Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Family Matters Blog Series Part 2: Biblical Basis for Family Ministry

Part 2:  Biblical Basis for Family Ministry
I am continuing a blog post series on Family Ministry as a way of training up youth in the Word of God and keeping them in church.  This post examines the biblical basis for family ministry.  Forthcoming posts will explore active churches, strengths and weaknesses, and several family ministry models so keep checking back over the next few weeks.

Proponents of the family ministry movement cite two Scriptures consistently, among others, to support their position that the primary responsibility for discipleship of children is with parents.    The first passage is Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your heats.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Brian Haynes, author of Shift, states, “Do you see the clear progression?  We love God.  God’s words are in our hearts.  And we then impress them upon our children’s hearts in daily life….  This is why I say it’s biblical as well as practical.  The average parent has exponentially more time to invest in a child than even the most active church” (Haynes, p. 20).  Timothy Paul Jones echoes the sentiments of Haynes adding, “The ancient heritage of songs, statutes, and ceremonies foreshadowed the coming of Jesus and explicitly recognized the primacy of parents in the formation of their children’s faith” (Jones, p. 77).

A second passage cited as the foundation for family ministry models is Ephesians 6:1-4 (NIV), specifically verse 4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Family ministry proponents believe parents and the church have abdicated biblical mandate to cultural norm.  Voddie  Baucham, author of Family Driven Faith, states  “I’m not saying that I wouldn’t welcome help,…from someone…, who has proven himself as a parent, and is well trained and competent in handling the Scriptures…However, I am not about to turn my children over to a youth pastor for their discipleship.  Again, that is my job (Ephesians 6:1-4).  I simply cannot ignore the biblical mandate in favor of the culture norm.”
Proverbs and Psalms bear out the discipleship principles in Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6.  Referencing Proverbs 1:8 and Psalm 78:2-4, 6-7, Jones states, “In the prologue to his proverbs, one of Israel’s ancient sages reminded youth to learn divine wisdom in the context of their homes,” and “Even in the songs of Israel, parents were called to impress on their children the stories of God’s works”  (Jones, p. 78).

Although mandated by Scripture, parental disciple-making has become a lost art for 21st century parents.  Haynes cites three reasons for this: 1) families are busy; 2) parents think discipling their children is a job for professionals; and 3) parents are not sure how to be primary faith influencers.  The church bears responsibility as well.  Many church leaders operate under the erroneous assumption that Old Testament principles are of lesser value than New Testament priniciples.  Also, the church-growth movement has redefined success.  Haynes states, “We built magnificent organizations, but we produced a version of Christianity that is compartmentalized and humanistic.  Our culture is now paying the price for ‘our version’ of Christianity”  (Haynes, pps. 36-37).
Many churches with segregated youth ministry models often use Titus 2 to support employing youth leaders to disciple other children.  Family ministry proponents say Titus 2 has been taken out of context and misapplied.  Voddie Baucham, referencing Ephesians 4:11-12 states, “The job of the church is to equip the saints to do their jobs, not do it for them” (Baucham, p. 186).
Opponents of family ministry church models say there is no clear mandate in Scripture to support a family focus.  William Easum in Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers writes,
Family is never a priority in Scripture. It is mentioned only six times in the New Testament and never in relation to a congregation. Family is always secondary to Christ's claim on us (Matthew 10:37). On several occasions Jesus de-emphasized the importance of family. Family obligations came behind the demands of discipleship.  (Yount Jones)

It is precisely this kind of belief that has caused divorce, family disunity, and burnout in the lives of many church leaders. Where church leaders have personal difficulties ministering to and maintaining their own families, the likelihood is greatly diminished that families will be given priority or focus in the church.
In Part 3, we will look at the leading voices in family ministry!
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