You've done the research and understand the
unmatched power of families to cultivate a passionate love of Jesus
in children's hearts. You're days away from meeting with your key
leaders to brainstorm what family ministry will look like at your
church. But beware: Many ministries inadvertently sabotage
themselves by going down a wrong path when it comes to family
ministry. Each of these five detours may look like a good idea
initially but will take you down a ministry dead end.
Detour #1: Presenting a "Virtuous Family" as the End
Many well-intentioned family ministry champions desire to motivate
Christian behavior in families by holding up virtues such as
patience, hard work, and love. If a family adopted those virtues,
there's no doubt that their home would be an exceptional place to
live. But there's a double edge to using a virtue-based approach
for family ministry. There's the danger of inadvertently
discouraging families by holding up the ideal of the perfect
family, a standard to which no family will ever measure up. Some
families grow discouraged and over time will disengage with your
Other families will roll up their sleeves and use your ministry's
teaching to improve their family. But even if the family is happier
and better functioning, mastering a set of virtues isn't the
ultimate point. We can't reduce Christianity to a commodity that
helps families along their merry way. Christianity is the story of
God sweeping us up and letting us participate in his story.
Virtues aren't bad. They're necessary and biblical. But watch your
emphasis. Virtue must be a response to grace and not the
culmination of your instruction. Virtues aren't the foundation of a
Christian home--grace is.
We rightfully emphasize Deuteronomy 6 as the foundational Scripture
for our family ministries because it charges parents with the
responsibility of passing on God's commandments to the next
generation. But look at the families in the Bible from Genesis 2 forward. We meet families filled
with violence, deceit, and brokenness. And God decided to include
them in his story of salvation anyway. Throughout Scripture, God
had imperfect families and transformed them with his presence. This
is reality that can inspire every family. This is grace.
Detour #2: Compartmentalizing Family
One of the common mistakes that churches make is to set apart
family ministry as another department in an already crowded stable
of departments; there's children, youth, men's and women's
ministries, small groups, and now family. But that
departmentalization is what keeps us from viewing families as
systems rather than groups of people waiting to be divided into the
"A comprehensive family ministry strategy should align the
children, youth, and adult ministries for effective discipleship
that pushes spiritual formation back into the home," says Brian
Haynes, author of Shift:
What It Takes to Finally Reach Families
Today. "When children, youth,
and adult ministries work together, they can equip parents to lead
their kids spirit- ually. Then ministries can partner with Mom and
Dad by supporting them at church in Bible study, events, and so on.
A departmentalized approach only creates another silo."
A better strategy is to build a team of existing staff and
volunteers from the departments in your church that minister to
families and align their approach to family ministry.
Reggie Joiner's book Think Orange provides tools to help
you work together. Brian Haynes' book Shift will help your
team plot your family ministry along the natural lines of child
development and family; lines which, by the way, pay no heed to our
arbitrary departmental boundaries.