Family Ministry: 3 Keys

The exact structure you use for family ministry is not what really matters. You might have a well-organized, obvious family ministry or one that’s there but more behind-the-scenes. The right plan is what is tailored to your setting and resources, born out of prayer.

Whatever your strategy, though, you will be most effective when you implement these three keys:

Keys to Family Ministry
(Click to enlarge image in Pinterest & repin.)

Key #1: Consistency in Family Ministry

Training, support, and encouragement given to families must be more than an occasional shot in the arm to be most effective. People need repeated exposure to truths that apply to family life. We’re talking about on-going, practical help. What that looks like could vary based on your setting. Perhaps a combination of approaches could best facilitate consistency, possibly increasing the potential for reaching more families than one way alone wouldhdo. Here are some ideas:

  • mentoring relationships

Check out resources under the mentoring tab at: Resources for Discipleship & Shepherding Ministry

A resource that could be used in the mentoring relationship: Parenting is Heart Work Book and Training Manual with 8 Audio Sessions

  • newsletter or e-mail providing short tips on a regular basis

If you don’t have the time to pull this together yourself, use a service like: Free Email Parenting Tips from the National Center for Biblical Parenting

  • parent support groups

For help check out: Effective Parenting Support Group Leader’s Guide

  • pass on links to helpful online articles or resources
  • resource center or library stocked with books and DVDs parents and families can borrow

You can find some resources listed at these pages:

Family Ministry Resources
Biblical Parenting Resources

  • retreats
  • seminars (hosted in-house or attended elsewhere)
  • studies in Sunday School or small groups

You can find some curriculum and studies ideas under the training tab at: Biblical Parenting Resources

Key #2: Communication in Family Ministry

When Bible teachers and children and youth ministry leaders make an intentional effort to communicate with parents, the children benefit. Here’s why:

1) Teachers learn about what’s happening in their students’ lives. This increases their understanding of behavior and needs.

Teacher Training Tool: Without a Good Parent-Teacher Relationship Worksheet Download

2) Parents learn about what’s happening in the classroom and what their children are learning. This gives parents something to build upon throughout the week.

Key #3: Coordination in Family Ministry

Imagine what would happen if Bible teachers not only made an effort to increase communication with parents but if both the parents and the church used the same approach in training and disciplining children. That begins by focusing on the same goal and follows through in using similar means to get there. And, it will involve training parents, Bible teachers, and children’s and youth ministry workers accordingly.

Check out: The Biblical Parenting University Church and Christian School Initiative

(Please note: Some of the above listed resources will take you to our affiliate store.)

Family Ministry: Content Matters

In a previous post I dared to suggest that family ministry is not the solution to what’s wrong with families today. We need to be careful that we aren’t merely trying to fix the symptoms of a greater problem. This is not to say that the church abandon family ministry. The key is that we get to the core and not merely address symptoms. We must be discipling and equipping people with the right emphasis. First is that they be fully devoted followers of Jesus who love the Lord with all of who they are, living in accordance with His Word and lining up all they do with His character and ways. Then, in family ministry it becomes about applying who they are in Christ to their role in the family. With this emphasis, people become more and more the parents they should be. And, they approach family life with the same focus — the heart.

In essence, then, family ministry must be rooted in the right message. Content matters.

It isn’t just about providing sermons, seminars, small group studies, etc. on all sorts of parenting skills and tactics. We need to carefully and strategically choose materials with the message that lines up with what matters to God — the heart. Reflect on these verses:

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23)

You can find plenty of parenting help out there that focuses on behavior modification. But, is that going to equip parents to disciple their children in ways that teach them to love and revere the Lord? Is that going to teach them to honor their parents and other family members out of love for God and one another? Content matters.

Parenting is Heart Work
Click above image to learn more.

Recently I discovered that Ministry Tools Resource Center could become an affiliate of the National Center for Biblical Parenting. Sure, we’ll get a commission for any sales generated through our links, which will help the ministry, but what really drew me was the emphasis on the heart. Let me point you to curriculum by them your church might want to consider — Parenting is Heart Work Church Kit.

Family Ministry: Church Solutions

Family Under AttackCollapse of the family. Families under assault. We hear this being said. We see it.

What’s a Church to do?

I’ve seen churches at both ends of the spectrum:

1) Some say the family is broken. We must fix it.

This line of thinking could be reflected by:

  • all, or most all, programming revolving around the family
  • seeking to fill in the gaps through the church’s children’s and youth ministry

2) The family is broken. We can’t fix it.

