Family Ministry. This term gets tossed about a lot today but what exactly is it? Unfortunately, there is no clear concise answer to that question because it plays out differently depending on your church and community but here’s three common characteristics you’ll find in any family ministry:
- The home is seen as the primary place of discipleship and faith formation
- Parents/caregivers are seen as the primary influence in a child’s spiritual growth and development
- The church provides a place of support, equipping and mentorship for parents/caregivers
How that looks in your church will depend a lot on what your church looks like. In the book, Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views, three pastors share about three types of family ministry and how it works best in their church.
Family Integration, Paul Renfro
- In family-integrated churches there is no age-segregation in terms of ministries or space. The whole family joins with each other in congregational worship, service, and community.
- The only division comes in the division of labor, roles and gender not in age, space, or fellowship so all age groups are able to interact with each other and grow spiritually through mentorship, discipleship, and service.
- Parents receive a continual source of support and equipping and a strong sense of community is fostered.
- Tends to be best for traditional nuclear families and attractive to homeschooling families, and in the types of roles and functions specific genders can fulfill in the church
Family-Based Ministry, Brandon Shields
- Most closely resembles the age-segregated ministries common in the 20th century.
- Rather than completely revamping the existing ministries and starting over, this approach builds on it, using the ministry platform to equip parents and encourage intergenerational discipleship within its framework.
- Family-based ministry finds its strength in its intentionality to take formerly age-segregated events and make them intergenerational or family oriented and the style is more easily achieved with the existing models and culture
- Because it does look similar to what it currently in place, sometimes it can be challenging to change the underlying culture of the church towards family and transition to a family-focused church.
Family-Equipping Ministry, Jay Strother
- Still maintains some age-segregation, but changes the entire church culture from the leadership down to be one united in equipping and serving parents as the primary spiritual directors in the church and home.
- This approach finds its strength in its intentional desire to utilize the entire church body in the goal of support parents and growing families meeting the needs of all age groups and church members in an integrated way.
- Requires ownership by the whole church to one culture with one vision toward parents and families.
- Can by limited by the fact that it works best with nuclear families and parents, leaving non-traditional families and functional caregivers in a type of limbo, so intentionality must be shown in order to reach everyone.
Another approach not covered in that book would be family ministry that is primarily therapeutic in nature, focused upon the emotional and psychological health of the family through offering counseling and support groups. Usually there is not a strong emphasis on equipping parents as disciplers in the home.
Family ministry is by no means a “cookie-cutter” ministry. It is important in choosing your approach to consider your church’s culture and community and find a path that works best for them. In the end, the partnership of home and church can only bring about good things for every member of both institutions.
Perspectives on Family Minstry: 3 Views is available on Amazon at the link below