When Service members and their families are separated during deployment, there is an obvious physical vacancy left in the home of course, but also an emotional and spiritual void that can be left behind as well.
Pastors in the churches of these families should not only ask, “What are some ways we can support these families?”, but more importantly, “How are we as a church being intentional about caring for the Military community within our church?”
Does your church have a plan to react when a new Military family joins your congregation, or is it possible they have unintentionally fallen by the wayside? In this article, we want to share some ways in which Service members’ families can feel supported during one of their greatest times of need.
Know Your Congregation
An essential part of a pastor’s ministry is getting to know the people in his congregation. How many members that attend your church are in or were in the Military? Do they have spouses, children, or extended relatives within the church?
If your particular church is in close proximity to a Military base or other installation, you may have more Service members in your congregation than you realize. Reach out to know who these families are and make sure your elders and deacons know who they are as well. They are going to have some unique challenges and needs from the church body.
Do You Have an Active Military Ministry?
Perhaps you are already acquainted with the Military families within the church’s walls but you don’t have a ministry specifically designated for them. Most churches have an internal network of babysitters, lawn-cutters, meal-makers, elderly care, etc., and these are great services that help support the congregation as a whole. But are there aids that specifically serve those who serve?
Relying on the veterans in your church is an incredibly valuable resource—they have been in the shoes of active members and they can relate to the struggles and challenges.
Some services you may want to consider adding if you haven’t already:
- Small groups with Bible lessons that relate to the Military community. These could be geared towards couples, single folks, parents, etc.
- A phone list of willing veterans/pastors/Chaplains who can lend an ear to a Service member or their families that may have an issue they need to share, for guidance or prayer.
- Have prayer groups or a prayer time to specifically lift up the Military community and take prayer requests from Service members and their families.
When Church Family Is the Only Family
An important thing to remember is that Military families often travel around—a lot! These congregants are very likely far away from their own families and possibly in a place that is geographically unfamiliar to them. A family from New England may have a Service member stationed in Arizona, and they’ve never seen a cactus before!
Cultural differences, even within our own country, can also make it hard for Military families to “fit in”. Here are some great tips for including Service members and their loved ones into your church family:
- Have frequent welcome breakfasts or pot-luck suppers. This can help to casually blend new Military families in with the church body.
- Host a baby shower. Expecting Military members or spouses who may be far from home will benefit not only from the helpful baby supplies but the love and support of your congregation.
- Provide free childcare. This can be especially important for families who have young children and no network of family and friends to help with care.
- Consider handyman services. Families may be moving into a new-to-them home that needs a little work and a helping hand from someone who can wield a hammer or a drill. If you have a group of men who participate in work weekends at the church, maybe their services can be used at the home of a Military family.
- Pay extra attention to summer. The summer months may be carefree for kids, but for single parents, the added responsibilities involved during summer vacation may prove extra challenging. Consider organizing events such as free teen babysitting nights, child-based activities, and childcare during meetings.
Simply letting a Service member and their family know that you care for them and that you are thinking of them through inclusion, acts of kindness, and prayer can mean the world to them in a place that may otherwise not quite feel like home.
The Free Resources We Provide to Help
At Armed Services Ministry, we are in the business of helping out Military families through our free church resources.
We mentioned earlier how offering small groups specifically to Military church members can be a wonderful outreach. Small groups have a way of bringing a sense of community and togetherness to a church body.
If your church leadership has been asking, “Are there any free online Bible studies?” the answer is, “Yes!” ASM has several that you can use to start up a Military- or non-Military-themed Bible study. The God Understands series, for instance, has eight individual studies that address common challenges that Service members and even civilians face. Each study topic like Guilt or Sadness & Grief can be utilized as individual Bible studies with written content as well as videos.
Go to armedservicesministry.org to see what else we have to offer that could help you start up a Military-focused small group today.
The church is a great place for families of Service members to come for support—and ASM is here to give you the resources to make that happen. We are honored and fortunate to come alongside congregations that keep our Military families strong.
Together, we are all members of the same body, serving the Lord as one:
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5 (ESV)