Why should the “Church” engage in “family ministry”?
The notion of family ministry is important because it has highlighted a trend in church culture which is best described as “hyper-segregation.” Now, this is not a segregation based on ethnicity; rather, it is a segregation based on age or station in life. Segregation of this sort is not necessarily negative when used as an addition to a pattern of full corporate worship centered on the proclamation of God’s word. However, when taken to the extreme, segregated groups can virtually have independent church experiences concurrently within the same congregation. For example, children’s church pulls kids out of the broader corporate worship with the hopes of providing a service which speaks on the child’s level of understanding. This, in my thinking, is a trend toward hyper-segregation.
Some advocates of family ministry opine that aspects of church ministry, such as youth groups, should be abandoned all together. This is not my view. The children’s, youth, family, and senior adult ministries of the church are good and healthy ways to disciple and empower Christians in their walk with Christ. Nevertheless, this can not be taken to the extreme without negative repercussions. We must value those times in our church experience when the broader family of God comes together to worship Christ. It is here that we as families, within the context of our broader church family, pass down the heritage of the Christian faith. Worshiping together as parents, children, singles, and elderly emphasizes the transcendent purpose (church is not about me) and universal relevance (we all must embrace Christ) of the Christian faith.
So then, families should not primarily view their identity as a segregated demographic within the church that functions concurrently, yet separately, from the church as a whole. Rather, family ministry should be viewed as a separate ministry focus (along with youth, singles, etc.), in addition to our prioritized corporate worship; wherein, we seize the opportunity to emphasize, equip, and provide the necessary tools for parents to disciple their children in the home.
Does the Bible teach this principle?
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4
Yes, Scripture here and elsewhere implores us as parents to own the responsibility of teaching our children the ways of Christ. Yet, in order to provide balance (some writers have argued that it is not the Church’s job to disciple its children), let us observe verse 1 of the same chapter where Paul gives instruction directly to children: “Children obey your parents.” In this verse Paul is instructing children. We must conclude, then, that it is proper and right that the church invest and instruct its children and youth directly and deliberately. Nevertheless, we as parents must also accept the biblical mandate to raise our children in the ways of the Lord.
How is this sacred task best accomplished?
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deut. 6:6-7
The best way to train your children is within the context of everyday life. Discuss sermons (your young children will not understand most of the preacher’s sermon, this is ok) over lunch. Fathers, talk to your sons about the things in life that are most important—not just football. Our homes should be consecrated unto the Lord. If the only Christian instruction our children receive is through church programming, then we as parents are squandering the precious time given to us by God to impact and raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Our vision for family ministry in the Church, then, should be to provide tools for parents and instill a sense of urgency in them to make Christian disciples of their children, within the context of the broader church.