First Church is committed to walking alongside parents on their journey through parenthood. This philosophy has undergirded the Family Ministry in recent years and has led us to partner with parents to better equip them as they fulfill their biblical role. Today, First Church is building upon that vision, not replacing it.
As the pastoral leader of Family Ministries, I often hear questions such as, “Where are all the children/young people?” In 2016, the Fuller Youth institute published a book entitled Growing Young, which outlined the results of over 10 years of research regarding families in the church. It revealed six core commitments that churches who are “growing young” share. The most common one became known as “the warmth cluster.” Kara Powell, Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, writes:
“Churches grow young by weaving warmth into their DNA. The most common phrase people used to describe their churches was ‘like family.’ Other words… included welcoming, accepting, belonging, authentic, hospitable and caring.”
Young people are not drawn to “cool” or “flashy” worship. They are drawn to warmth. In a world of superficial digital connections, the warmth of genuine Christian community is like the first kiss of the Florida sun when our northern neighbors arrive in Southwest Florida for the winter.
I recently wrote an extensive assessment on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of First Church for my doctoral program. One of the greatest strengths that I identified was the genuine Christian warmth in community. For this reason, our vision going forward is to build bridges that will help infuse this vital warmth into our family programming. Practically, this means that while yesterday we may have hired staff for Sunday school, today we want volunteers who embody the warmth of First Church to engage in the discipleship of our children and youth.
Churches that are “growing young” find that children who are raised in their ministries have a faith that endures. We may never be a church with 400 children on Sunday mornings, but my hope is that every child who comes through First Church graduates with a faith that endures through the college years and beyond.
Isn’t this what we promise at baptism? We promise to partner with parents in nurturing the faith of their children. We promise to guide and encourage them by faith, deeds, love and prayer so that they may know and follow Christ all their days. Perhaps you have grandchildren who live 1,200 miles away. I wonder, what would it look like if you were to adopt some Southwest Florida grandkids? Will you join Family Ministry in infusing the greatest strength of this church, our warmth, into our programming?
by Pastor Brad Rogers