A case for a family ministry model
The family is the first human institution that God has ordained for His glory and our good. The family was instituted in the Garden of Eden when God created our first parents, Adam and Eve. An intentional church will have an envisioning process that starts with a clearly articulated, compelling mission and vision, and has a strategic plan to address how the church will accomplish its goals for family ministry. God is the pre-eminent Strategic Planner, having set forth a Covenant of Redemption from before the foundation of the world. All of human history can be summed up in God’s carrying out what He has decreed in this “eternal covenant transaction” between the Father and the Son. Therefore, having a strategic plan for family ministry is an act of the church body, uniquely created in the image of God, or Imago Dei, displaying an attribute of God as a strategic planner.
The specific model that Salem Baptist Church has selected for family ministry is referred to as family-equipping.
What is the family-equipping model?
The overwhelming majority of Christian parents are not actively engaged in the battle for their children’s souls. There is a tremendous gap between what should be happening in Christian households and what they are actually doing. Statistically, most parents in their church haven’t opened a Bible with their children in the past six months. Fewer than 20 percent pray with their children at any time other than at meals. Fewer still practice any form of family devotions. Much of this is due to the neglect of parental responsibilities. However, there are also many godly, well intentioned parents who simply do not know how to engage in their children’s spiritual formation.
In 2011, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Gheens Center for Christian Family Ministry conducted an in-depth study of committed Christians to help determine the precise dynamics of parents’ disengagement from children’s spiritual development. Surprisingly, over 90 percent of parents rejected the notion that professional ministers were the people primarily responsible for their children’s spiritual development. Most wanted to be able to answer their children’s biblical and theological questions. Yet, as parents admitted their responsibility to function as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives, most are doing little about it. When probed further, two top reasons for this dilemma emerged. The top reason is that churches weren’t training the parents. The second is that parents weren’t making the time to do it. This tells us that parents need to be consistently reminded how important it is to prioritize their child’s spiritual development over things such as sports, job success, and other secular endeavors. But it is also instructional that the church is failing to adequately provide parents the “how to” resources to equip them for training their children at home.
Family ministry describes how a church partners with parents so that the discipleship of children occurs not only at church but also in the household. Many churches are regaining a biblical perspective on God’s vision for the role of parents. As a result, three family ministry models have emerged that are designed to enhance parental involvement in the discipleship of their children. These are the family-based, family-integrated, and family-equipping models.
Family-Based Model. On one end of the family ministry spectrum is the family-based model. In it, no radical changes occur in the church’s internal structure. The congregation still maintains youth ministry, children’s ministry, singles ministry, and so on. To promote and train parents to be accountable for the discipleship of their children, the family-based model simply adds additional intergenerational curriculum, activities, or events.
Family-Integrated Model. On the other end of the family ministry spectrum is the family-integrated model. In a family-integrated church, all age-graded classes and activities are eliminated. There is no youth group, no children’s church, no age-segregated Sunday School classes, and in most cases no nurseries. This model sees the church as primarily a “family of families,” with each family a building block that makes up the entire church.
Family-Equipping Model. The phrase, “family-equipping ministry model” was coined by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones to describe the framework for the process of reorienting existing ministries to partner with parents. The family-equipping model effectively asks, “How can churches partner more effectively with parents?” In this model, many semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact. Yet, church leaders plan every ministry to champion the place of parents as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. At the same time, parents recognize the church as a community called to participate actively in the discipleship of children. The family-equipping model is less about a particular program and more about how to redeploy the existing programs that churches have to emphasize parents as primary disciple-makers of their children.
The family-equipping model is the most balanced approach to family ministry, avoids the temptation to get caught up in the latest ministry “movement,” and is most consistent with the convictions of Salem Baptist Church. We believe that parents are primarily responsible for the discipleship of their own children, yet it is also scriptural to use the abilities of gifted pastors and teachers both to equip parents to lead at home and to teach children in age-appropriate settings. Our motto is ‘Every parent a teacher!’, yet we also recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ has commissioned the church for equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-13).
The family-equipping model also makes provisions for discipling spiritual orphans, children who either have no parents or have parents who are not discipling them at home. They may be children who come to church without parents or with another family. They may also be children of church parents who are not discipling their children at home. While these parents are primarily responsible, the church should have a strategy in place to receive and disciple their children. This could include a mentorship program, spiritual adoption, developing faith processes directly with the children, and other intentional activities.
If you have a question or comment about how the family-equipping model is being implemented at Salem Baptist Church, please send us a message through the contact page.
1689 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith: “Of God’s Covenant,” Chapter 7.3.
Timothy P. Jones. Family Ministry Field Guide: How Your Church Can Equip Parents to Make Disciples (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2011), 60.
Randy Stinson and Timothy P. Jones, ed. Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011), 22.
Paul Renfro, Brandon Shields, and Jay Strother. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy P. Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 43.
Jones, Family Ministry Field Guide, 33.