When Church is Family: 4 Ways to Fuel Warmth with Young People

Written by Jennifer A. Guerra Aldana for Fuller Youth Institute:

“We are family …” 

Whether they remind you of your favorite radio station or a recent wedding DJ, these are not just song lyrics. This is the real-life experience of many young people in local multicultural churches around the United States: the experience of church as family.

It was a Sunday morning and I was away from my local church in Pasadena. Right when the clock hit 12:00 pm, a text popped up. I knew worship had just wrapped up back at home, and I thought, “Oh no, what went wrong? What mess do we have to clean up? Who do I need to follow up with?”

My fears were squelched when I saw it was a video message. The thumbnail showed one of the older adults in our congregation alongside one of our young adults. They had used the flower crown filter on Instagram and they both giggled their way through saying “We miss you! Wish you were here.” 

Thirty seconds was all it took for me to want to jump on the next airplane and head home. 

Expanding the meaning of family

I am a pastor of a congregation that is intergenerational, bilingual, and intercultural. And we are family. The word “family” gets used very often and carries a world of definitions. A standard US societal definition of family might evoke images of two parents rearing their children. This definition is far too narrow for me. 

In many congregations like mine, mi familia (my family) is a combination of those who are blood-related, our neighbors, those who gather with us on Sundays, lifelong friends, and yes, even our friends’ pets. In my experience, family is defined by two key words: interconnectedness and mutuality. You are stuck with me, I am stuck with you. 

I belong. You belong. We belong to each other. 

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