An example of an eye-opening paradigm for engaging young people in ministry and for strengthening families is Family Ministry. 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.” 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. This approach to ministry has merit, and is worth future consideration. This week, we look at a few of the churches that have implemented a family ministry program.
Part 4: Active Churches In Family Ministry
In order to minister to a fragile and fragmented 21st century family dynamic of single-parent, blended-family, and two-parent households, churches are implementing family ministry models in a variety of ways. There is no concensus for what it means to be a family-friendly church. Many churches are choosing to keep traditional structures, such as Sunday school, and age-organized ministries and small groups while developing programs to strengthen family-like intergenerational relationships in the church. A few examples follow of churches, pastors, and an advisory team actively promoting family ministry models.
Lynn Block is the children's director at Kensington Community Church in Troy, Michigan. Her program is called "Team Up"-families together building God's Kingdom. Families work, play, and learn together. Family small groups meet twice monthly-once with adults only and once as families. Families serve together inside the church, and in the community. She states, "We encourage parents to be involved in training. Families might run Sunday morning classes together. Older children help with puppets or snacks.” Community involvement teaches youth that they are ministers, and to not be self-centered. She states, "And families minister together at nursing homes and inner city churches and missions. It teaches kids that they are ministers too. It excites the kids to not just be spectators. This is very important because parents want their kids to be givers, rather than self-absorbed takers." (Yount Jones website)
Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor, Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas has partnered with LifeWay Christian Stores to serve as their General Editor for the Bible Studies for Life series. In 26 years in Northwest, Arkansas, Cross Church has baptized more than 17,000 people. Floyd, along with a advisory team of church leaders and scholars from across the country, offer suggestions on the content of the curriculum that is “created by churches for churches." (p.4). A primary goal of the material is to strengthen families:
Strong families have regular spiritual conversation. Bibles Studies for Life helps parents get conversation stared and take the lead as the primary disciple-makers of their families by providing an overview of what the whole family is studying. For churches who use it across multiple age-groups, it aligns all ages in studying the same concepts.
Tim Smith, a pastor to family life at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California offers parenting seminars and classes, complete with catered dinner and speaker, to equip seekers in how to instruct their children. The church has two support groups for parents: Confident Kids and PARTY (Parents of At-Risk and Troubled Youth). Tim sends out a Family Times newsletter that contains resource reviews, a schedule of parenting classes, and information on parenting issues. He states, "The thing about family ministry is that it's not an ‘either/or’ thing but a ‘but/and’ thing. We can do it in our structure. We don't have to throw out Sunday school. We think of ways to add to what we're already doing." (Yount Jones).
Note: This excerpt is from my Family Ministry research paper dated December 2013 written for the class, Innovations in Contemporary Church, Masters of Theology Program, Campbellsville University, however, most of the images are current from the websites they reference as of this post date.
Next week: Part 5: Strengths and Weaknesses of Family Ministry Models