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What is Family Ministry?

I’m joining a great team of Family Ministry leaders to answer the question, “What is Family Ministry?”   Here is my attempt to answer the question, “What is Family Ministry?”


I’ve worked in churches as a volunteer and a staff member for over 15 years, and I’ve observed the following roles as it relates to the family: Children’s Pastor, Youth Pastor, College Pastor, Early Childhood Director, Junior High Pastor, Upper School Pastor, Middle School Pastor, Elementary Pastor, Director of Children’s Ministry, Student Pastor, and on and on and on…

We have created paid positions (and oftentimes unpaid) to minister to the needs of children, students, and families. Churches the world over are valuing excellence, and working hard to expose our kids and students to the Gospel. There are arguments about the merits of such ministry, and there are concerns about what all our working might have really accomplished; but there is no denying that the church has really tried. I’ve grown up in church, served in church, and worked in a church. I know the differences between talking to an 8-year-old versus talking to an 18-year-old. I know the benefits of blue jello and explaining Jonah and the Big Fish, and I know the benefits of being spiritually transparent in front of teenagers.

When I say or hear the term Family Ministry here is how I would define it: “Family Ministry is a church going to great lengths to reach the same family in a strategic way.”

I’ve worked to combine ministry to children’s, students, and parents; it’s always started with recognizing that all that we do is for the same family. We don’t have 4th grade kid families, and junior high student families. We have families. The same family, the same parents, and the same home. We don’t pass kids from 5th grade to 6th grade. We don’t hand off junior high students to senior high leadership. It’s all the same family, and it’s time for the church to treat them as such.

What if we could reach out to families as the same hand reaching out? What if we could communicate expectations to parents that are only different in age-context, and not in strategy? What if we could allow our preschool leaders to speak into the life of High School students? What if we valued, together, the contribution parents make to our church and to the children of other families? What if we could reach this ONE FAMILY with ONE VOICE? These are the questions I’m tackling with leaders all across the country.

This kind of family ministry can happen.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.