Family ministry is one of the most powerful tools for outreach in congregations, because wanting the best for your family is one of the few universal feelings we share. It’s also one of the rare ideas that congregations share with our culture.
Brandon Metcalf, a student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, has extensive experience in shaping family ministry outreach. At Tell the Next Generation: A Family Ministry Conference, he led a session on family ministry outreach.
Metcalf says, “Someone may not yet want to go to Sunday morning worship, but if they’re worried about their kids and technology, and the church is putting on an event about that, well, that’s a way to get them in the door.” Similarly, many parents don’t attend Christmas Eve services, but they attend the pageant to watch their children perform.
In addition, Metcalf says family ministry is a valuable tool to reach an often hard-to-reach audience, inactive members. Many people become frustrated as members slide away from attending and participating in congregational life.
Because every congregation is serving a different community, there’s no one-size-fits-all programming suggestion or approach to family ministry. A lot of people have the misconception that to start using family ministry as outreach, they need to take on new programs. Instead, Metcalf recommends people simply ask themselves the following questions:
- Who haven’t we seen recently?
- Does anyone know them?
- Who can invite them to the next event?
- What do our members need to make an intentional invitation?
When it comes to promotion, Metcalf recommends a personal approach instead of a blanket approach, encouraging members to hand deliver post cards about an event or to personally share a Facebook event via messaging. He suggests asking everyone to take two postcards and intentionally consider who they’re going to invite.
This way, you can use the initiatives and events already on the calendar to draw people to and back to the congregation. At first, not everyone will do this, of course. It takes time to grow a culture of outreach and intentional invitations.
He says, “And when you’re reporting on successful events, be sure to highlight people who came because someone invited them. Celebrate the actions of people who are setting a good example. Tell everyone you had 100 kids enrolled in VBS, but then tell the story of the three families who came because of a personalized invitation.”
Once you’ve got parents and kids attending your programming, the next step is activating the parents and getting them further involved. This happens quite naturally with younger kids, as parents help children learn their lines or get ready for sports practice. However, there are plenty of opportunities for involving the parents of older kids, as well. One possibility is to encourage older kids to lead a devotional and invite parents. Like all other aspects of family ministry, it depends on the community you’re serving.