The great majority of parishes in the pilot program identify families with young children as an outreach priority. Like many other Anglican parishes, most of these parishes were running programs designed to serve families with young children even before they joined the program. Activities such as playgroups, Mainly Music and holiday clubs are commonplace on churches of all denominations.
 
However, in most cases, very few people attending programs that serve young families become regular participants in worshipping congregations.

Over more than a decade as church growth consultant, I’ve seen a number churches “buck the trend”, achieving significant and consistent growth through children’s and families ministry.  In each case, I’ve observed these seven characteristics:
  1. Do kids ministry well. Doing your best to provide an excellent program speaks volumes to unchurched people. They’ll feel more relaxed if you’re well organised with clear processes and procedures, good planning and a positive attitude.
  2. Overstaff.  If it takes three people to run a playgroup for a dozen families, try to get at least six regular volunteers, so that there are plenty of spare hands to help, spare ears to listen and spare time to form caring friendships. 
  3. Pray for people.  Get your team to take responsibility for praying regularly for three to four unchurched participants each. 
  4. Love people.  Seriously!  Look for opportunities to go above and beyond just providing a good service to delighting people though acts of care and kindness. 
  5. Have an easy, inviting and obvious next step. This is big one. People who have experienced God’s love through you will often be open to an invitation to an environment like Alpha or Christianity Explained, where they can learn about Jesus, ask questions and have an opportunity to respond to the gospel in faith. The key is to make it easy for people to say “yes” to your invitation. Be thoughtful about the time, location, environment, catering, childcare arrangements, etc. Unless your Sunday services are super-accessible to unchurched people, the gap between something like playgroup and a Sunday service is usually too wide to jump. It should be the gospel that’s challenging people, not our failure to anticipate their needs. Once people have made a faith commitment, you can introduce them to church as the next easy, inviting and obvious next step.
  6. Invite = “Come with me.” Don’t “send” people to the next step in a faith journey, as if they were a product being processed in a factory. Invite people to come with you, like they’re your friend whom you care about. The most loving thing you can do for a person is to help them be reconciled with God who loves them.
  7. Make sure worship services are accessible to unchurched families with kids. If you want to reach families with kids, your buildings, services, welcoming arrangements and kids programs should all communicate that you’re keen for families to keep coming back.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Wow, that’s a lot of work and planning!”, you’re absolutely right. Effective outreach must be given priority, profile, resources and careful thought. 

If you’re keen to improve your parish’s effectiveness in mission through families’ ministry, we’ve developed a one-day workshop as part of the Vision and Directions initiative. E-mail Ken on kmorgan@melbourne.anglican.com.au or telephone 0407 541 268 for more information. 
 
Ken Morgan is co-ordinator for implementation of Archbishop Freier’s Vision and Strategic Directions for the Diocese, “Making the Word of God fully known”.
 
 

 This month's TMA

 
 

 Tools and talkback