Family Ministry

Why Serve Every Week? (Part 1, Relationships)

Ashley StevensonComment

We recently celebrated five years at our Sojourn J-Town Campus in September. As we’ve reflected on and celebrated God’s work in and through his church over the last five years, we’ve also been dreaming for the next five. At Sojourn, we believe that our greatest program is our people. When I look ahead in SojournKids, I can’t help but grow more excited to continue to see vision become reality as I think about our children, families, and those that serve children and families.

As we look at meaningful service in SojournKids over the coming weeks, I want to help answer a key question that we are keeping in front of our teams in this season.

Why serve every week?

1. Reason 1: Build Relationships

At SojournKids we want to show Jesus to kids and families. One of the ways we show Jesus to children is by welcoming them in and loving on them week after week.

“… the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

We are a lot like the disciples. We can far too easily embrace the thinking that serving in children's ministry is an insignificant task. 

  • It’s just 70 minutes of childcare.
  • I’m not able to relate to kids.
  • Caring for, and teaching children is less significant than serving elsewhere in the church.
  • The kids didn’t listen to me last week.
  • Serving in kid’s ministry is only for single people or those without kids.
  • Serving in kid’s ministry is only for the “professionals” (parents and teachers).

Despite the disciples’ actions in hindering the children, Jesus dismisses their rebuke and welcomes the children to come to him. Jesus loved and cared for the next generation, and even pointed to children as our example of how to receive the kingdom of God humbly. By welcoming children and ministering the gospel to them every week, we are showing them Jesus.

SojournKids is packed with relational opportunities even in our youngest classrooms.  While it is widely understood that children need consistency, I think we can easily miss what this really means in the context of children's ministry. Consistency isn't achieved just through bullet-proof lesson plans and policies. Consistency comes through relationship. However, relationships demand trust, and trust takes time. On average, a regularly attending, well-connected family attends church two to three times per month. If you serve every other week, you likely will only see their child around 12 times per year. If you serve once per month, you will see that child even less often. This number decreases significantly with families who don’t attend regularly, or who are new attenders. These numbers simply point that to the fact that our time with children is limited more than we realize.

It is also more valuable than we know. One of my favorite spoken testimonies I received from a volunteer who recently increased her commitment to serve weekly is this,

“These kids know me, and I know them.”

We want our children to be known by our volunteers, and we want our volunteers to be known by our children. Relationships form and meaningful,  joyful service becomes reality when we move from merely functioning as temporary crowd controllers, and move toward knowing the children in our care and assuming an active, partnering role in their spiritual formation and belonging in our church community.    

Will you join us by making a 6-month commitment to attend one-serve one weekly in SojournKids? Sign up here!  

Dr. Jones: Debunking the Dropout Myth

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

I love Dr. Timothy Paul Jones for several reasons. He is a Sojourn East member. He invites our family over for mexican food/game nights (how cool is that!). And he's brilliant. Children's Ministry Magazine has just posted one of his articles entitled, "Debunking the Dropout Myth." I'm thankful for this article, because Dr. Jones cut through the false motivations and statistical myths that have motivated many in the family ministry movement. What he offers instead is a refreshing gospel-driven perspective of family ministry--one that encourages pastors to be more focused on faithfulness than stats.

"So tell me," I asked, "why do you want to move your church toward a family ministry model?" The two ministry leaders I'd met with at the coffee shop were sincere, good people. Both were passionate about the gospel and faithful to Scripture. Their church had asked me to help them minister more effectively to families. "Well," the pastor said, "nine out of 10 kids drop out of church after they graduate. Evidently, what we're doing isn't working." "Mm-hmm," the children's director agreed. "We just want to do so much better than that." "Is your church actually losing that many?" I asked. They looked at each other before shrugging. "I don't really know," the pastor replied. "We don't see them after they graduate. Sometimes that's because they're involved in another church, I guess." The children's director continued, "If we had programs to teach parents how to grow their kids spiritually, we could stop the loss." "I'll do everything I can to help your church," I said. "But first, let's rethink your reasons for considering these changes-because the problem you think is the problem is probably not the problem at all."

Here's why these two ministry leaders-and scores of others like them-need to rethink their motivations: The nine-out-of-10 dropout number isn't true. It was never true, yet many church leaders still believe it. Take a trip with me to the origins of this statistic and why it's long past time to lay this lie to rest. Read the rest of the article at the Children's Ministry Mag site!

Why family ministry?

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Check out this podcast from Tony Kummer with Sojourn East member, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones:

Will new interest in family discipleship somehow distract churches from doing kids ministry? Does embracing family ministry require your church to add new programs?

These are common concerns for many church leaders.  This podcast explores those issues with Dr. Timothy Paul Jones. He is a teacher and writer who has studied these topics in depth. You can learn more about him from his biography page at Southern Seminary.

Directions: To listen to this audio recording, simply click the play button below or download the MP3 audio file.

In the podcast, we mentioned the Family Ministry blog at Southern Seminary and the new Family Ministry Field Guide. If you’d like to leave a comment, simply click here.

Thursday Book Club: 3 Family Ministry Books in 2011

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

To cap off 2010, scholar and Sojourn member, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, highlighted three family ministry books that he's excited about for 2011.  These books "not only make the case for comprehensive family ministries but also provide the tools for churches to make the transition to family ministry from current programmatic models."

A Theology for Family MinistryFirst off, A Theology for Family Ministry from B & H Academic provides a comprehensive look at the problems and the possibilities of doing family ministry in the twenty-first century.

Then, Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective, published by Kregel Academic and edited by Randy Stinson and myself [Dr. Jones], sets family ministry in its biblical and historical context then shows how the biblical implications can be put into action.

Family Ministry Field Guide: How Your Church Can Equip Parents to Make DisciplesAnd then comes the Family Ministry Field Guide: How Your Church Can Equip Parents to Raise Disciples, a book for vocational ministers and lay-leaders alike that represents the results of a two-year study of what to prioritize in your church’s family ministry as well as what’s most helpful and what’s most needed in the field of family ministry.

Check out some other things Dr. Jones is excited about in his full post at Family Ministry Today.