Thinking About Family Ministry
I read an article last week in the Journal of Family Ministry called “The Problem and The Promise of Family Ministry” [JFM 1.1 (2010): 36-43]. The article mentions three trends characterizing ministry to families over the past couple hundred years and suggests that in recent years, a fresh appreciation for the biblical call to parents is taking hold for many, namely, that parents function as “primary faith-trainers in their children’s lives.” This thinking has given rise to what the author says are “three identifiable family ministry models... family-based, family-integrated, and family-equipping.”
Regardless of the particular model one might appreciate most, the article’s conclusion is humbling and balanced. It reminds me that too often we try to do what only the gospel can do. It will be helpful to keep in mind, I think, as we work to cultivate healthy families in the church:
“Before you make plans to launch a family ministry in your church, a few words of warning about family ministry are in order—words that may seem to work against the success of this very journal! Our words of warning are simply these: Family ministry is not the answer; family ministry will not fix your church’s problems; and, family ministry will not transform people’s lives. The Gospel is what changes people—not programs or practices; not models or methods; but solely and only the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every local church should be concerned first about how the Gospel is portrayed, presented, and practiced in the congregation. This includes considering how local congregations teach on the subjects of marriage and parenting and how they encourage and minister to families. Healthy families are not, however, the goal. To place anything as the church’s goal besides the glory of God experienced through the Gospel is to create an idol, and the idol of family ministry is no less loathsome to God than the orgiastic shrines of Canaan or the pantheon of ancient Rome. The believing household is a target for the enemy, but Christian families are not the answer to humanity’s problems. The Gospel is the answer. Our households are not targeted because Christian families are flawless families. Our households are targeted because they are God-ordained contexts where cross-centered, Gospel-empowered living can be constantly rehearsed and practiced. Through these day-by-day rehearsals of the Gospel, children and parents alike are trained in the fear of God.”
You can read the whole article here.