Marks of Family Equipping Ministry

I subscribe to the Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry that is edited by one of my PhD professors, Dr. Timothy Jones. They have a companion website replete with resources and blogs geared towards pastors and ministry leaders with book reviews, resource recommendations, and insights from people who have labored well in the fields.

Last week I read a post by my friend Steve Wright, who’s making the transition to church planting missionary in South Florida but who for years served as a family minister at Providence Baptist in Raleigh NC. He is one of, if not the, authorities on family ministry and implementing it in the local church. His books include ApParent Privilege and Re:Think, both of which I highly endorse!

He wrote for the Family Ministry Today site and noted some marks of a family-equipping ministry. One of my long-term goals would be to see our church move to this model of ministry. For any number of reasons I find it both biblical and practical, and see how valuable it is to create a lasting legacy in the church.

You can find the list here, and I’ll copy it as well. I’ll write on the first four today and the last four tomorrow.

  • Family-equipping ministry seeks to make Christ above all else beautiful and declares an uncompromising Gospel to those who do not know Christ (Galatians 1:6-9).
  • Family-equipping ministry is measured by lasting disciples rather than attendance campaigns and focuses on the glory of our matchless Savior (John 15:1-15).
  • Family-equipping ministry truly partners with parents and prioritizes the task of resourcing, training, and involving parents as the primary disciplers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
  • Family-equipping ministry prioritizes and champions equally the two institutions that are God-given: the Family and the Church (Acts 2:42-47).
  • Family-equipping ministry seeks men who are biblically qualified pastors rather than charming activity directors (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
  • Family-equipping ministry develops a ministry environment that is healthy for a student pastor and his family; an environment where pastors will desire to stay long past today’s destructive, brief tenures (Matthew 10:10).
  • Family-equipping ministry seeks to mentor students for adulthood, marriage, and family rather than seeking to develop lifelong youth group attendees (1 Corinthians 13:11).
  • Family-equipping ministry invites, teaches, and expects older generations to invest in those younger in the faith (2 Timothy 2:2).

Family-equipping ministry seeks to make Christ above all else beautiful and declares an uncompromising Gospel to those who do not know Christ (Galatians 1:6-9)

The heart of family ministry isn’t even family, or ministry. It’s Jesus. Family and ministry are secondary points to the highest, first, and biggest point of it all, Jesus Christ. Jesus is put forth as the highest aim, greatest good, and chief ambition for every member of the family. One of the critiques of family ministry is that it is anti-evangelistic. That’s the farthest from the truth, family ministry sees the entire family as those for whom the Gospel is directed. By putting forth Jesus as the supreme treasure and object of our affections, it says to mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and everyone else that Jesus is the way, truth and life. Not only that, family ministry stands in contrast to a culture that is anti-family by demonstrating the central nature of the nuclear family as part of God’s design and one of His chief vehicles for the redemption of His image-bearers and declares the goodness of marriage and family.

 

Family-equipping ministry is measured by lasting disciples rather than attendance campaigns and focuses on the glory of our matchless Savior (John 15:1-15)

It’s very easy to pack a crowd, just offer them some cheap trinket or gimmick. All of us have been there before, we want to hit some arbitrary number of students in attendance. Maybe it was part of your interview process (it was for me). Swallow a goldfish (guilty), offer a free trip, give away books or CDs (guilty, guilty), and then proudly report the numbers at your next staff meeting (guilty). But what does that produce besides indigestion and a budgetary conundrum? Not much. That’s why we’ve shifted instead to a more discipleship-driven model of digging deep and investing in students. Sure we do the fun stuff still, but those are intentional for me and our adult workers to build relationships with the students in order to invest in their lives. Part of lasting discipleship is intergenerational emphasis. That’s where family ministry comes in. Voddie Baucham has a lengthy discussion about this in his book Family Driven Faith, which I also highly endorse. This is where the church partners with parents to invest in something that lasts far longer than a student ministry or a church, it creates a living and lasting legacy that trumps any stupid gimmick. Creating a legacy also changes the ministry emphasis from one of entertainment to one of growth, missions, and maturity. Instead of a holding tank, our goal for the student ministry has been to produce mature disciples of Christ. Have we lost some people? Yeah, we have sadly. I regret that and my heart breaks more than they can imagine. Again, Jesus is seen as the highest goal, not entertainment or attendance or numbers or pizza or dead goldfish.

 

Family-equipping ministry truly partners with parents and prioritizes the task of resourcing, training, and involving parents as the primary disciplers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Much youth ministry has been built on this fundamental error: the best person to disciple and reach my teenager is a professional who’s younger and can “relate” to them. What that created was a student ministry culture that saw adults as enemies, or at best financiers of trips and events. What that created was a two-fold dilemma, parents who felt inadequate to be involved in their student’s lives and students who didn’t think their parents “got it” because that was what their parents and their church had been teaching them. It also created a vacuum effect, where students by the thousands dropped out of church after graduation because they had no firm foundation to stand on. The debate over the “dropout statistic” is valid, but suffice it to say there is an issue there. Family ministry, on the other hand, recognizes that the primary influencer in a teen’s life is still their parents. Beer companies and the military get this, but for some reason the church has been slow to realize it. I get, at most, 4 hours a week with a teenager. Their parents, on the other hand, have them for anywhere between 40-80 hours a week! By simple math, the most effective to reach a teenager is their parents. So my job as a student minister is more to resource, train, and equip parents to do this. I admit this has not been something I’ve done well. By God’s grace I want to fix that and release my influence in teen’s lives back to their parents. Scripture calls on parents, especially dads, to lead and teach their families and point their wife and kids to Jesus. The church comes along and cooperates/partners with the family, bringing about a cohesive and united effort.

 

Family-equipping ministry prioritizes and champions equally the two institutions that are God-given: the Family and the Church (Acts 2:42-47)

God is for the family, so much so that the family is the first institution created in Genesis. God brings together Adam and Eve and officiates the wedding (which is a LOT of pressure when you do a wedding, God’s the standard-maker for doing a wedding!), and Adam and Eve are fruitful and multiply. Later, the Church comes along as the people of God in a corporate sense, bridging national and ethnic and linguistic barriers to demonstrate the international love of God. But the family is still important. Paul points to Timothy’s mother and grandmother in his conversion, the early baptism narratives point to entire families joining the church together, and Paul leaves direct commands for fathers/husbands to model Christ in the home. Family ministry loves family, but family ministry also loves the church. We love to be together in corporate worship, in fellowship, joining on mission, sitting under the Word, and eating together. We think that the church is a priority for families, for the family to be mutually edified through an intentional approach to age-graded ministry. We want to see families become like the church without becoming churches in themselves. Sojourn Church in Louisville has a great book for families about that.

 

Stay tuned for part two, tomorrow!

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3 comments on “Marks of Family Equipping Ministry

  1. Pingback: Marks of Family Equipping Ministry – Part 2 | Counting All As Loss

  2. Enjoyed both parts of this series.
    I am glad to finally know what the deal was with the goldfish. Believe it or not, that really bothered me. I didn’t understand why you would swallow a fish when you were talking about how youth group/student ministry should be. The two just didn’t seem to go together…
    I will let you know about the 22nd after Kody and I discuss it. Thanks for inviting us.

  3. Family equipping ministry is a natural extension of believer equipping ministry and should be built on that foundation. It’s also very hard – with obstacles and interference (both active and passive) from organizations from school to the church. The end result is unmeasurable here, but that’s because we function with incomplete information. It’s worth the effort.

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