“Hey Kat – this slide says ‘framily’ with an ‘r’ on it, is that right?”
It was. I clacked heels on to the Justin stage on Sunday with the big screens behind me reading “framily” and had the incredible opportunity to talk to the 100 or so youth and parents there about how this silly word was a key to where the Youth Ministries were headed. I was delighted, because, to be honest, I had been thinking about this silly word since the day I first started working here.
“Framily” is a mash-up of the word “friends” and “family” and was coined by Youth Ministries mom Jennifer Bond years ago (much to the mockery of her kids, she assures me). She coined it specifically to describe a group of people in her life. She and her husband Jeff had joined a Sunday school class years and years ago and out of that group had emerged a set of four families that all essentially decided to raise their children as almost siblings: the Bonds, Toulouses, Vardys, and Magrytas. All four families have children actively involved in Youth Ministries, which is how I have gotten the pleasure of knowing all of them.
When I first started here, I was immediately struck by them, by the close-knit nature of their community, the way they joked with each other and teased each other and were intimately interconnected with each other’s lives. These were clearly more than Sunday-morning friends. When I asked, their kids immediately told me how they went on vacation together every summer, how all of the other parents were basically their parents too, and how all of the other kids in the framily were basically their siblings.
I thought it was incredible. I had never seen anything like it.
I don’t mean to single families out — as I kept working here, I met lots of other framilies, other packs of youth and their parents in Christian community together through this church, some for decades. They weren’t closed groups either, the Bonds, Toulouses, Vardys, and Margrytas, were also in the same class as the Jolins, who also hung out with the Muttiahs , the Linguists and the Kirks, and also the Burrows, whose daughter hung out with Claire Manno, who’s mom was in the same UMW circle as Linda Kennedy, who’s kids were in the same friend group as the Harpers, and the Reeves, and the Fletchers, who’s oldest actually hung out with the Jolin’s son who also… It went on and on and on.
But I have to tell a story about that first framily I met. You see, a bunch of their children are in the same friend group as each other (along with the Burrows daughter, and the Mannos daughter, and the Williams siblings, and, well, you get it).
I was talking to one of the kids in that friend group the other day, about to leave for college, and she was talking about missing her friends, and joked about how they were looking forward to being like the framily, and raising their kids together in youth someday.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
What a witness. What a gift to have been surrounded, drenched, swamped in such a compelling example of Christian community in the adults around you to day-dream about having it for yourself someday.
I realized for those teenagers, as they were building their friend group, they had an example of what it looked like not just to form a Christian community to last them through high school, but through life. They had a model of Christian adult life that was worth looking forward to, that was rich and impactful and communicated not in words but in lived experience that it really was going to get better than high school.
They had hope. And I wanted that for every single teenager that walked in the doors of this church. (Honestly, I wanted it for every single person who walked in the doors of this church, but I can only take on one ministry at a time).
So this year, as we look into the future of this ministry, we are thinking a lot about not just what it means to run the machine of Youth Ministry better, but to make it more useful, how to shape it in such a way that teenagers don’t just have a fun and impactful 6 years, but have the tools to shape a Christian life that will last way past graduation.
We think one of the biggest keys to making that happen, is a beautiful anomaly many of our youth have been lucky enough to stumble into already: Framily. Finding your own Christian community, your tribe, and being Christ to one another, committing to grow and learn together, and to building something that their future children will one day aspire to.
I’m grateful to the families of this church who have shaped the Justin, their teenagers, and me, and shown all of us the power of community, faith, and ultimately, framily.
Director of Youth Ministries