Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Family Matters Blog Series Pt. 5: Strengths & Weaknesses of Family Ministry

By: Min. Angela Lee Price

I began on February 14th, entitled "Family Matters:  The Family Ministry Shift," based on my research paper from December 2013 written for the Master of Theology program at Campbellsville University.  Next week, we conclude the family matter.  This post, though, I want to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of family ministry models.  

A strength of family ministry models is in recent research that rate parents number one as most influential in the lives of their children.  Contrary to previously held notions about the “generation gap” and parents not being able to relate to their children, surprisingly, Millennials rank parental influence number one on their list of influences.  Millennials are very close to their parents and thrive on relationships.  Not only have “helicopter parents” hovered over their children and given Millennials special attention and sheltering, they have created great relationships with their teens and young adults.  Churches can capitalize on these strong family bonds by tweaking children and youth ministries to equip, train and involve parents.  Churches need to see parents as the primary spiritual educators of their youth and take more definitive steps to equip parents to disciple their young adults.  Frank Mercadante , in the article, “The Millennial Generation, Postmodernism and the Changing Face of Catholic Youth Ministry,” states,  “It means working together to better evangelize the entire parish community. It means not doing youth ministry in an adolescent vacuum. Instead of building disciple-making youth ministries, we need to work collaboratively to grow a disciple-making parish community.”  (Mercadante, 2008, p. 8)  His point is that the whole church, and not the

 youth or young adult ministries, must make discipling youth a priority.  While speaking for the Catholic faith, his statement holds great validity for Protestant Evangelicals as well.
Theories differ on how one arrives at a fully discipled church.  Intergenerational groups eliminate ministry divisions that exist with current ministry models, and this model lends itself to a unified and relational disciple-making experience.  However, Mercadante expresses the cautionary sentiment held by many pastors and experts, “It would be a mistake to take this observation to an extreme by slashing all youth gatherings and only offering intergenerational activities. Young people want and need to be gathered with one another. It’s not about switching out the youth ministry menu as much as expanding it by adding some intergenerational variety (Mercadante, 2008, p.7).

One of the major drawbacks for family ministry is that it is a very slow process.  It has the greatest opportunity for success in churches that don’t see it as a quick fix to getting youth in church, or to increasing their membership and baptism totals.  There are a lot of barriers to overcome in shifting successfully to this new paradigm, and the shift may not be fully realized in our lifetime.  To the extent the family ministry proponents don’t view themselves as the “fixers” of the marriage problem, churches implementing family ministries will be much better off.  Families are broken, but in some communities, the problem is compounded by addictions, crime, poverty, chronic illnesses, and a whole host of environmental, and generational woes. 

A recent study conducted by Timothy Paul Jones and the Gheen Center for Christian Family Ministry revealed that well over 90 percent of parents rejected the notion that professional ministers were the people primarily responsible for their children’s spiritual development. When asked if parents should disciple their children, not one parent disagreed.  In fact, more than 90 percent wanted to answer their children’s biblical and theological questions.  However, one out of every five parents admitted to never engaging in prayer, Bible reading, and worship in their households (Jones, p. 98-99).  Breaking generational habits, or curses is going to require fasting and prayer.  Churches must lead the way in repentance, confessing that previously held notions of how to do ministry have been detrimental to the the Kingdom of God, the health of the church, family.

Next Week:  Part 6:  Family Ministry Conclusion

Related Posts:

Family Matters Blog Series Pt. 4: Active Churches In Family Ministry

Family Matters Part 3:  Contemporary Approaches & Leading Voices in Family Ministry

Family Matters Part 2:  Biblical Basis for Family Ministry
Family Matters Part 1:  The Historical Roots of Family Ministry
Introduction:  Blog Series, Family Matters, The Family Ministry Shift


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