What to Look for in a Church: Fruitful Family Ministries
It’s no secret that family ministries matter when searching for a church.
According to Barna, “Nearly six in 10 highly engaged Christian parents say children’s programming is the primary reason they chose their current church (58%), proving that even though children may be small, they carry big weight when it comes to family decisions about where to worship.”
This makes perfect sense.
Multiple studies have shown that most individuals come to know Christ when they are children.
Ministry to Children reports:
- Two-thirds of Christians came to faith before the age of 18.
- Forty-three percent came to Christ before the age 12.
- Less than one-fourth of current believers came to Christ after the age 21.
Moreover, a significant number of those children come to Christ through the help of children’s ministry.
The same survey found, “29% of our readers said children’s ministry (or a children’s ministry leader) helped them come to Christ.”
To put it simply – family ministries (nursery, preschool, children, and student) matter!
You can tell a lot about a church from its family ministries. A healthy church is one that has healthy family ministries. Let’s talk about why.
A Healthy Children’s Ministry
Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ - Matthew 19:14
The church has a responsibility to share the gospel with all its members – including its youngest members.
Steve Chang writes for The Gospel Coalition, “One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen among those who have a heart for the lost is that they don’t see the children in their own church as lost. Every child, even the cute ones in our Sunday schools, needs the gospel. Our goal is not just to get the children into church, but into Christ. So if the church is to be missional, let’s be missional with those closest to us—the ones already within the church walls.”
If a church is passionate about reaching others but neglects the children, it’s missed the mark. Especially since we know most individuals come to know Christ as children.
So, what does this look like?
Children’s ministry will look different from one church to the next, but the goal should remain the same.
A healthy children’s ministry is focused on spreading the gospel and sharing the love of Jesus.
At South Bay Bible Church, we offer Kids’ Club for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. Kids' Club is a place where children are valued and where they have the capability of experiencing God in profound ways.
Whether it is through worship, lessons, games, or talking with the group, each week our children are leaning something new about God and being in His family. Our goal is to help parents lay a Godly foundation in their children's lives and show them the joy of knowing Jesus.
A Healthy Student Ministry
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6
After kids age out of an elementary-aged children’s ministry, there should be a student ministry in place. During the middle school and high school years, preteens and teens need guidance as they mature and grow in their faith.
A healthy student ministry provides a safe and fun environment where students get to learn more about God’s Word, one another, and themselves. It also provides a safe alternative for those who are not yet believers.
It’s difficult to navigate the world as a teenager these days. It wasn’t that long ago when I was a teenager. It was hard to figure out my way then, and it’s probably even more difficult for teens now.
Teenagers need a space to build healthy relationships, have wholesome fun, and develop their character according to God’s wisdom.
A Healthy Parenting Ministry
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Family ministry shouldn’t stop at the doors of the nursery or student center.
A healthy church equips parents to raise their children in Christ.
As Ministry to Children explains, “Every parent has the God-given privilege of teaching children how to live. We should not be surprised that young people often come to Jesus thanks to a loving mother or father.
- Parents were named by 50% of our readers as a help in their coming to Christ.
- Half of children who come to Christ are led by their parents.”
Therefore, it is critical for churches to equip parents with training and resources to help guide their children in their own homes.
Unfortunately, this is not a priority in many churches.
Ministry to Children reports, “Only 1 in 5 clergy say they prioritize training for parents, and even fewer provide parenting guides or other resources. This oversight means the most effective form of evangelism is simply neglected. Untold millions are spent on global outreach, but we fail to see that the great commission starts around the family dinner table.”
A healthy church will provide guidance on how to continue and reinforce the lessons kids learn in children and student programs at home.
Signs of Fruitful Family Ministries
If you are visiting a church, it may be hard to tell if there is a fruitful family ministry. For example, you may see a large, vibrant children’s ministry building and assume it is fruitful, but that may be like judging a book by its cover.
Instead, look for the following.
- Volunteers: Fruitful family ministries have active volunteers. They easily recruit and retain volunteers for their children and student ministry.
- Attendance: Fruitful family ministries will have regular attendance and experience a growth in attendance.
- Budget: Churches that prioritize family ministries will clearly budget for these ministries. You may notice the facilities have been kept up to date and they offer unique programs.
- Safe Environment: Safety is paramount for children’s ministries. There should be a clear safety plan in place to protect children.
- Welcoming and Inviting: Healthy churches are not only welcoming to adults – they are also welcoming to children. A great sign is a kid who is excited when you pick them up the first time and already looking forward to returning.
- Engagement: Fruitful family ministries are engaging. Volunteers and kids should be smiling, and you should hear laughter.