How do we equip Christian parents to disciple their children and grow their families in the knowledge and love of Christ? As the Families Minister at my church, this is a question that I grapple with. Parents have a great, God-given privilege to teach their children about the creator God who made them, loves them and saves them. How can I help them do this? I see most of these kids for a couple of hours a week, if that. It’s not practical for me to visit every family every night and help them with devotions. I can’t be in more than one place at the same time, and my sons get first dibs on having me home at bed time to read the Bible and pray with them.
So, how do I influence the homes of all my church families, every night, and help promote families growing together in godliness?
Along with our Children’s Minister, Becky Carroll, I spent months planning and preparing a surprise for all of our church families. In secret, we prepared content, gathered materials and packed boxes. On the first week of term, when all the kids were heading back to school for the year, Becky and I started making deliveries. Left on the doorstep of every church family with children under 18 was a big, colourful box, tied up with string. A tag attached read ‘For the families of Willoughby Park Anglican Church. Do not open until after church on Sunday’. Soon after, people from church began messaging me. ‘What’s in the Box?’ Anticipation on Sunday morning was high.
That Sunday morning as everyone sat down after the first song, I stood up the front of church, holding one of the boxes. I explained to everyone that these boxes were a tool we’d prepared to help them grow together in godliness. And then I opened the box and showed everyone what was inside. There was a list of activities to help families read the Bible together, pray together and share together. There was also a scorecard with challenges for the family to complete (with a magnet on the back so that families could stick it on the fridge). Some of these challenges were ‘invite another church family over for a meal‘ or ‘film your family doing a memory verse‘. There was a family prayer diary, with prayer points for every day and a memory verse to learn together each week. And finally, a folder for each child. Inside the folder was a plastic sleeve with a pocket for each week in our Sunday morning children’s and youth programs. Every week we would give the kids a trading card with the big idea of the lesson on it. Over the course of years, the folder will build up with all the things they have learnt at church, along with all the memories. They will also give parents a starting point when they ask over lunch ‘what did you learn at church this morning?’
It’s early days for our Family Boxes. Our hope is that we will build upon them each term ‘with additional booster packs’ and that they will be a blessing to families for years to come. In the first week alone I’ve heard stories of families gathering together and learning memory verses. I’ve heard of one boy who told his parents he couldn’t skip church to go to a birthday party because he’d miss out on his trading card. A four-year-old girl came up to me and told me the memory verse with the biggest grin on her face. I’m looking forward to hearing more stories and getting feedback on how to improve the boxes with our booster packs each term.
The Family Boxes were a lot of work to produce. But I feel like all that work was worth it. The long term results remain to be seen. But I’m hopeful and optimistic. Now to get started on that first booster pack!