This line of thinking could be the result of:

  • a sense of hopelessness and despair about how overwhelming of a task it is; a feeling like there isn’t much we can do
  • an underlying belief that it isn’t the church’s responsibility but rather biblically it’s the parents’ responsibility to nurture the family; little effort put into reaching the family

Arriving at a Biblical Solution to Family Ministry

Whenever determining a biblical solution to any kind of problem, we must consider the whole of Scripture rather than building our conclusions of select passages. Here are a few points to consider:

1) We must remember that while the Church consists of families, the true Church is the coming together of individual believers from all walks of life, those who have personally put their faith in our Lord Jesus (Jn. 1:12-13; Eph. 2:11-22). Some will be parents. Some will be members of a family who attend. But, some will be single adults who never married. Some will be married couples without families. Some will be widows and widowers well past the child-rearing time of their lives. To revolve all, or most, programming around family or to regularly preach about family matters, is to potentially neglect or isolate others in the Body. We must be considerate and concerned about all (1 Cor. 12:14-27).

2) Yet, we must take into account the importance God places on family. In the beginning God determined it was not good for man to be alone so He made woman for companionship but also for procreation, to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1-2). God commands parents to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord, giving guidelines for healthy family dynamics, early on in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament (Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col. 3:18-21). We should also note that among the qualifications for church leadership we find listed how well they manage their families (1 Tim. 3). We must conclude that family is important to God.

3) We must also note God’s design for the Church to be equipping people to live for Him, to do their part, whether that be in their families, church, workplaces, neighborhoods, or wherever they may be. In Ephesians 4:11-12 we read that God placed gifted leaders and teachers in the church “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

To apply all of these points to the dilemma about family ministry, we obviously can’t take a hands-off, give up, sort of approach. Yet, neither should we swing the pendulum so far in the opposite direction that we obsess on family. Perhaps we should be focusing on equipping believers in a way that prepares them to take on whatever responsibility they have in life. Ask these questions:

– Are we teaching people to fear the Lord?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov. 9:10)

…. If people aren’t getting a good sense of who God is, why should they do family His way? Isn’t His wisdom what needs to be applied to family life?

– Are we teaching people to value and apply God’s Word?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

…. If people aren’t grasping the authority and power of God’s Word, what standard will they use in parenting, in determining family life? Isn’t the Word the parenting and family life manual they need?

– Are we teaching people to love the Lord with all of who they are and to love their neighbor?

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt. 22:37-39)

…. If people aren’t learning to love, where will they get the motivation to be selfless and honoring among family? Isn’t the nurturing of family to begin in the heart of the parent according to Deuteronomy 6:5-9?

If all we do is teach people parenting skills, we are failing them. If all we do is coach families on how to get along, we are failing them. Jesus gave us the mission of going and making disciples, “teaching them to obey EVERYTHING” He commanded (Matt. 28:19-20) — the “first and greatest commandment” He identified as loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37-38).

Perhaps if the Church sufficiently focused on this purpose and mission, rather than how to fix, or not fix, specific problems, then we’d have a church whose families are healthier. Perhaps what we are seeing are symptoms of a greater problem.

But My Mother (Father) Abused Me

Sometimes the people who are supposed to love and care for us the most are the ones who abandon, neglect, or abuse us. The question is asked, “How do I get to the point of being able to forgive them?”

I am going to make three suggestions that I trust will not sound too trite because they are anything but that. Getting to the point where you are able to do these suggestions is monumental when you have suffered at the hand of a parent.

1) Gain a biblical perspective.

God’s command to “honor” our parents comes without qualification. And, His Word specifically warns against scorning them (Prov. 20:20; 28:24; 30:11,17), letting us know that it is destructive for us to do so. Yet, the Bible nowhere tells us to accept abandonment, neglect, or abuse as normal or acceptable. We can “honor” them as our parents without agreeing with them or condoning what they do. Likewise, forgiving someone does not mean we agree with, condone, or even forget what they’ve done. Rather, we are not holding it against them. We are unlikely to honor them if we do not forgive them and vice versa.

2) Transfer your dependence onto the Lord.

Part of the anger and resentment we hold over these kinds of parents comes because we feel betrayed by them, the ones who were supposed to love, care for, and protect us. Accept that your parent may never be what you want or need him/her to be. Rely on the Lord to be there for you, to be the One who will meet your innermost needs. — “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Ps. 27:10) We will not forgive until we let go of our anger. We will not let go of our anger until we let go of our expectations.

3) Relinquish control to the Lord.

