5 Ways To Serve Families This Spring

Spring is right around the corner, and while some of you might be jumping for joy at the thought of more daylight hours and warmer weather, others are dreading the start of allergy season.  No matter where you fall on the excitement over the spring continuum, one thing is for sure, family life seems to kick into a totally different gear once the calendar flips to spring.  With that in mind, I’m asking, “How can we care for families as they head into the spring season?” 

Caring for families has changed from what it was just a few years ago. That’s because families have changed, and in some cases, their relationship with the church has changed as well.  There seem to be so many different kinds of families that it can be dizzying to keep up with every family dynamic.  There’s also the reality that each season requires a different type of energy as we look to care for the families in our communities and churches.  So as you look to roll out your strategy to care for families this spring, I’d like to offer 5 things that might help you serve the families in your church. 

1. Listen to and learn from families 

I’ve spent a lot of time in ministry guessing at what people want or what they’ll show up for at a given moment in time. If I’m being really honest, I’m usually making decisions based on the assumptions I’m carrying about what’s needed. Sometimes that’s led me to some great stuff, and other times, not so much.  At some point, I realized that I could take the guesswork out by taking some time to ask questions. 

A few years ago, our team decided to put on a parenting conference at our church.  We started planning the event, came up with a list of possible speakers, and then someone asked a really great question;  “Who told you this was a good idea?” (You can feel free to add a little attitude to the way you read that). The answer was no one. I was going off of a hunch that this was something parents needed and that families would benefit from it.  Our team responded by putting out a survey and having conversations with families about what their greatest parenting needs were.  One parent reviewed our survey and the topics we suggested and circled the whole page.  They wrote a note that said, “Right now, I need all of this.” Others suggested a few things we weren’t even considering, and some told us they weren’t interested, no matter what we talked about.  

Here’s the thing, a good idea that no one wants is a bad idea to move forward with.  What if we were to ask the families in our churches what they like about what we do, what they wish we did less of, and what they wanted more of? Asking questions allows us to get really clear on where our people are, it can provide insight directly from the people you’re trying to reach about what they actually want and need. This doesn’t need to be an exhaustive exercise, probing for the answer to every question you have.  Keep it short, keep it simple, and provide space for families to tell you where they’re at.  This can help ground us in the reality that not all families are the same, so we can’t have a “one size fits all” approach.  Getting to know the families in our church communities gives us the best chance to understand how we can actually care for as many of them as possible. 

2. Care for and partner with parents

If we want to deepen our impact on the lives of kids and teenagers, we need to pay attention to their caregivers. Caring for parents means trying to find good sense, sustainable ways to come alongside them, resource them and encourage them.  How you do that will look different from parent to parent because people have different needs. What feels like care to one might be unnecessary for another.  Maybe there are some basic needs that you can meet, like developing a group of babysitters from the church to provide childcare so parents can catch a break or attend an event. It may mean hosting events that allow parents the opportunity to build community with each other.  What if we looked at our programming and decided that parents need more than announcements about when we want them to bring their kids to us or information about the craft we’re sending home for them to do with their kids?  

As a relatively new parent myself, I’ve felt the profound impact of a simple check-in. They’ve reminded us that we’re not alone in our struggles, that challenge phases are temporary (even though they fell unending from the middle of them), and that there is grace even when I handle the tough moments wrong.  When you’re in the thick of parenting, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees, and sometimes we need someone to let us know that they see us and that they care. 

There are also opportunities for us to partner with parents to help kids and teenagers develop an everyday faith that lasts long after they leave our ministries. The best way to do that is to empower parents with resources for faith development and remind them that they are the primary discipler in their kids’ lives. Our work is to come alongside them to elevate and celebrate what happens at home as they look to foster spiritual growth. Partnering with parents will look different, depending on your context but think of it like this;  You get to come alongside the person with the most potential for influence and impact in the life of a kid or teenager. You get an opportunity to be a co-laborer with them as they look to impart faith to the next generation of their family.  Standing shoulder to shoulder with parents puts you in a position to partner with the people who care MOST about the kids in your ministry, and the potential for impact is significant.  

3. Providing shared experiences 

Many families are in search of opportunities to do stuff together.  They want the chance to have meaningful, memorable, shared experiences.  What if we created spaces for families to do just that? What if we designated some gatherings as “Family Worship Gatherings” in our ministry environments? We could invite families to come together and create a special service everyone can engage in and feel part of. Another way we provide these types of experiences is to host events like Easter Jam and Jingle Jam. These give us an opportunity to bring families together in celebration of significant moments in the church calendar, share a fun experience, and start a conversation about why these seasons are so important.  

One way our church is creating experiences is through hosting family dinners at church. The idea is to give families an opportunity to get together for food and conversation.  It’s a no-screen time zone, just a face-to-face connection between families.  The best part of it, no one who attends has to cook that night and who doesn’t love a dinner that you don’t have to prepare or clean up after? The point is to create experiences that families can enjoy together to foster deeper, more meaningful connections.  

4. Slowing down

We all know how spring, in particular, can feel really full.  Maybe you’re reading this as you’re headed off to the next thing on your to-do list, either for your own family or your ministry.  With all the opportunities to say yes to things as the school year winds down, what if we decided to say yes to intentional rest too? What does it look like to encourage families to rest together? Maybe it looks like adding a Sabbath Saturday where you encourage families to simply rest together.  You can provide some suggestions for what this looks like. It could be something like a “no homework or chores day,” or a day where everyone in the family picks an activity for everyone to enjoy together (excluding anything that could be classified as ”work,” so that means family laundry day is out! ) This doesn’t need to be complicated. Instead, the emphasis is on intentional rest and fostering joy within the family.

It’s so easy to get lost in the pace of life, to get caught up in our very full family calendars.  We might have a moment where we realize that it’s been a while since we took time to recharge, connect with each other, and, most importantly, connect with God.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need a little help changing the pace.  What if instead of our ministries giving families a list of the next thing to attend, we included a list of ways they can stop, have some fun together, and enjoy God’s gift of rest? 

5. Encouraging family faith habits

One of the ways we can partner with parents to influence kids’ and teenagers’ faith is by equipping them to practice faith habits. Why not pick 2 or 3 practices to invite families to focus on during the spring? For us, it is prayer, worship, and service.  We’re planning ways to allow families to engage in these practices, either on their own or with us in community.  We’ll resource them, suggest methods to engage in these faith habits, and then let them choose how and when to do it.  The hope is that these habits stick and become a regular part of the life of our families.  What faith habits can you highlight for families this spring as they navigate this new season?

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this, you probably want to serve and care for the families in your community and your church.  Maybe some of what you’ve read here is helpful, maybe it sparks some great ideas that work for your setting.  No matter what you choose or how you decide to care for families, just remember to extend lots of grace as families navigate a busy and challenging season. This spring, as we care for families, may we see the possibilities that exist to strengthen relationships, build community, and create spaces where the faith of the family can thrive. 


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