women’s toilet in the bathroom is clogged with purple playdough).

This doesn’t give you an excuse to be fake.  I’ve had a hard couple weeks as a person and I’m willing to share that with people who ask how I’m doing.  At the same time, I find joy in the ministry that I’m called to and I make it a point to share that joy with others.  If people like seeing you, they’re more likely to talk to you.  And, as I’ll write in a later post in this series, it’ll be hard to get parents to take the next step toward engaging in a partnership with you if they don’t talk to you.

So, smile this weekend.  And give a parent in your ministry a high five.

This is part of a series of posts on serving families in our communities.  To see the notes and slides that go with this series, visit: http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/03/turning-parents-into-partners/

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Kidmin12, Thoughts

 

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Parents into Partners: An introduction

Parents into Partners: An introduction

Serving a NEW GENERATION of Families

When talking about Family Ministry, we first have to admit that the modern family looks a whole lot different than our culture told us that it should look 50 years ago.

I’ve posted this video before, but it’s worth watching again, as we consider what it looks like for the church to serve and reach out to the modern family:

And, if that was how your neighbors thought of the definition of family in 2010, consider what this clip says about what they might now consider the “new normal”:

One of the tag-lines for this new show should cause you to stop and consider what it looks like to effectively minister to families in your community:

You don’t have to be related to be family – different is the new normal

So, let’s consider, as we begin to think about how to best partner with parents in passing the faith on to the next generation, that we’re not dealing with the Beavers anymore (that is, if we ever thought we were actually dealing with perfect families).  Instead, we are called to serve single parents, guardians, neighbors with an extra seat in the car, teens who bring their younger siblings to church, adoptive & foster parents, and couples in your congregation who are struggling with infertility.  Consider what it looks like to partner with the hardest family situations in your ministry.

It’s with that frame of mind that we move forward.

It’s for families who most need the grace of Jesus that we’re called to share the Gospel.

This is part of a series of posts on serving families in our communities.  To see the notes and slides that go with this series, visit: http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/03/turning-parents-into-partners/

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Kidmin12, Thoughts

 

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Teen Leaders in KIDMIN

Teen Leaders in KIDMIN

Notes from my #kidmin12 workshop

This workshop examined best practices and next steps for getting teen helpers involved in children’s ministry at your church. From getting your youth pastor in your corner to a how-to guide for getting teens to serve in your ministry, learn how to take your children’s programs to the next level by effectively integrating teen leaders onto your team.

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Later next week, I’ll begin posts that correspond with each slide in this presentation.  If you were at Kidmin and attended my breakouts, these slides and notes will make perfect sense.  For those of you who were unable to be there… well, this post, like my last post, won’t be nearly as helpful as the ones that are going to follow.

You may also enjoy these posts:

To be a Leader
http://westcoastcm.com/2009/07/05/to-be-a-leader/

VBS Youth Training Recap
http://westcoastcm.com/2009/07/03/vbs-training-recap/

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Kidmin12, Resources

 

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