So, in the time of Covid-19, you decided to do a “family service,” which is a church service that includes all generations. Instead of splitting up the family into age segregated classes, the family sits together and worships together. The benefits to a service like this are many- parents showing spiritual leadership in their family, children are a part of the church as a whole, and all of the family can talk about the same things on the ride home from church and for the rest of the week! And by the way, FAMILY events are big right now, even in the secular world and in our culture. Want proof? What were the highest attended and highest grossing films of the last few years? Shrek, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Frozen etc….These are all movies that the entire family can watch together. The kids love it, but there are funny “gems” in the storyline and dialogue for the adults too. Family restaurants are making more money than ever. Family night at your child’s school will probably be totally packed out. Family services and events are well attended and going strong- everywhere but the church at times.

So why do churches not try to do family services more often? And when they do, why do family services sometimes fall flat? With so much potential benefit, what could possibly go wrong? Well, here are a few real life responses I’ve heard to the idea of having a family service:

“Nobody told me there wouldn’t be childcare. If I had known I would have stayed home.”

“Our pastor doesn’t want to try a family service, because he is afraid parents will just go down the street to a church that has children’s programs.”

“I’m with my kids all week. I absolutely must have a break.”

“I cannot worship with the distraction of my children.”

“Our pastor cannot preach with infants or children making noise. Our ushers are trained to immediately remove any child making noise. It’s even in our bulletin.”

“I do not believe it could work to have  my special needs child in the main service. She would be too disruptive.”

Have you heard any of those responses? When you are trying to change a paradigm and a culture, the above responses can be frustrating and discouraging. And I do understand that we must change the mentality of parents from “I drop my kid off at childcare. You lead them to Jesus and disciple them. I’ll be back in a hour” to “I am the spiritual leader of my child.” Remember, it took time to train parents to become that way and it will take time to change things now. We cannot give up. But what I want to propose here is this: Before we go blaming the parents for not wanting to sit with their children, have we done all we can do to truly create a “family service”? Well, what is a family service?

Most of our problems with having a family service would be resolved if we understood what a family service is NOT. A family service is NOT:

  1. A service just like all the others, with no difference in the lineup, themes or preparation. It is really geared for adults, decorated for adults, with songs, sermons and illustrations for adults only.
  2. A service that “allows” children to be in the sanctuary, as long as they do not interfere with the “adult” service. Children are not engaged. In fact, they are told to sit silently, color on the back of the bulletin. No one is really concerned whether the children take anything away from the service. The only goal is for the adults to like the songs and the sermon. So the goal for the children by default is silence, and not to distract adults.                                                                                                                                   A service that ALLOWS children is miles away from a service that WELCOMES children and families.
  3. A service as “punishment.” I’ve actually heard of churches having a family service because “no one is volunteering to work in children’s ministry.” The thinking goes like this: “If the parents have to suffer through having their children in the service with them long enough, eventually they will give in and volunteer.” AHHHHHH! Family ministry services should never be used as punishment. In fact, I cringe when I hear kid’s ministry leaders threaten a child with “If you don’t stop acting up, you’re going to Big Church. I mean it! You’ll sit with your parents! God have mercy on your soul….” We are making a family worship service, (sitting in the main sanctuary with their parents) the worst of all punishments, reserved only for very bad behavior. This has got to stop!

So, how can we completely revision our idea of a “Family Service”? What should it look like? What COULD it look like? How do we intentionally craft a dynamic worship experience that will minister across the generations and not just one age group?

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week “Family Services: the ReBoot, Strategies for Crafting a Better Intergenerational Church Service.”

How about you? How have your experiences been with having family services at your church? How would you like to see the family services at your church improve?

love Trisha

grayscale photography of hands waving

Photo by Luis Quintero on