The Book of Genesis shows us that families were God’s idea. God created man and said “it is not god for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) so He created woman and instructed them to be fruitful, and multiply (Genesis 1:28). The Old Testament is filled with stories of families and God’s interaction with them. The New Testament shows families how to live in relationship with one another and Paul compares the relationship between a husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:21-33).
Families are close to God’s heart. Scripture reveals that from the very beginning God brought individuals together through family relationships.
These relationships have great potential for demonstrating the love of God to the world, specifically when families join together in a church community.
The necessity of these relationships makes it critical for the church to be intentional about helping families connect. It takes both families and church leadership working together to create a church culture of community. Individual families must realize their need for community and place a high priority on relationships. Families must also remember that no one family is perfect. Family life can be messy and when you bring multiple families together that “messiness” can intensify.
Several years ago I read a book called “Flawed Families of the Bible: How God’s Grace Works through Imperfect Relationships” by David and Diana Garland. The book talks about how the families in the Bible were as imperfect as families today. Yet, it is through the imperfections of the family that we catch glimpses of God’s grace. When families open up to other families and are willing to “do life together” with all the ups and downs, they will be a blessing to others and be blessed themselves.
In order for this to happen in the church we need a culture of authenticity, a safe place where people can come just as they are.
Stories abound of families who have had a terrible Sunday Morning but the moment they arrive in the church parking lot they put on a facade in order to pretend everything is great when in fact it is not. When families feel like they have to set aside struggles and appear “happy” great ministry potential is lost. Families need the support of others in difficult times and they need others who will celebrate with them when the occasion arises.
Here are some ways the church can support the development of family relationships.
1. Provide Small Groups – I still believe one of the greatest ways for families to connect is through small groups. Families need the support of other families that are facing similar life situations. Theses small groups can center on specific life seasons like families with young children, parents of teenagers, empty nesters, etc.
2. Provide events that foster family to family interaction – Families also benefit from connecting with families who are in different seasons of life. Segmented programs exist in just about every congregation creating a great divide between persons from different generations. In Scripture we see the generations were assumed to be together. In Deuteronomy 31:12-13 Moses called for all people when he said, “Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.” Scripture also gives us many examples of preparing the next generation: Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, Naomi to Ruth, etc. As generations learn to appreciate one another and do life together, everyone benefits and the local church functions the way it was intended.
3. Provide events for families to attend together – Family events can be designed with specific family members in mind such as daddy-daughter or mother-son events or they can focus on bringing various families together in a setting that fosters community. For example, one event our church hosted several years ago was called “Family Dinner.” Approximately 4 to 6 families would meet and share a dinner together on a regular basis, sometimes that was once a month and other times it was every 3 months.
4. Provide Multi-Generational Services – One of the greatest ways to build unity within the local church is to worship together. Families worshipping God together provides a beautiful picture of what heaven will be like. All believers together worshipping the King of Kings.
As generations learn to appreciate one another and do life together, everyone benefits and the local church functions the way it was intended.
How does your church help families connect?