"Write them on the doorframes of your houses
and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:9
In Favor of Family Nights!
Search Institutes 1993 pioneering research work, Youth in Protestant Churches, (Eugene C Roehlkepartain, Peter L. Benson) found that the influence parents have on the spiritual formation of their children surpasses all other alternatives. This understanding makes it imperative for congregations to resource parents and the Christian home. Family nights hosted or resourced by a congregation can significantly help parents engage in those influencing spiritual conversations and experiences they have with their children.
A family night is simply an opportunity for families to grow together. It is a chance for parents to nurture faith in their children outside the walls of a church building. It provides an occasion for parents to be intentional about spiritual growth and carving out regular and valued family time.
Time together is a challenge for most families in our hurried and time-squeezed culture. Regular, scheduled and prioritized time for family connectedness, communication and activity is valued. The “how” and “what” components are needed resources for many families. This is an outstanding ministry opportunity for congregations serious about family ministry.
A family night is at minimum, a monthly gathering of a family and their friends or relatives. A weekly occurrence would be an ideal situation. Essential ingredients are; an activity, God’s Word, a family response, and prayer. The following paragraphs will detail each ingredient and how a congregation might be resource for each.
Activity is a shared experience among each family member. It might be a game, movie, sporting event, craft, service project or roasting marshmallows around a fireplace. Activities require space, and family nights can take place around the kitchen table in the family room, at a park, mall or movie theater. The place just needs space where the Bible can be read, conversation can take place and prayer can be shared. Distractions need to be minimized. The activity needs to engage all family members in a space that is conducive.
Congregations can be a significant resource in terms of activity. Churches can provide;
• space for families to gather
• discounted tickets for theater or sporting events
• ideas and resources for games and crafts
• opportunities for service
• the family activity
God’s Word is a means of grace by which the Holy Spirit plants and feeds a living and maturing faith. Reading, studying and/or meditating on scripture is essential to a family night that nurtures faith. Each family member participates in focusing on a Bible story, a portion of scripture, devotion or a book of the Bible. A family night is a time where God’s Word is read and experienced.
Congregations can provide;
• Age appropriate devotion and Bible study materials.
• DVD presentations (i.e. Veggie Tales)
• A library for resources
• Personal Bibles for children in Sunday school.
As God’s Word is read and experienced, families members need opportunity to explore and respond. Typically this is done through questions, summarizing, re-enacting, applying truths, evaluating situations and the like. With a broad age span potentially within a family, appropriate questions need to be fashioned for each participant. The personal sharing and hearing the responses of others, especially mom and dad is powerful learning tool and provides for greater exploration of the scriptures.
Congregations can provide;
• Faith formation in children classes for parents.
• Biblical and topical resources for questions and other responding activities.
• Training for parents to facilitate a “Family Night.”
Finally, prayer is a spiritual discipline that is done individually and corporately. Families that pray with and for one another develop stronger bonds and a richer faith life. Family Nights provide occasion to teach the discipline of prayer and build a strong family prayer life.
Congregations can provide;
• Family prayer resources such as litanies, and prayer books.
• Training for parents to teach/model prayer.
• Different forms and models for prayer.
Family Nights can be a wonderful instrument in the congregational toolbox for Family Ministry. They certainly provide opportunity for parents to nurture the Christian faith in the lives of their children.
If you or your congregation would like to further explore the opportunities to engage families in the mission of your congregation, consider the following workshops and seminars.
Footprints for Families is a workshop/seminar that teaches Christian parent’s life-strategies and skills that nurture the faith within family life. Topics include; Pursuing a Vision, Managing Chaos and Breathing Faith into Daily Life.
Faith and Family is a Christian parenting seminar that strengthens the partnership between the congregation and home. Topics include; Faith Formation, Church and Family Partnership, and Faith Milestones.
Connections is a workshop/seminar that equips church staffs and congregational leaders for the development of family ministry. Planning activities include; Vision to Action Planning, Ministry Survey and Analysis, and Structuring for Success.
Contact the district office for additional information.
Mr. Jeffery R. Moeller, DCE
173 Kenilworth Drive
Akron, OH 44313
Phone: (330) 836-0764