Collapse 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) Others say 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 Biblical Church Solutions 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.