The Family-Equipping Model might be called The Family-Friendly
Departmental Model, Version 2.0. This model contains every feature
of the Family-Friendly Model with two important innovations.
First, all ministries that impact families are organized into a
single team. This team works to make sure all departments
communicate a single parenting strategy to all the families of the
church. The team also works to guarantee they aren't exhausting
families with excessive programming.
Second, the church presents a single and simple parenting strategy
to all families across all departments and through multiple
Strengths This model empowers families to own the
spiritual leadership of their children. At the same time, it
accommodates families who "don't fit the mold."
Weaknesses This model requires a high amount of
ministry alignment between all departments. If your church has
separate departments that operate as independent silos, your first
task isn't building your family ministry; it's building a
Final Assessment The Family-Integration Model
stresses the family as the sole faith influencer of children. The
Family-Equipping Model strikes a balance: Parents are God-ordained
as the primary champion for developing vibrant faith in their
children, and the church is an empowering co-champion.
• • •
Armed with this comprehensive guide to the various family ministry
models, you're ready to determine what'll work best in your church.
Begin by studying your church's culture, and watch as you assist
families in their spiritual growth. You'll be helping families grow
in faith in no time.
FAMILY EQUIPPING MODEL: 3 APPROACHES
One popular strategy many churches use is to attempt to unite
families around common curriculum. Working within the traditional
age-segmented Sunday school model, all the children in the family
study the same Scripture in their separate classes. The
presentation of that lesson is adapted for the developmental level
of each family member. Some curricula go as far as offering adult
Sunday school classes where parents study the same Scripture as
their children. All of these curricula supply take-home resources
for parents to lead faith conversations in the home.
Strengths A common curriculum makes the task of
continuing the faith conversations that started at church much
simpler. Imagine having four children who learned three different
Bible lessons at Sunday school. You'd need an organizing system
just to keep the faith conversation straight. A common curriculum
lets a parent talk to all children at the same time, and each child
is able to add a unique perspective.
Weaknesses Some Bible lessons are more teachable
to older children than younger. Some curricula attempt to walk
entire families chronologically through the Bible. This means that
tough Bible teachings like "The Stoning of Stephen" have to be
adapted for 2-year-olds when exposure to this particular lesson
could wait several more years.
A second strategy is to host shared family worship experiences.
This model draws from the Disney approach of creating compelling
experiences that appeal to parents and children.
Churches that use this strategy create an extravagant and fun hour
of worship, learning, and drama that engages the entire family.
Quality worship and drama teams pull families in and teach a Bible
truth, which, if applied, has the potential to strengthen everyone.
When the experience is over, the parent is given enough take-home
resources to continue the faith conversation at home until the next
Strengths Having a shared experience helps parents
bridge the "What'd you learn at church today?" question because the
family was together. The high-energy shared experiences are
momentum-builders that can elevate the value of children's and
family ministries in the church.
Weaknesses It takes a lot of time, financial
resources, and volunteers to pull off these events with regularity
and keep the excellence level high. With the "show" aspect of this
shared experience, families rarely-if ever-have an opportunity to
share a conversation, which would be a great addition to this
model. Some churches struggle to find a common time where most of
their families are free to attend these productions.
A third strategy within the Family-Equipping Model is to unite
families around common faith milestones. There are a handful of
times during the raising of children where families have high
interest in spiritual input (Baby Dedication, Bible Presentation,
Preparing for Adolescence, to name a few.) At these strategic
junctures, the church provides families with training and
celebrations to help parents lead their children through these
Strengths This strategy acknowledges how families
are different, and at the same time, enables the family ministry to
position itself to provide aid at the time of greatest need. This
model capitalizes on the times that parents are most open to
training-right before a milestone celebration. The milestone
strategy is sustainable and won't burn out parents. It helps
parents catch a vision for parenting over the long haul.
Weaknesses Vision dwindles and needs to be
replenished every 30 days. However, the milestones are years apart
from each other. Pastors who use this strategy will need to
consider additional means of keeping the vision for spiritual
parenting in front of parents. cm
Larry Shallenberger is a pastor in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the
author of Divine Intentions (Victor Books). Visit him at larryshallenberger.com.