When a parent or other significant adult in our lives has harmed us in some way (physical or emotional), we tend to become self-protective. We are going to do whatever is within our power to shield ourselves. To forgive may seem like you are letting that person win, like you are relinquishing control or power to them. However, by forgiving, you are actually helping yourself become whole. You will not truly heal until you forgive. To be able to choose to forgive, you will need to turn over that control to the Lord who has promised to be there for you. That does not mean you will never need to put boundaries in place to protect yourself from the dysfunction. But, you will be doing it for healing purposes, not simply to protect yourself.

Scripture makes no exceptions on whom we are to forgive (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). When we don’t forgive, it not only keeps a wedge between us and the other person but also hinders fellowship with the Lord (Matt. 6:12-15). Maybe your parent doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. Neither do any of us merit God’s forgiveness yet He went so far as to send Jesus to die for us so we could be forgiven. For the sake of the Lord and your relationship with Him, as well as your own inner healing, ask God to help you let go of your anger, bitterness, and resentment and forgive as He has forgiven you.

Families are Important, But . . .

How important is family ministry in your church?  Is it more than a fad or buzz word?

Likewise, how important is ministry to “non-family” people in your church?

Families are important but the church consists of singles, couples without and perhaps unable to have children, older people past child rearing age, as well as families.  (1 Cor. 12:14-20)

    • What effect does revolving the whole church around families have on all these people?
    • How can the church serve families without neglecting other people groups?

 

Families are important but the church is commissioned to reach people in general, not specifically families.  (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8)

    • Where does a non-family person turn if the church focuses primarily on reaching families?
    • How can the church reach and assimilate non-family people without making them secondary?

 

Families are important but the church is commanded to first and foremost love God and then our neighbor (people in general). (Matt. 22:35-40)

    • When so much emphasis is on catering to families, how might non-family people feel in terms of their value?
    • How can the church provide a family-friendly atmosphere without being insensitive to the non-family people in their midst?

 

Families are important but the church is charged with shepherding the flock, not merely families. (1 Pet. 5:2-4)

  • What message do non-family people get when so much of the church’s time and resources are focused on the needs of the family?
  • How can the church make sure non-family members do not slip through the cracks?

The intent of this post is not to minimize the importance of family and the ways the church can help the family. At the very least, the church should . . .

Train parents to faithfully fulfill their responsibility.  When, where, and how we do that is what makes the difference.

Train teachers to keep a good line of communication open between teachers and parents.  Teachers keeping parents informed about what is happening in class gives parents a platform for taking it further at home.  Parents keeping teachers informed about what is happening in the home gives teachers a platform for better understanding students’ needs.

The intent of this post is to challenge us not to minimize those who attend our churches who are non-family people.  Let’s remember the all-inclusive nature of the church and how God uses diversity.  At the very least, the church needs the following:

acknowledgement that the church consists of families AND non-family people

advancement of the cause of Christ with all people in mind

affirmation of love and value of all people regardless of their status

accountability to shepherd all who are a part of the church

The Legacy of Grandparents

The U.S. sets aside the first Sunday after Labor Day to honor grandparents — Grandparent’s Day.  I have very few memories of my own grandparents as they all passed on when I was very young but one thing I do remember is that they were people to be respected in a special way.  And, though I didn’t directly benefit from their input into my life, I have been indirectly affected because of their influence on my parents . . .  the legacy my grandparents passed on to my parents.

The legacy of grandparents can be for eternal good as seen in the example of Timothy whose mother and grandmother passed on their faith by rooting him in God’s Word (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-17).

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children …” (Ps. 103:17)

This legacy can also have a negative impact as the effects of an unbelieving or hardened heart and a life of sin spills over in familial dysfunction for years to come.

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, … maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”  (Ex. 34:6-7)

When you consider the potential influence of grandparents on children now and in their futures, we must ask what role the church should have.

  1. Is your church building up, equipping, and encouraging them to leave a positive legacy?  (classes, special speakers, reading material, etc.)
  2. Is your church providing opportunity for the younger generation to learn from them?  (giving them opportunity to share in the service, pulling on their wisdom through teaching and mentoring the younger generation, interviewing them, including their stories in newsletters or bulletin inserts, etc.)
  3. Is your church honoring them in a special way?  (verbal recognition, small gifts, praying for them, making a display to recognize them, a special luncheon, having grandchildren make a card or craft to give to them, asking grandchildren to testify to how God has used their grandparents in their lives, etc.)

And, for those who are grandparents:

  1. Are you taking in nurture for your soul, growing in your walk with the Lord, so you have something of eternal worth to pass on?
  2. Are you willing to invest into the lives of the younger generation in strategic ways?
  3. Are you someone your children and grandchildren are pleased to honor, not just because a special day is set aside to celebrate grandparents, but because they are truly blessed through you?