This will be the first Christmas my 4-year-old can say he’s spent more Christmases with his dad than without — a common story for military families.
Having your service member home for birthdays, holidays and important milestones every year is rare and almost incomprehensible for a military family.
The holidays accentuate the needs military families feel throughout the year. Because of this, churches have a unique opportunity to step into these tender spaces and welcome military families into their communities, meet their needs and train them to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel.
In doing so, your church can obey the Great Commission and deploy military families for the glory of God.
In order to welcome military families into your church with Christlike hospitality, your congregation must first identify these families and the cultural barriers that exist.
Questions to ask
Here are a few questions you can ask to help highlight who these families might be in your area.
- What service members are in your community?
- Is there a nearby military installation?
- If not, are there National Guardsmen or reservists living or serving in your area?
If your church is in proximity to a military installation, consider designating a church member, deacon, staff person or elder to reach out to the chaplains and seek to understand the needs of the families in their unit.
Knowing the training and deployment schedules will reveal unique ways your congregation can come alongside those service members and their families.
We all live with constraints, but the difficulties military families face can be particularly tricky.
As churches identify and welcome military families, the physical and relational limitations that leave them feeling disconnected and lonely will become evident. But a local body of believers can meet many needs.
For example, offer babysitting so a family member can make appointments or go Christmas shopping without the children in tow.
Providing meals can ease the burden of regular household tasks.
Helping with a household maintenance list while a service member is away can relieve a spouse who is maxed out.
House projects, winterizing the home or repairing broken items often remain unfinished due to limited capacity.
Simple things such as decorating a home or hanging or taking down Christmas lights can be a huge morale booster.
When church members see a need and step into that gap, they significantly lighten the constraints on military families.
The military and many military nonprofits offer services to support and meet the physical needs of service members and their families. But the church offers something none of those organizations can: the life-changing power of the gospel experienced through the body of Christ.
Due to the transient nature of military life, families are eager to develop connections within the body of Christ.
They look to the local church in hopes of forming deep relationships. Yet they face distinct hurdles to involvement in the local church: lack of child care, transportation needs, time and finances.
As your church plans holiday events, taking the time to consider these factors will bless your military families and enable more of them to participate and bring their friends.
Seize the opportunity to invest in military families. Service members and the people close to them have bought into the understanding that their lives are not their own. This makes them incredible forces for the Kingdom.
As your church disciples them and builds them up in Christ, their lives of service will continue to have eternal significance.