Multi-Generational Family Ministry

When we think of family ministry, we normally think of partnering with parents.

But it may be time to re-think what family ministry means.  Here's why.

The number of people living in multi-generational households — homes in which two or more adult generations live together, or those that include both grandparents and grandchildren — is been on the rise in the United States.  

Look at the trend...
  • 1980 - 12% of population lived in multi-generational households
  • 2009 - 17% of population lived in multi-generational households
  • 2012 - 18% of population lived in multi-generational households
  • 2014 - (the latest data) 19% of population lives in multi-generational households
19% represents 60.6 million people.  Statistically, that means that 1 in every 5 children in your ministry lives with both their parents and grandparents.

The most common type of multi-generational family household is headed by grandparents and includes their children and grandchildren.  The next most common is a household headed by the middle generation and includes their children and parents. 

Some of this has been attributed to the recession we went through, but D'Vera Cohn, a senior editor and writer at Pew Research says, "The striking thing is that this really persisted after the recession.  Perhaps this trend is here to stay."

What causes families to adopt a multi-generational model?  Here are the 3 big reasons why.

Financial Reasons - As I mentioned above about the recession, many people form multi-generational households due to financial reasons.  This includes factors like the high cost of living, high housing costs, expenses for child care and elder care.  Younger family members may also need to pay off student debt and older family members may outlive their retirement.

Situational Reasons - This includes situations like unemployment, divorce, military deployment or being a single mother.  Welfare reform legislation in 1996 requires that teenage mothers live with a responsible adult to receive benefits.  Death of a spouse can also cause this due to a widow or widower who is unable to live alone or is lonely and wants companionship. 

Cultural - In many cultures, families believe in living with multiple generations and practice it.  This comes from a desire to stay connected to roots and share rituals, holidays, special events, etc.

Interesting enough, Millennials are the most likely to live in multi-generational households.  Look at these stats from 2014:
  • 32.1% of 18 to 34-year-olds live in multi-generational households. 
  • 23% of 55 to 64 year-olds live in multi-generational households.
  • 21% of adults 65 and older live in multi-generational households.
  • 20% of all women live in multi-generational households. 
  • 18% of all men live in multi-generational households.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, this has implications for how we do family ministry.  Based on the findings, almost 1-in-5 of the families in your ministry are multi-generational households.  Think about this...

Grandparents can be a great spiritual influence in the lives of children.  Many of the children in your ministry are under the care of their grandparents while their parents are at work.  How can you encourage not only parents, but grandparents to have spiritual conversations with children?  What discipleship tools can you place in the hands of grandparents to help lead their grandchildren spiritually? 
We know when we partner with parents, we double the spiritual impact in the lives of children.  But if we take it to the next level by partnering with parents and grandparents, we can triple the spiritual impact in the lives of children.
Involve multiple generations in serving in family ministry at church.  Yes, we should have Millennials serving in our family ministry.  Millennial students, young adults and parents can infuse your ministry with energy, excitement and fresh ideas.

But don't write off senior adults.  They bring time, resources and most importantly, wisdom, to the table.  You can read more about how to involve senior adults in serving in your family ministry in this article.

Offer multi-generational experiences in your ministry.  Here are a few examples:
  • Baby Dedication - offer families the opportunity for not only the parents, but also the grandparents to be part of the process and experience.
  • Baptism - offer families the opportunity for the parents and grandparents to pray a blessing over the child at their baptism.
  • High school graduation - offer families the opportunities for parents and grandparents to be part of the recognition.
  • Make take home papers, text updates, discipleship tools, etc. for not only parents, but grandparents as well. 
  • Have family events such as cookouts, worship experiences, seminars, etc. that target multi-generational families. 
  • Offer not only parenting classes, but grand-parenting classes as well. 
I am thankful for the spiritual investment that not only my parents have made in my life, but my grandparents as well.  My grandmother is now 93-years-old and lives in a retirement home.  I often go and spend time with her.  Recently, we gathered around her and sang some of her favorite hymns.  As she sang "Amazing Grace," I had tears in my eyes and a heart full of gratitude for the faithful example she has been for me over the decades.  What an impact she has made in my life. 
You see, multi-generational family ministry is Biblical.  Throughout Scripture, there are examples of generations making an impact in the lives of their children and grandchildren.  A great example is Timothy.  Look what it says in 2 Timothy 1:5.
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
If we will begin to focus on multi-generational family ministry, we will begin to see kids' lives impacted at a whole new level.  
Your turn.  The floor is yours.  What are your thoughts about multi-generational family ministry?  What are you doing now for this?  What ideas do you have?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.