I admit it, I was eavesdropping. I was standing in the grocery aisle and several people were having an exceptionally loud conversation about their minister recently being asked to step down from their their church. Why? They didn't feel he was fulfilling his responsibilities as a pastor.
For centuries, it has been people's opinion that the role of the pastor is:
A Shepherd leader who was responsible for the teaching/preaching of traditional doctrine.
Pastoral care such as visitation, counseling, comforting, and taking care of the needs of people.
Performing rites of passage like baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
Administration of the church like managing the budget, planning meetings, putting together a bulletin, and developing programs for the church and evangelism.
As a lead pastor, I care about these things. But I am most passionate about the families both in my church and outside of my church.
I began my ministry years with the common mentality that kids ministry was an issue we programmed for. It’s a perspective many senior leaders fall into: hire or recruit some capable person or people to plan services and activities for your kids and youth ministry and then you don't have to think about it anymore.
Not only is this perspective wrong (let's be clear: God's heart is for families thus it ought to be ours too), it is incredibly unstrategic.
Family is an issue that demands the focus and attention of every senior leader (and their team) for a lot of reasons...but here are 5:
1. Parents never lie awake at night thinking about your next sermon; but they do lie awake at night wondering if their kids are going to be okay.
When you start the conversation with people around the cause of family, you have a conversation they’re already engaged in. And you want to reach families, right? What if the conversation about family is the greatest evangelism opportunity you’ve got?
2. Parents Are Looking For Partners.
Most churches are at a loss to figure out why parents aren’t flocking back to church. And yet the reality is most young parents are looking for partners: a good daycare, swim class, play group, soccer team and much more. They just don’t see the church as a potential partner. Frankly, the church didn’t even cross their mind. When a church has a great strategy that aligns all team members from the lead pastor down, parents can begin to see the church as a real partner in the development of their child.
3. Family is a universal issue.
I absolutely understand there are singles, and engaged couples, married couples with no kids, widows and many who are single again. I get that not every family is two adults with two kids, but everybody comes from family. And many of us spend great chunks of time being impacted by our families, even as adults. While families all look different, when you speak family, you speak a language everybody understands.
4. Family is one of three focus areas for message application.
Typically, most lead pastors attempt to apply their Sunday message in one of three categories: family, work or relationships. By far, family is the biggest application area because most people spend so much of their life with family. To ignore family when preaching a message is to essentially tell people “this actually has no application in one of the most essential areas of your life”.
5. Your leaders think family before they think leadership.
Guess why many of the leaders who serve in your children’s ministry and student ministry serve? Because they have a vested interest. Speak to their hearts as parents even before you speak to their hearts as leaders. They’ll thank you for it.
Ministering to families isn’t something that should happen down the hall on a Sunday – it’s something that should be happening in the heart and mind of every leader every day.
Because family is pretty much everyone. If you drop the ball on family...you lose.