06 Conclusion



Leading Households of Faith

If you’re a pastor or church leader, you know that even your most devoted attendees are not in your church most of the time. That can feel like an obstacle: How does a ministry effectively influence the daily spiritual lives of the households and families it serves—which likely represent an array of generations, backgrounds, living arrangements and routines?

We hope the data contained in this report has mitigated some of the mystery or frustration that might surround your efforts to speak with specificity into the everyday hours and relationships of your parishioners. Perhaps it has been helpful in prompting you to reexamine your own household structure and daily routine, as well as their interplay with your faith. At the very least, we offer this report as a reminder that your work in supporting Christians as they function, even thrive, throughout the week is not only within the purview of your ministry, but crucial to discipleship and the health and longevity of the Church.

A household of faith can exist anywhere, regardless of someone’s history or current context, and, for the most part, it hinges on togetherness and shared opportunities for spiritual growth. The local church, a family of its own, can lead the way here. It should go without saying that means pastors, staff members and lay leaders should take the principles of spiritual vibrancy seriously and personally in their own homes. But churches must also emphasize the importance of hospitality and spiritual practices throughout their offerings—in sermons, songs, small groups, team meetings, summer camps, Bible studies, outreach events and so on.

In this conclusion, we’ll reflect on some of the lessons of this report and how they might inform your ministry to better connect and strengthen the households in your congregation.

Build—or Rebuild—Your Ministry with a Multi-Household Mindset

This study illustrates the mix of household types within the U.S. Church as a whole. Depending on your community’s location or demographics, this household variety may or may not exist, but it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the living arrangements that make up your congregation and determining which households your ministry could better disciple—or attract for the first time. It might be helpful to begin with reviewing member records or surveying the congregation with the goal of learning about the home lives and housemates of churchgoers. While it may appear that some environments or stages of life more naturally accompany church involvement, it’s possible these are simply the arrangements to which churches have most catered. Knowing each household has different needs, ask pointed questions about how you’ve set up your ministries, such as:


  • Does the structure of services or groups for families and children feel accessible to both fathers and mothers? Would participation in these same areas of ministry feel like a help or hindrance for single parents who are already carrying a heavy load? Have you made assumptions about the schedules of working dads or moms that may no longer be realistic?
  • Who in your church might have a hard time making it to services—older adults with health challenges? Childless couples who feel less engaged than families with minors? Single adults without an obvious partner or mentor who might encourage attendance? Busy nuclear or multi-generational households who could feel daunted by the Sunday morning routine? Set up carpools, volunteer teams or community groups that create a sense of accountability and camaraderie by strategically connecting younger families, single adults and elders.
  • How is your church supporting households as they evolve or change categories, for any number of reasons: marriage, divorce, illness, death, a child being born or leaving home, a move into retirement or assisted living? Think about how lay leaders or other church members could mentor or check in with families in transition, especially when the spiritual coach of the home might be greatly affected by a shift or crisis.


Use Age-Specific Ministries in Service of a Household-Inclusive Church

Does your church always separate generations for teaching, worship and fellowship because it’s the best route, or because it’s what has been done before? Certainly, dividing by age groups is sometimes the most convenient or appropriate option for everyone involved, but it can also prevent the inter-household introductions that, this study conveys, sustain the church and boost spiritual vibrancy at home.

The data indicates the presence of kids advances spiritual conversation and practice, but most Americans will spend the majority of their lives without minors in their households. Thus, there could be spiritual and social value for both old and young, parents and non-parents, in welcoming the involvement of kids and teens in main services or small groups, at least occasionally. Allowing all attendees to have church engagement of a similar nature could also eliminate a sense that a certain household type is prioritized in the activities of the church.

