Everyone’s Emphasizing Family Time—Are You?

Originally published March 2008.

Over Christmas (2007), when too many commercials are run and then they are run far too often.Wal-Mart ran a commercial seemingly all the time.They actually started running it before Thanksgiving.The commercial was of a mother who thought she was so clever.She had the best idea of how to gather her family together for family time—buy a large-screen TV.The commercial ends with the picture of a happy family sitting together on a couch watching mind-numbing TV.I don’t know if it actually was mind-numbing TV but watching Deal or No Deal or Dancing with the Stars is hardly good family time.Unless sitting on a couch together not conversing is good enough for you.

Then there is the commercial for the Dodge Grand Caravan driven by the mother purchased as a way for her family to have family time?What a good purchase!Of course, part of the commercial shows the entire family with headphones on watching different programming from the DVD player.Together in the same vehicle but still separate.

 

Kentucky Fried Chicken got it better.Their commercials show families sitting around a table at home no less eating finger-licking good chicken with parents and teens actually having a conversation.There have been many large studies on the importance of family dinners on a teen’s overall growth.Kentucky Fried Chicken found a way to support those findings and sell more chicken.

Back on November 26, 2007, Beth Snyder Bulik wrote for Advertising Age, the magazine geared to marketers:“Prepare for the onslaught of family, family and more family marketing. This year it's not only coming from the typical holiday marketing that stresses perfect gift giving. It's also gaining steam as a year-round theme among a wider range of marketers in categories including food, video games, electronics and cars.

“…Technology companies can promote their wares as being equalizers for families. For example, baby boomers are playing Wii with their kids and grandkids.

“…According to Mr. (Joe) Calloway (a brand consultant), it's not the usual pitch. ‘It's such a different version of 'Let's get together,’ he said. ‘Let's not talk to each other or cook anything, but let's watch TV, let's go to a restaurant, let's bring in takeout and pretend it's home-cooked family time. ... I don't know if it's working or not, but boy, the marketing people love it.’”

Speaking of Wii, EA and the one and only Steven Spielberg have teamed up for a family game for the Wii called BOOM BLOX (they insist that the name always be written in caps).The game is promised to feature many fun challenges and cool scenarios for kids and parents to master together.

Suddenly, everything is about family time.Maybe because marketers are behind it or maybe not.But valuable family time is becoming a commodity in today’s busy, stressed, world where everyone’s lives are lived in one hundred different directions.

Is your youth ministry reflecting this trend?Are you giving families time together?Whether in your youth ministry plans or with your creative ideas for them to do family time in their homes or in their cars (so they can be like that family in the Grand Caravan)?Remember, valuable family time is a commodity right now.

Are you a culture watcher as another means to help give you insight into aspects of youth ministry?Don’t let this one pass you by.

Family-based youth ministry is certainly trendy now and no one recommends you do trendy youth ministry.Been there, done that.However, family-based youth ministry is also grounding and the furthest thing from a trend.Through you, parents, and members of your church family, the teens are raised up in a grounded faith that will outlive any trend of adolescence.Even their faith decisions tend to not be trendy.That is a bold statement to make, yet a living testimony of what I’m seeing with my teens as we’ve been in this practice for seven years now.They are surrounded by many stabilizing adult influences which provide a large resource pool for them to use as they grow through adolescence.

Family-based youth ministry is really a catch-all description.There are so many varied ways to implement ideas into your individual youth ministry.I cannot even begin to list the varied ways available.But do implement something.Do something more than a parent meeting that solely passes on your agenda.

Yes, passing on your agenda to parents is helpful.It does increase the communication between you and the parents so they can understand the youth ministry better.However since you care about their teens, both you and the parents should have the same agenda.Have you noticed how only the “good” parents show up at these parent meetings?Do they need more understanding of the youth ministry or are they coming out of desperation to somehow figure out how the youth ministry can help them raise their teens?As for the other parents, if you provided a way to help them communicate better, pass on their faith better, or understand their teens better, is there a chance they would become bigger supporters of the youth ministry?

For me at my church I approach the youth ministry planning with these two ground rules:We will provide opportunities for communication and we will provide memories that parents and teens will make together (sometimes even in mini-vans).Remember that family-based youth ministry is a catch-all description.There are many varied ways to implement ideas into your youth ministry.

I hear the voices in my head about the common questions such as the unsaved parents, neglectful parents, disrespectful parents, etc.When I hear these questions though, I often wonder if the youth worker is throwing these excuses up as a way to hold on to the current way of youth ministry maybe because he/she is intimidated by parents or is content with the current way.Hmmm…

The marketing push behind the Green Movement is personally driving me crazy.Everything is green in someway or another.But like fat-free foods, are they really fat-free or really good for you?Are these products really green?And what is a green mortgage?However, that doesn’t change the importance of the message.I am still personally trying to become more green in all that I do because we have that responsibility to take care of God’s creation.

Just because quality family time is now a marketing push and you will get sick of the message (doesn’t marketing have a tendency to corrupt the message?), this doesn’t mean the message is less important.The message comes from a need.Parents have spoken.They want more time with their children.They want more time to influence their children.Being that you are the trusted adult with their children, you can be creative enough and influential enough to provide them that time.