This morning in worship I watched as children gathered around our candle lighting tables following our shared prayer. I watched one child carefully select which candle to light, then blow out the taper and relight it before handing it to the next person in line. I watched another child take a deep breath, close his eyes for a moment, then light the candle in front of him. I watched their fingers fumble with the responsibility of holding that burning taper; a responsibility that teaches them both the seriousness of fire but also the seriousness of prayer and ritual. I watched adults wait patiently as a family of four crowded the table taking a little longer than usual. I watched all of this unfolding in the few minutes we take for this portion of prayer in our service and felt awed in the ways in which we come together in this sacred manner, working together to teach, and worship with, the little ones.
This is a small glimmer of family ministry. Family Ministry is different than religious education, though RE is one part of family ministry it is not the whole of it. Family Ministry is an approach to congregational life where we walk alongside one another in our faith journey, especially the journey with our children, youth, and parents.
The UUA defines family ministry as a partnering between the home and the congregation. They provide a series of questions for us to consider when shaping our ministries and guide us to have discussions to determine what our families need in order to nurture Unitarian Universalist faith in their homes.
Faith formation is a lifelong journey. Our parents need classes, spiritual practice groups, and connection with their faith community as much as their children do. Family Ministry shifts our focus from “educating children” to partnering with families to provide opportunities for education, faith development, growth, parenting support, multigenerational connections, and other ministries which deepen our UU faith identity and help us live into our mission and covenants with one another.
Family Ministry is not solely about children; rather it is about the whole congregation. The family ministry approach invites members, friends, and newcomers into relationship. It invites us to intentionality about our spiritual community and the future of our Faith. Family Ministry, in my opinion, helps us live out our values of interconnectedness and our mission of mutual support and nurturance.
On Sunday, April 3rd from 12pm-1:30pm, Rev. Jude and I will be leading a visioning meeting about Family Ministry. We invite everyone who has an interest in families at the Fellowship, the children and youth, or the future of our Faith to attend. Together we will talk about what it means to pivot toward Family Ministry and we will cast a vision together of what this kind of approach needs to be for our Fellowship.