“Ohana means family.  Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”  Ever since I first heard those words spoken by an adorable, animated, Hawaiian girl, they’ve resonated with me.  “No one gets left behind or forgotten.” 

Lilo_and_Stitch_Musical_Duet_by_the_panpiperWhen I was asked to participate in the Family Ministry blog tour, these words echoed through my mind.  Family Ministry is Ohana Ministry.  Family ministry means no one gets left behind or forgotten.  Too many times, our definition of family ministry is too narrow, far too narrow.

Most often, family ministry is either a renamed children’s ministry or an integrated children’s and youth ministry.  Because we immediately assume a family has 2.5 kids and a dog, this is how we’ve chosen to define family ministry.  But that definition is far too narrow because it leaves out a number of families and makes many families feel uncomfortable.  Being honest, when I imagine the proverbial family in family ministry, I immediately imagine a family with a mom, dad, and two or three kids happily smiling.  I never imagine a big sister raising her baby sister while navigating a rocky relationship with a fire twirler and having to take care of an alien dog-creature.  In today’s world, the second is probably more common.

In order for family ministry to really stick around, in order for it to be something more than a passing fad, it has to be ministering to all people.  In a rare opportunity, I was once able to have lunch in a small group with Reggie Joiner after he spoke at my college.  I asked him how we do family ministry without alienating older folks in the church.  His response was short, everyone has or needs a family.  Our families look different, but we all have a family.  It’s true, even those with no blood relatives find something to belong to and that becomes a family, because the need for family is built into us.

In my heart, the best “family pastor” a church can have is a senior pastor with a vision and a passion to minister to all generations.  In my church, I have a pastor who truly cares for people from all walks of life and all age groups.  It’s amazing to see him interact with the elderly and the preschoolers almost seamlessly.  Where he lacks, he has asked me to help, but as an extension of what he is doing and not as my own thing.  In the end, family ministry is not a department, it’s an all-encompassing part of how we minister to people.  No one gets left behind or forgotten.

This post is part of the Family Ministry blog tour.  To read how others answer the question, “What is family ministry?” check out the full list of participants.