Review: Attract Families to Your Church and Keep Them Coming Back

April 30th, 2014

As someone who is currently in their fifth year serving the local church as a Minister to Children and Families, it seems like the only thing that I can say with complete certainty about family ministry is that it is tough. It’s tough to define. What is family, anyway? It’s tough to plan. In case you didn’t know, “if you build it, they will come,” only worked that one time in a movie for Kevin Costner. It’s tough to connect. Even if you have a narrow definition of “family", how do you even begin to make connections with all of these people? If you’ve done it before, then you too know, family ministry is tough.

For many years, the difficulty of engaging in family ministry has been addressed by building programs. You might think that this is where Linda Ranson Jacobs would be going in her book, Attract Families to Your Church and Keep Them Coming Back (Abingdon Press 2014), but repeatedly she seems to challenge programming as the primary model of family ministry. Throughout her book, Jacobs points to relationship building as the primary means of engaging families in the local church. “I am convinced that the people in our communities are starving for relationships,” Jacobs writes. Jacobs is not opposed to programming. On the contrary, she provides many examples of excellent programs that churches around the United States have successfully implemented. A program’s success, however, seems not to lie in the program itself, but in the relationships that are built and nurtured within the structure of a program.

Jacobs brings to the book her experiences of being a divorced, single mother of two children. She takes great care to outline many family structures that are becoming increasingly common in our culture, including blended and stepfamilies, grandparents parenting, boomerang children, and single adults just to name a few. These family structures, Jacobs notices, are quickly becoming the norm. Oftentimes when a church considers its “evangelism strategy”, it immediately jumps to ways to attract families. As is made clear in the book’s title, Jacobs deeply believes that attracting families is a part of every congregations’ missional responsibility. However, Jacobs challenges all church leaders to open their hearts and minds to what attracting families might really mean.

Attract Families to Your Church is an excellent introductory resource for all church leaders wondering where to begin with family ministry. Asking the question of where to begin is tough. I know. The content and structure of Jacobs’ book would be an excellent study for churches who feel like they’re starting at the beginning or who feel overwhelmed by the changing structures of family ministry. It’s a book that would be helpful to all church leaders who work closely with families within the church—senior pastors, children’s and youth ministers, music ministers, congregational care ministers, lay people who serve with children and youth, etc….

Throughout her ministry, Linda Ranson Jacobs has explored ways in which local churches might most fully open their doors and hearts to families to grow in God’s grace and love. In this book, she shares her experiences and ideas on how God’s people might faithfully do this. So, pick it up. Enjoy it. Consider the ways that we might come together as communities of faith to experience and share God’s love with intentionality and purpose!

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