Finally, early and thoughtful inclusion of young attendees could ease some of the alienation or disillusionment that teens may encounter as they “graduate” from a siloed child or youth ministry and become single young adults, only to struggle to feel well-connected to their local church or to seasoned mentors who could help them navigate college, career, relationships and faith questions. One global study of teens, conducted by OneHope, points to three main things that most strengthen the faith of youth: positive family experience, engagement in religious texts and involvement in a faith community. The local church, working alongside households, can speak to all of the above and help transmit enduring faith to the next generation.38


Coach Christians in Ways Their Upbringing Did Not

Christians who didn’t grow up in a household of faith (or at least not one that provided a positive example) may need help understanding and establishing meaningful rituals. Conversely, Christians whose faith has strong roots in their upbringing may almost instinctively participate in the community and rituals of the Church, yet need some help scrutinizing the reasons behind their worldview or lifestyle.

Though the traditions or terminology will undoubtedly vary by denomination, any church can benefit from an annual or ongoing effort to delve into topics like hymns, sacraments, the liturgical calendar, spiritual gifts, missiology, the writers of the Gospels or the history of various Christian movements. If religion or theology professors attend your church, see if they might be willing to share a reading list or invite a church book club to shadow a lecture. Give even the “no-brainers” of practicing Christianity a careful, thorough explanation; for example, a class or series could focus on everyday disciplines, like how to pray or read the Bible, or regular church rituals, like tithing or baptisms.

How these classes or groups are presented to the congregation is just as important as what is covered in them. Some might guess these are opportunities for new believers to learn about the faith, so you might want to explicitly state when these are also moments for established members of your church to meet recent attendees, or for lifelong Christians to wrestle with the complexities of their beliefs and feel permission to say, “I’ve never thought about this before.” Consider making these classes open to all ages or perhaps to have parallel groups for adults and kids, to educate the whole church at once and provide entire families with chances for further conversation or application.


Make an Impact by Making Memories

Practicing Christians’ reports of household interactions show that spiritual practices are prioritized when all types of activities are common: games, house projects, heart-to-heart talks, reading, singing … The list goes on. What’s more, a correlation between hospitality and faithfulness speaks to the power of lively extended households consisting of both family and non-family.

Ministries have a duty to help their members understand all of life as worship, as well as to emphasize closeness, collaboration and fun as signs of life in the church. It shouldn’t be hard for Christians to identify the ways in which their local church pushes them not only to know God but also to know their brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps through dinner clubs, church-wide events, hobby groups, open mic nights and more. These could be chances for churches to welcome members as well as visitors, the broader community and those in need. Pastors may need to be bold (and humble) enough to acknowledge when faith formation is best aided not by services and sermons alone but by play and friendship.

Of course, even when churches communicate openness, joy and hospitality, some individuals and households may have trouble applying these values. Sometimes this is an issue of temperament or intention, but fulfilling the role of host or visitor can also be made difficult by distance, a sensitive housemate relationship, transportation troubles, compromised health or simply a diminished community. Think about ways to formalize or incentivize opportunities for attendees of all age groups and households to gather inside and outside of services—to both extend and receive hospitality. Sometimes this neighborliness looks like hosting others, but it could also require offering help or paying a visit. This generosity speaks to a range of pain points mentioned in this report: single parents who need child care, roommates who lack mentors, elderly who are lonely, ill or otherwise isolated. It also brings old and young together and creates an image of the Church as one big, diverse “extended household.”

Don’t forget that you, as a church leader, are a part of that picture as well. For churchgoers, having a more personal and intimate experience of their pastor as personal shepherd could go a long way in modeling hospitality and openness. It might be time for pastors and other leaders, elders or staff members to revive the somewhat lost tradition of “house calls.” Consider making it a weekly or biweekly ritual to have dinner, coffee or dessert at parishioners’ houses. Or, if that isn’t easily arranged in a large congregation, invite groups of parishioners to have dinner at leaders’ homes.

In summarizing the recommendations that stem from this research, perhaps we can do no better than Romans 12, which begins with its famous exhortation to be “a living and holy sacrifice.” As the chapter goes on, the focus shifts from the individual to the collective—from “your bodies” to “Christ’s body.” We are reminded, “We all belong to each other.” “Love each other with genuine affection.” “Work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” “Keep on praying.” “Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.” “Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Taken together, these principles build not only a vibrant household but a flourishing community of faith.



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Becoming Spiritually Vibrant Households

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Appendix A - Household Profiles

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