This week I’ve been blogging about Diana Garland’s new research-based book, Inside Out Families: Living the Faith Together. Here’s another interesting finding from the “Families and Faith” study: In nearly every congregation they surveyed, they were surprised to find that “Help in serving others” emerged time after time as the most-cited need from families. Across denominations and church sizes, as well as age groups (teenagers to senior adults), more than fifty congregations noted that they want their church’s help in finding ways to serve. And they want help connecting that service with their faith.
Interestingly, many of these folks are already serving, and maybe already serving together as families. But as Garland reports, “…they want somehow to ground what they are doing in their lives of faith. They want their service to make sense as Christians.” ((Diana Garland, Inside Out Families: Living the Faith Together (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2010), 25.))
That’s where you come in. As those who lead congregations (in whatever role you might be leading), families in the congregation are looking to you to help them not only serve the poor and outcast, but to connect the dots between feeding the hungry and loving Jesus more deeply. They need help framing hurricane relief work with Luke 4 and Jesus’ manifesto to bring “good news to the poor” (v 18). They need help connecting ministry to a local women’s shelter with Isaiah’s call to “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
So how are we framing service and justice in our congregations? Because if we’re not, we’re failing to meet families’ greatest felt need. And if we connect this back to the research shared in this post, that means we’re also failing to nurture one of the greatest opportunities for faith-building that we can give families.
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