As you may know, we’ve been testing a new service model that we’re calling our Family Service. It’s a 30-minute experience with worship, a bible memory verse, and a lesson (typically a skit or object lesson). So far, it’s been a great experience; but some people have raised the question “why are we doing this?” I wanted to offer a few thoughts about why we’re prioritizing our Family Service:
1. It’s a place for multiple generations to worship together
Typically in churches, we segment generations away from each other. We have ministries like the nursery, preschool, elementary school, “pre” youth group, middle school, high school, college ministry, young adults, new families, life groups, empty nesters, retirees and finally senior ministry (sorry if I missed anyone). In many ways, it’s good to have groups broken out this way. There are different levels of comprehension at different ages. At times there might be a sensitive topic that would be hard for young ears to digest properly. Friendships are often built more easily with those that are close to us in age. The problem with dividing people up like this is that it doesn’t show up anywhere in the Bible. In fact, there’s strong biblical evidence that Jesus desires different age groups to be together. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus’ followers try to stop a group of children from coming to Jesus. Jesus says to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” There’s also an implied warning against one generation not investing in the other. Judges 2:10 says, “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.”
We believe it’s important that generations get the opportunity to worship together and the Family Service creates that environment. Certainly, families are welcome as an entire unit in either our other Sunday services and many families engage that way. But having a service that is completely dedicated to intergenerational worship has brought people together even more effectively as we’ve tested it.
2. It’s a large worship environment for kids
About a year ago, we went through a journey as a leadership team. We read a book called “Simple Church” by Thom Rainer which points to the strong research surrounding churches that are intentional with their programming and how those churches tend to thrive compared to churches that are less intentional. This sparked a conversation at both the staff and board level about the way we do what we do. After several months of work, we discovered that we weren’t being as intentional as we needed to be and we decided to make some changes.
One objective we identified was the need for everyone to have the opportunity to worship in a large corporate environment. For both our adults and our students, that’s not a problem since we have large weekly gatherings for both groups (Sunday morning for adults, student ministry on Wednesday nights). However, our kids from birth through elementary school were left out. The Family Service is not a kids service; however, it does “scratch the itch” we identified for the need for a large environment in that age group.
3. It’s a place to equip parents
In the New Testament book of Ephesians, Paul lays out the roles of leaders in churches. In Ephesians 4:12 he says, “their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work.” in other words, as church leaders our job is to give you the tools to do ministry in the context God has put you in. If you have a family, that is at least one context God has put you in. Ministry to our families is one of the most important things God asks us to do.
We’re creating an environment with tools parents can use with their children to help them grow spiritually. We use excellent worship songs, Bible memory verses, and a clear object lesson that is applicable to both parents and kids. The goal is that kids and parents could engage in dialogue as they unpack the lesson throughout the week and work on the memory verse together. Our plan is to continue to add more tools in the future to allow parents to more successfully lead their families closer to Christ through the Family Service.
4. It’s a place for young families to connect with each other
My brother and his family live in a suburb of Chicago. He grew up in the church and has a relationship with Jesus. In one of our regular conversations, I brought up the idea of a Family Service. He immediately latched on to the idea and wisely pointed out that young families can connect to each other during that time. There’s rarely an opportune time for families to mingle unless it’s between service times. At best, you might be able to connect with someone in the line to check in your kids but it’s only for a few minutes. This problem is avoided by having a Family Service where full families can not only worship together, but can connect to other people.
5. It’s an easy place to invite people!
This is the reason that excites me the most! I was in sales and sales management prior to transitioning into ministry. The company that I worked for before ministry was a health insurance company headquartered in Milwaukee. We were a smaller insurance carrier that sold our products through independent agents throughout the country. Think of it like a wholesaler/retailer relationship. I worked for the wholesaler who sold products through “retail” agents. While working there I noticed that the company had multiple ways in which we distributed our products. One such channel was my organization, which focused on relationships with casual sellers of our product, while other areas focused on different means of selling our product to large-scale sellers. We all worked together, but through different “channels”.
When I think about the expansion of the gospel, I think about it in terms of channels as well. How many different ways do we interact with the outside world to create pathways for people to be exposed to Jesus? In today’s world that responsibility falls primarily on us as individuals. What I mean is that in general, we are expected to walk people through the pathway of salvation individually or invite them to a church service. Now don’t get me wrong, those are really good things! However, both can be difficult and intimidating to everyone involved. We need more opportunities to expose people to the gospel in fresh, exciting ways.
The Family Service is a low-risk environment. It’s only 30 minutes long, and you don’t have to have a long list of theological knowledge to come. That’s intentional! A family could be invited and experience a high-energy, fun environment engineered to show that following Jesus is AMAZING! What’s more, given that kids tend to invite more kids, it’s a great way to allow our young people to persuade their parents to attend church as well. I truly believe that our Family Service could be a pillar of executing our mission of following Jesus and helping others do the same.