I've been asked to take on the role of "Family Ministry Coordinator" for our church. As I prepare for this role I ask myself the following questions:
- Is sending a fun card or activity page home, for parents to do with their kids, really working? Are parents committing themselves "wholeheartedly" to God's commands and repeating them to their children/youth day in and day out (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)?
- What about offering "Family Fun Nights" that bring families together, is that the most effective way to enhance their spiritual parenting skills?
- Or is it that one "Big Family Friendly Event" that really helps teach parents how to raise up their children/youth in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6)?
My conclusion is that none of the above attempts in establishing a healthy family ministry are as effective as we would like them to be.
I'm not saying these efforts are not effective in creating some type of positive influence within the families that attend our church, but are they the most effective way to minister to those families? After ministering to families for 20 years I personally can't say that they made the lasting "life long" impact I would have like to have seen. This got me thinking and praying about what the church could offer for families that would encourage spiritual growth and significantly change the way families interact with and could potentially minister to each other on a daily basis.
In his book "Revolutionary Parenting" George Barna writes "...the greatest influence a church may have in affecting children is by impacting their parents. The facts have been indisputably clear: In assessing the impact of churches, schools, and parents, it is the latter who have the most dramatic personal influence on a child" he goes on to say "Yet we also learned that most parents are not prepared to be effective in their roles. They often lack the self-confidence needed to fully invest themselves in the process." he concludes with the following statement, "The typical American parents - even after taking in parenting books and articles, workshops, radio programs, and countless conversations - remain stymied as to how to succeed. They are all too happy to pass off their kids to paid professionals - teachers, pastors, babysitters, and coaches.
Could it be that we are putting the cart before the horse? I know that when I held the title of children's pastor I thought the best way I could support or improve family ministry was to provide solid Biblical content for parents to take home to teach to their kids and regular "fun family events" that brought the family together. I must confess the long term results were not something I could brag about at the weekly staff meetings.
I feel like what we attempted to do under the name of "family ministry" was like giving parents the horse, rod, and the cart minus the instruction manual. We offered the resources (take home papers & special events) without any reference to the instruction manual on how to effectively make the most use of both. It is obvious that knowing each component of the horse, cart, and rod, how to ride it, then having confidence in what direction to steer it in, and the promising end result the rider can look forward to, would be far more valuable.
In hindsight I now see that providing consistent Biblical insight, as it relates to parenting effectively through daily conflicts and family issues, as well as helping to build a godly confidence within our parents, would have been the "life changing" component we were missing. With this component we could have equipped parents and infused them with a confidence established in God's word and the wisdom needed to raise righteous children that seek to honor God and make a difference in His Kingdom.
I believe a key element to a healthy family ministry lies within what I've stated above. Helping parents to recognize when and understand how to relay on God's teachings and work along side Him in confidence, as they face daily family challenges, will transform family ministry as we know it. As they discover these truths I am praying that they will eagerly commit themselves "wholeheartedly" to God's commands, becoming a living example to their children day in and day out (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
Over the next several months I will be posting fresh, creative ways the church can provide Biblical insight and equip parents with the confidence they need so that they can become the parents God intended them to be and raise their children in the way they should go. I would be honored if you would join me in the challenge to provide a deeper level of family ministry within your church too.