This fall we’re launching Young Families at Northland, and if you’ve got a young child in your family – a baby, preschooler, elementary-aged kid or even all three – listen up, because this new endeavor is for you!
What exactly is a young family? Well, families take a lot of different forms. Sometimes families involve two parents and a child. Or maybe a family consists of two kids and one parent. Sometimes a family has been re-formed from other families. Really, as soon as any parent is walking through life with any child, that’s a family. And that’s a family we want to love and support.
Of course young families aren’t a new focus at Northland. Many years ago, Northland started with a number of young families who gathered in a local elementary school to worship God and experience community together. Today you can walk through the foyer at any worship service, and you’ll still see parents and children running around, whether they are moving toward children’s check-in or just on the hunt for donuts.
During the school year, families are also an ever-present sight during the week. Northland Co-op is starting its 34th year and meets Tuesdays through Fridays, with 140 families enrolled in classes for toddlers through kindergartners. Also, Moms for Moms kicks off its year in September. Plus, the Children’s Choir, the LifeHope Childcare Center, Access Ministries and even Celebrate Recovery all include and serve young families at Northland.
What’s also easy to see is that it’s hard to have community when you have young kids! Trying to work around different schedules, nap times and extracurricular activities makes it hard to even find time for rest, much less for building real and lasting relationships. That’s why it’s so important to foster community in the places where you already spend time, so that families can have the opportunities to experience community – which is just as important for the parents as it is for the kids!
This fall with the launch of Young Families at Northland, we’re hoping to provide spaces where those families can grow, and spaces where those families can experience more community together.
So how’s it going to work?
Young Families will have three main programs designed to bring families closer to God … and to each other!
The first program is called Double Church. Beginning September 8, parents will gather on Sundays for a small group time in The Rink after the 9 a.m. service, from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. Where will the kids be? Kids will check in to Children’s Church as usual for the 9 a.m. service, but they’ll remain with the children’s team, and during the second service, they’ll be together with the other kids involved in Young Families.
That will free up the parents to connect with one another and experience community while they pursue God through study and discussion together. It will also mean that the kids get to see one another regularly during their Double Church time, which will help those children form deeper friendships.
At 11:45, when the small group time ends, parents can pick up their kids and then return to The Rink with their children for a potluck lunch with other families. As with any potluck, families will be able to bring their lunch with them. But with the new café opening this fall, families will also be able to pick up premade lunches. In either case, the lunchtime will allow entire families to end their Sunday morning together around shared tables.
Wondering why we’re calling it Double Church? We have a Young Families leadership team, and one of the couples, John and Megan Cortines, shared early on that their oldest kid, Jack, loved coming to church when John and Megan were in Sunday morning classes. Because of the classes, the Cortines kids were in both the regular children’s program and an additional program during the time their parents were in class. One week Jack went to them and excitedly asked if he would get to go to “double church” again.
That’s the kind of enthusiasm and excitement we’re hoping both the kids and the parents will experience through these weekly Double Church Sunday morning gatherings.
The next component to Young Families is First Fridays. Starting September 6, on the first Friday of each month, we’ll offer a parents night out from 6 to 9 p.m. Parents will be able to drop off their children for on-site childcare, where, for $5 per kid, children will have dinner and three hours of care. What will the parents do during that time? There are lots of options!
For some families, First Fridays may just provide the space necessary for a much-needed date night. Those three hours could mean dinner, dessert, and time to connect and strengthen relationships. For other parents, First Fridays could create space to tackle some errands or enjoy a brief child-free quiet time.
We’ll also offer some group social activities during First Fridays. A big part of Young Families is fostering relationships within our church family, so we’ll have options for people looking to connect with other parents on those Friday nights.
The last structured part of Young Families that we’re launching this fall is Second Saturdays. On September 14 from 10 a.m. to noon, families will meet up at Eastmonte Park in Altamonte Springs for our Second Saturday fall kickoff.
With Second Saturdays, there’s no big agenda or program for the time we’ll spend together. We’re just carving out a little time to let our kids run around and have fun together. It’s a great and easy outreach opportunity because you can bring friends to a community space, where they’ll have a chance to meet some other great families from Northland.
Because it’s so unstructured, it can also serve as a launching point for other connecting moments after noon. Families can head out and grab lunch together afterward, or even just stick around at the park as long as the kids are still having fun. Second Saturdays will happen every month from 10 a.m. to noon at different parks in the area.
You’ll be able to find out all the Young Families upcoming events and opportunities at northlandchurch.net/youngfamilies. We’ll even have a link to our Facebook group so you can stay up to date on the events and also easily invite other young families in your life to take part in the community.
Double Church, First Fridays and Second Saturdays all launch just after Labor Day weekend, and we’re hoping that they help Northland’s young families experience a degree of vibrancy and life that can be hard to find in the midst of the rigors of everyday life with young children at home.
Of course, those programs aren’t the sum total of what we’re hoping happens through Young Families. There are already some small groups forming, people meeting to pray and pursue God together and other avenues of significant spiritual transformation and growth.
If you want to hear more about the long-term hopes and dreams for young families at Northland, you can connect with any of the families on the leadership team: John and Megan Cortines, Serg and Kristie Albino, Brian and Noami Wilcox, or my wife, Jenn, and me.
Ultimately what we’re hoping and praying for is to see families strengthened, parents and children alike more deeply connected to God, and this entire church family more deeply connected as we continue to journey through life together.
God is already doing some big things at Northland in our young families, and we can’t wait to see what He has in store for us in the months to come!