Thinking Clearly About Family Ministry – Where to Start?

God created and designed us to live in a community called family but we live in a world filled with broken hearts and broken homes. Globally we are confronted by the struggles and the results of fragile, hurting families … and we are worried.

This paper is the beginning of a response which aims to look afresh at the heart of God, and His Word, to seek His direction for the rebuilding of family communities. As complex as families are, they are critical for the functioning of society and essential for the nurture of the next generation.

Working from a strong commitment to God’s original blueprint for family, debates over definitions of what constitutes a ‘family’ today are set aside,and held in tension,so as to focus more on producing higher levels of healthy functionality and interconnectedness within homes and communities.God’s will and design is that through family, Christ is formed in His people and nurtured in their faith to find the ‘life to the full’ that Jesus talked about.Consider afresh Jesus’ intentions when He ‘placed a child in the midst of them…’

The need exists to expand our current definitions of family so that the diversity found in today’s family culture is embraced. Family can be defined by ‘structure’ and by ‘function’. A functional definition seems to better fit Jesus’ teaching about family. Followers of Christ are not to be bound by the structures of legally recognised or biologically based relationships. Rather, family relationships are defined by the relationship process – loving one another, being faithful to the same Lord, and adopting one another as brothers and sisters in the household of faith. A functional understanding of family calls the community of faith to offer hope and support for all members of the family.

The Old Testament uses multiple Hebrew words that have been translated ‘family’ in our English Bibles. The two most commonly used words give us two clear lenses through which we gain amore holistic understanding of family which must direct our efforts.

FAMILY is ….the home

The life shaping, faith forming and missional centre for building the Kingdom. A group of people of varying ages, connected biologically; sometimes living together – sometimes separated

(‘bah’ith[Heb] = household/s)

Healthy families build healthy communities

FAMILY is …  the community

The extended family of God (the faith community) has a vital role in empowering households to be salt and light in the world.

A group of people of varying ages, connected through relationship, geographical location and through a shared journey of faith.

(mispawkhaw[Heb] = community)

Church is a family not an event.

God’s design is that through the intentional ongoing interaction and partnership between the home and the community, lifelong faith will be nurtured and lived out.Family ministry is not just a ministry to families and ministry for families. Family ministry is ministry with families and ministry infamies. Faith is formed and strengthened when more opportunities are developed for the family community to experience life in Christ together.

Within this context, let us explore briefly three convictions that will help us to reflect on and rethink family as we journey forward in whichever ‘corner of His vineyard’He has placed us….

1. God’s plan is for us to live in a family community.
Some key principles that shape our thinking:

  • God created and designed us to live in a community called family.(Gen 1:28; 2:24-25)
  • God is Father and the Trinity models a family community in perfect relationship.(1Jn 5:7)
  • Healthy family communities are foundational to, and are the building blocks of, healthy communities.(Gen 1:28 and Gen 2:18,24-25; 3:15)
  • The familycommunityis designed for nurture and development of individuals.(Deut 6:4-7; Psalm 128;Prov22:6; Ps 127:3-5)
  • The family community is created to build and reflect the Kingdom of God.
  • God has outlined specific roles for members of each family community:(Eph 5:21-6:9;Tit 1:5-9; Tit 2:3-5;Prov31:10-31; Ex 20:12)

2. We learn from the examples of family community in the Scriptures.
The Bible gives us the transparent stories of many family communities. A reflection and exploration of their experiences will highlight key principles that are importantfor healthy life. The majority of these principles can be summarized into the following FOUR PRIORITIES for growing healthy family communities.

  • Develop genuine relationships … to create caring family communities
    Consider the life of Jesus and his relationship with his disciples and his family.
  • Build security & belonging … to create courageous family communities
    Considerthe story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.
  • Pass on values … to create strong family communities
    Consider the story of Moses.
  • Engage in willing service … to create purposeful family communities
    Consider the stories of Timothy and Paul, Barnabas and John Mark

Each of these priorities grows out of a strong commitment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”. Our true worship of God will be reflected as each of these priorities is lived out.

3. We apply the lessons learnt to build our family community.
As we follow in the footsteps of the families that have gone before us, we look at our cultural traditions around family throughthe lenses of what God has been teaching us through His Word. This is not an easy task, but an important one, as we seek God’s wisdom for understanding and courage to follow the convictions that come from His Spirit.

Some key principles that shape our thinking:

  • We live in a broken world filled with broken families and broken hearts.
  • God uses our brokenness to teach and help us to ultimately bring Him glory.
  • As Christians, neither we nor our families are perfect but we press on towards that goal with God’s help

1000 words can never hope to distil the enormity and the complexity of the issues around the topic of family. It is not intended to be a comprehensive statement but rather it is hoped that it will initiate some rethinking and spark an interest to explore this matter further in your own context.For the benefit of all our family communities … and for the glory of God.

Imagine a healthy heartbeat in a family community, where there is…
  • A strong foundation in Christ, that gives purpose and a destiny
  • A loving environment that gives confidence to dream
  • A firm identity and security to risk doing something new
  • Safety to explore with a safe harbour to return to
  • Identity in the past, so they can change the future
  • Community members who will cheer from the sidelines through life’s journey
…just imagine!

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