GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Keeping a family together when they go to church is difficult because “they always go in different directions,” a Houston minister said.
Churches that have activities every night of the week also take time away from families, Jeff Moran, associate pastor and minister to families at Houston’s Jersey Village Baptist Church, told participants in the National Conference for Church Leadership at Glorieta, a LifeWay Conference Center, in New Mexico.
Ministers and other church staff persons need to model family time, he said.
“Family ministry begins with you. Some people will make the church their mistress,” he said. “Some church staff feel they need to lay down their life for their sheep. First, you have to have a life in order to lay it down.”
Moran said he believes “parents are the primary Christian educators in the church, and the family is the God-ordained institution for building faith in young people and for passing faith on from one generation to the next.”
He said four key practices nurture healthy relationships and faith in families: caring conversations, family rituals and traditions, a family devotional life or prayer time, and participating in family projects that help other people.
Family recreation is not confined to activities at church, he said. For example, at Jersey Village Baptist Church, Christian Home Week is observed the week following Mother’s Day.
Worshipers are given a family worship guide that includes ideas for activities for each day of the coming week. Last year, those included reading Scripture, praying, sharing faith stories, managing the home, serving one another, memorizing Scripture and playing together. All church activities, including Sunday night, Wednesday night, committee meetings and visitation, are canceled until the following Sunday morning.
Moran said developing a family priority is important for churches. He suggested churches lead families to develop a mission statement, a financial plan, goals and activities and a family schedule.
“You’ll hear people say quality time is more important than quantity time,” Moran continued. “Quality time is a myth. Quantity time is important.”
For this reason, Moran says churches should schedule activities at church with the family in mind. He said imperatives for a family friendly church include moving from being program-focused to need-responsive, staffing properly, supporting home-centered ministry and staff, training faith-shaping parents and providing a homey church environment.
In addition to Christian Home Week, Moran said other activities to support families could include family nights at home; church-sponsored family trips, retreats and mission trips; parent/child events, such as banquets, fishing tournaments, cake bakes and family olympics. Intergenerational events could include adopting a grandparent. Programs for children that can include a family night are Vacation Bible School, a sports skills camp or music camp.
“The currency of the day is not money,” Moran observed. “It’s time. Today’s church needs to be not only a lighthouse to help families find the way, but also a generating station to help them put their energy to work.”
The church leadership group and the pastor-staff leadership department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored the National Conference for Church Leadership, July 10-14.