The modern church is quickly reclaiming the value of family in ministry. The rise of adolescence in the early 20th century, coupled with the responding surge of age-segregated ministry throughout the church, relegated family ministry to the backburner for much of the latter part of the 20th century. But today, everywhere you turn, you find more churches embracing family-discipleship models of ministry. We should and must celebrate this!
But at the same time, the way some church leaders talk about and envision implementing family ministry is a little troubling. “The family is the primary place for childhood disciplemaking to take place; we need to empower and release families to disciple their children!” It’s easy to see the excitement, benefit, and potential success of this model. There is a subtle, subterranean danger here as well. Quite frankly, what if the family does it wrong?
That’s to say – what if the family teaches the wrong doctrine? What if the family doesn’t understand theological imperatives? What if entire doctrinal positions aren’t taught, are taught wrong or are misconstrued?
In short, we must maintain the church’s responsibility to protect and guard theological truth, and we must acknowledge the church’s job to lead families in the appropriate family disciplemaking process. Church leaders should hold these three truths equally firmly:
- The family is the best and most influential place for genuine transformational disciplemaking to happen.
- Each family will have a unique personality and unique strengths and weaknesses.
- It is the church’s responsibility to ensure careful and wise theological and Biblical teaching throughout the church, including within the families of the church.
Wisely navigating these three realities will cause a church to ask how to flexibly, creatively but intentionally lead families.
As we’ve talked about in the past (you can read more here) this is much more than just handing out resources. This is careful training, precise communication, and corrective rebuke when necessary. This is rightfully enacted church authority and intentionally guided church leadership. This is the church’s responsibility for the families with which it has been entrusted.
The local church must lead local parents and families, not from an overbearing and authoritarian position, but from a humble position that desperately desires the best for our families and children. The Biblical and best place for lasting Christ-centered transformation is the family. But the church is still the best and Biblical place for lasting and Christ-centered transformation within the family.
This isn’t a fluffy idea or an ideological wish-list. This is an important, foundational mindset that church leaders should carefully guard (and balance with humility, grace, and tenderness) whenever developing and building family ministries. This is a starting place mindset for a healthy family ministry.