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Whole Family Ministry for the Whole Body of Christ

March 14, 2013

This article originally appeared in the March edition of the Montreal Anglican.

Making Advent Candles

Making Advent Candles – together

“We need more children!”  How often have we heard that cry from our parishes – perhaps even from our own lips – as people remember the joys of a full Sunday School and look with anxiety towards a future of empty churches.  Needing children doesn’t seem to make them come, though.  In fact, needing young families so desperately may be one of the things that prevents those who do come from staying for long.  People come to church because they need something and our anxieties about our future can cause us to forget that we are called to be the caregiver, at least in the early days of their relationship with the church.

Fortunately for all of us, young families need something that we are well equipped to provide.  They need a safe, loving, nurturing community for both children and grown-ups.  They need support in facing the uncertainties and challenges of caring for precious, vulnerable, exhausting children.  They need guidance as they confront the mysteries of life and death, growth and change, fear and hope.  Our rich practices of liturgy, theological education, and fellowship offer these families all of this and more, when we set aside our need in order to minister to them in the name of Christ.

How do we actually do it?  What does this ministry look like?  In many ways, it doesn’t look much different from what you are already familiar with.  Ministry to children is ministry to parents.  Nothing tells parents more clearly that they are welcome than welcoming their children.  Sunday School is not only formation for children; it frees parents for their own formation in worship.  The reverse is also true.  Ministry to parents is ministry to children.  Caring for parents, praying for parents, exploring questions with parents – all of this gives them resources for caring, praying and questioning with their children.  Of course. we do all of these things in the regular course of our ministries of pastoral care, teaching, and worship.  Ensuring that these ministries reach parents, however, may require some thinking about timing/childcare, as well as paying attention to the concerns that may be particular to people in their stage of life.

There is, however, a third element to this ministry.  Sometimes, families need to be ministered to as families, parents and children together.  Children and parents are separated for most of the week and church shouldn’t always be another place of separation.  What’s more, the family, not the church, is the most important place for faith formation.  We can help facilitate that crucial role by providing opportunities for parents and children to learn together, to worship together, to experience God together so that those experiences can enter into the very fabric of their homes and their relationships.

Specially designed all-ages services, family programming, and parish events that are explicitly child-friendly can all be elements of this ministry to whole families, a ministry that truly builds up the body of Christ.  And that is the only thing we really need to do.

If you are in Montreal, come to the Kidstuff workshop on Whole Family Ministry to hear about the experiments happening right here in our diocese.  Share your experience.  Ask your questions.  Get inspired!

Monday, April 15th, 5:30-8:30.
Church of the Epiphany
4322 Wellington, Verdun
Dinner provided.  Free-will offerings accepted.
Register at rwaters@montreal.anglican.ca
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