Children's Pastor, Wheaton Bible Church
from chapter five, Passing the Torch of God's Truth From Generation to Generation
(to be released 4:00 pm, Friday, March 27th, at the Midwest Teaching & Discipleship Convention)
Most ministry programs, such as Sunday school and youth group, tend to be age and stage based. This breaking apart of the family keeps the family from growing spiritually together. In developing discipleship programs in the church, there are some key principles to keep in mind:
Support in your ministry what the parents are saying in the home. This can be done by giving parents the opportunity and tools to teach the lesson prior to the church teaching the lesson. This can be as simple as giving the parents the home materials a week ahead as opposed to after the lesson was taught.
Find a curriculum that teaches a common theme to all ages each week. This makes it easier for parents to take the lead in the home. Instead of having discussions on a different concept with each child, the entire family can be involved at the same time, a truly multigenerational discipleship experience.
All curriculum needs to be God centered and biblically rooted versus a character development plan for children. This issue is hard to overcome as many curriculums equate application with character development. Though Scripture does provide life applications, God’s Word is about God. It is about what He is doing. And as a person learns about the greatness of God, one cannot help to love Him and worship Him. This leads to a true changing of one’s behavior as the foundation is in God and His work in our lives.
Ministry Programs for Children and Students with Their Parents and Grandparents:
The best way to live out the multigenerational phase of ministry is by having Sunday morning worship services be multigenerational. Many churches believe in a two step process for Sunday: Worship together as a family and participate in a dynamic Sunday school class.
Is your Sunday morning worship service multigenerational? Do you have all ages coming together to worship, sitting under the authority of God’s Word, and participating in the Lord’s Supper? For some churches, children have been apart of their worship experience for years. It is part of their culture. Other churches strongly encourage children not be in the worship service. I would argue that this is a theological issue. God’s Word speaks to the gathering of the faith community. Children can be and are followers of Christ. They have a right and need to participate in the body of Christ. This gathering of the body of Christ, including children, may take on a different look and feel based upon your church culture, but it needs to happen at some point on a regular basis.
Some other programs that can be effective in ministering to all generations together are Family Fun Events. Some examples of these are a seasonal themed event, like Christmas, during which the family comes together to do a craft and a program follows that includes a drama and some activities that bring the families together. Communion class for families becomes more effective when parents and siblings are included. Together they learn as a family of the great love God demonstrated to them through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When it comes to these family events, there is no one size fits all. Look at the culture of your church and community. What are some events and milestones that are important? You are probably already celebrating these key times already. Just look for ways to include the whole family so that they can grow together.
Many Churches are starting Multigenerational Small Groups. These groups include all ages of children, students, and adults. The entire family unit participates, not just the adults. The curriculum has a general teaching time that has an activity that appeals to a large age span. Many groups will use the Family Time curriculum available on www.famtime.com. The leaders adapt the lesson to the specific dynamics of the group. These groups have worked well in churches desiring multigenerational discipleship ministry.