Family ministry seems to be the hot topic in children’s ministry right now (as well as in youth ministry) and rightfully so.
After all, aren’t children and youth with their families exponentially more than in a kidmin or stumin environment at your church? Yep. Families have an enormous influence, for better or worse, on their progeny.
So, the church should definitely be thinking more about how to resource families to spiritually influence their children rather than create and foster more programs to teach and disciple those children.
It’s seems like the predominant mode of church’s children’s ministry is to be the primary disciplers in a child’s life. We’ve accepted this role because parents have let us. Parents have outsourced their child’s spiritual development to the “professionals” rather than the two parents God graced them with.
Timothy Paul Jones in the book Family Ministry Field Guide, tries to reorient the family to see its God-ordained mandate to teach, train, disciple, and equip their children for life. Jones says:
…our children are far more than our children; they are potential or actual brothers and sisters in Christ (pg. 75)
…if our children become our brothers and sisters in Christ, their days upon this earth are preparatory for glory that will never end (Dan. 12:3; 2 Cor. 4:17 – 5:4; 2 Pet. 1:10-11)… That’s why our primary purpose for these children must not be anything as small and miserable as [mere] success [in life]. Our purpose should be to leverage our children’s lives to advance God’s kingdom so that every tribe, every nation, and every people group gains opportunity to respond in faith to the rightful King of kings (pg. 103)
Jones also talks about how families need to disciple their children with their grand-children in mind:
When I pray with my girls, when I intentionally guide their spiritual formation, I am not thinking just about their growth and sanctification–though that’s important, too. My plan is that, a hundred years from now, there will be great-great- and great-great-great-grandchildren who can’t imagine these [spiritual, family] practices not happening in their households, because I have so thoroughly ingrained them in my children’s lives here and now. I want God’s Word to be so deeply engraved in my family that those future generations will not be able to escape its implications. I hope to start something in my family that I cannot finish, because it will outlast my time on this earth (pg. 87)
I don’t have all the answers. I’m trying to recover from a programmatic-based children and youth ministry myself. I think we do a great job @ Hayward Wesleyan when it comes to discipling children and youth and leading them toward Christ and the Gospel (I might be biased!). However, I would give us a drastically different mark when it comes to encouraging and equipping families to spiritually lead their homes.
And I might be thinking these things more because I have two impressionable children of my own now and I’m thinking of how much Amanda and I do at home with them to disciple. And then I realize, if I just relied on the church to spiritually instruct them one-hour a week on Sunday morning and once every other week @ Followers or every week @ Youth, how insufficient their spiritual development would be.
Folks, this has got to change. The behemoth we have created in our various ministry programs needs to shift to not only provide a good, healthy context for children and youth to gather and hear and interact with the Gospel along with their peers at their level, but more importantly to help encourage and resource the family life they go home to.