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My Take on Family Ministry

(photo by Patrick Q)
Family Ministry is a buzzword in children’s ministry. I hear people talk about the problem of family ministry. We talk about how we need to partner more with parents. We talk about it as if this is a new and revolutionary idea that we need to find new and revolutionary solutions to. We talk about how things used to be done reminiscent of “the good old days” way of talking.

I do think that it is good that churches are trying to be more intentional in how faith is integrated into family life. My concern, though is that most solutions are still based on an institutional and compartmentalized view of spirituality. We are looking for family programs, partnership initiatives, and shared “worship” experiences to deal with the questions of helping parents share faith with their children.

My concern is that these “solutions” do not help families live out their faith in authentic ways as they live out life. Families are inadvertently told that “THE WAY” to pass on faith to their children is by going to a church service together or by having family devotions that include some sort of learning activity or by following a curriculum they take home to use in the car and at the dinner table.

While these things are not bad, I don’t think we need to focus more on helping families realize that faith is lived out in the day-to-day things they do. Parents need to be encouraged to live out their faith from day-to-day and model what it means to live a transformed and authentic life with all its ups and downs. Parents need to be equipped to use everyday moments – teachable moments – to model faith for their children. Parents need to be empowered to be a faith model for their children.

While family ministry programs and systems and initiatives and whatever else you might want to add are good, I don’t believe they are the answer. We, as ministry leaders, need to model for our community that church is more than just a building… that worship is more than just a church service… that everyone in God’s family is a minister and needs to be doing ministry in the greater community together as families… that all parts of our lives need to be lived out as worship… that wherever we are, we carry the image of God as lives transformed by the Holy Spirit…

What does that look like? I’m not sure. But I’m not convinced that all these programs and solutions that are being talked about are the answer. I think the answer is much more simple and organic.

7 Responses to “My Take on Family Ministry”

  1. Kerry May 15, 2008 at 1:18 pm #

    Hey Henry! I’ve been peeking at your blog recently… good stuff! I like your “little people” family at the top of this post. Good thoughts on Family Ministry too… What I wonder about is whether the issue is more of a discipleship issue of our adults than it is a ‘family ministry’ dilemma we need to solve. As we’ve been tackling this at our church, what we’re trying to help parents (and all adults at Gateway, really) do is make their own faith stronger, and to recognize that they are the faith leader of their homes, seeing their home as their most important “church” in which to live out their faith. But how? Hmmm… it’s a tricky one. You’re right, it does need to be organic… and I think it might be easier than we’re making it out to be, as Christine pointed out in her session at Conspire.

  2. henryjz May 15, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    Hey Kerry! Thanks for checking out the blog…

    As for adult discipleship, I think that is exactly where we need to begin reevaluating. That is where we’re at here at Redwood. Yes, CM is important… vitally important, but without adults who are being discipled to live out authentic transformed lives, then there is no one to do CM! I think that if we swing in this direction of focusing on family ministry, then we will be doing a disservice to many in our individual faith communities. We need to get adults to a place where church is more than just a building and their spiritual life is more than just something they have but it IS their life. Also, if we can get everyone to truly live out their lives as the priesthood of believers and intentionally living their life as ministers (including parents being “ministers” in the home… or faith models), then we will see families transformed. It’s going from a “me and Jesus” mentality to a more community minded view of what Jesus has done for us and how it affects our communities (family, church, city, etc.).

    We need to help families to allow God to change the entire story of their family rather than just giving them events or block quotes that they insert into their current story.

  3. Desirée Roderick May 16, 2008 at 12:54 am #

    Yes! Discipleship! Adults need to make the Bible real in their everyday lives. I think for a lot of adults, the Bible has a lot of “neat stories.” But they aren’t “neat stories”. They are real events that happened in the lives of ordinary people, just like us. It’s realizing that God can work in our lives just the same as He did in those in the Bible. Then when adults hear those stories they are viewed as a treasure, not a story for little kids.

  4. Christine Yount Jones May 27, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    Henry,
    I can’t agree more with your post! The interesting thing is that so many churches who report upending their churches to focus on being family-centric are finding that it didn’t solve the problem anyway. I think you’re on to something far better–spiritual growth for everyone in a family-friendly environment. Very good.

  5. henryjz May 27, 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    Christine, thanks for the input that you’ve seen from churches who’ve tried to be family-centric. The struggle about spiritual growth for everyone in a family-friendly environment is that it sounds too simple. Many churches will probably say they’ve already been doing that. That is why they are trying something different.

    I don’t agree, though. Much of evangelicalism is so me-centric. Salvation is individual. Spiritual growth is individual. Sanctification is individual. What we need to do is expand our ideas of these and realize that salvation, spiritual growth, sanctification, atonement, etc. also must be viewed in the context of community. Part of Jesus’ atoning and transforming work has to do with making us right (not just with God) but with the people around us and with creation. That means our lives are lived for others. We grow spiritually for others. We become sanctified for others. All for the benefit of those around us. We don’t grow just to get closer to God. We grow so that we can help those around us get closer to God. Wow! What would that do to families if parents and children alike were discipled in that way? People might just start living like transformed images of God and would become contagious.

  6. Lori Eilers May 28, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    Wow, just found your blog and am excited to read through it! Great thoughts and insite…totally agree! Blessings…I’m sure you’ll have plenty of comments from me.

  7. henryjz May 28, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Thanks Lori. Looking forward to seeing you join in on the conversation!

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