Childhood Ministry Specialist, Tennessee Baptist Convention
Imagine the scene as the Farr family arrives at church. Mr. Farr goes to a men’s Sunday School class on the third floor of the building. Mrs. Farr says, “I’ll meet you in the worship center after Sunday School,” and turns down the preschool hallway, where she teaches a three-year-old class. Molly, 14 years old, heads to the second floor to the youth class, and Joseph, the third grade son, runs in a different direction for his Sunday School class. And this is a church that promotes itself as being a family-friendly church! Churches must seek to minister to families as families and not just as individuals who ride to church in the same car.
What steps can your congregation take to become a family-friendly church?
(1) Commit to keeping the family a priority.
(2) Give high priority to needs of preschool, children, and youth in the church budget. This should include resources for curriculum, age-appropriate space and furnishings that are inviting and clean, consumable and reusable resources, as well as age-group staffing.
(4) Determine and utilize the most effective ways to communicate policies, guidelines, and ministry information to parents and the whole church family.
(5) Enlist, background check, train, and equip qualified volunteers to understand the needs of each age-group and commit to regularly plan, prepare, and teach.
(6) Provide attractive signage for ease in locating classrooms.
(7) Designate parking near appropriate entrances for expectant parents, parents of infants, parents with more than one child, single parents, senior adults, and handicapped individuals.
(8) Provide and clearly mark men’s and women’s restrooms with diaper-changing stations. Designate a “family restroom” and provide a mother’s nursing room near the preschool area.
(9) Involve families in worship service through: greeting, distributing worship guides, receiving offerings, Scripture reading, prayer, and announcements.
(10) Affirm and assist parents as they include preschoolers and children in corporate worship. Provide worship bags that include: a Bible, children’s worship bulletin, small bag of quiet activities, a few crayons, drawing paper, and stickers.
(11) Plan for family members with disabilities and special needs by providing: ease of access for wheelchairs and other special needs devices, extra leaders, and opportunities to mainstream the individual with his age-group whenever possible.
(12) Plan activities that allow families to participate together: worship, occasional intergenerational Bible study (maybe on holidays), family meals, fellowship activities (picnics and game nights), missions projects (such as sorting clothes for a crisis ministry or delivering food baskets to homebound church members).
(13) Plan a Children’s Sunday and a Youth Sunday as annual events. Celebrate children and/or youth. Celebrate families. Celebrate children and/or youth leaders.
(14) Respond to opportunities to partner with area schools or other organizations that relate to children and/or youth.
(15) Designate specific dates as protected dates for the family. No church meetings or activities should be scheduled on these dates.
When parents see that family is a high priority for a church, they begin to envision that church as a place where their family members can learn, worship, serve and laugh together, helping them to grow closer to God and closer to each other.