All of this [see links to previous articles below] has profound implications for why and how a church ministers to families. If the congregation’s motive for forming a family ministry is to find a programmatic panacea to solve a perceived problem of losing young adults, the strategy will have failed before family ministry even begins–even if every church member applauds the new program as a resounding success. Such a congregation has bought into the soul-draining delusion that growth depends not on the Word of God but on implementing the right programs to respond to each problem.
This sort of “family ministry” results, at first, in a rapid flurry of family-friendly activities. Then, as soon as new problems and new programs come along, the family events fade into the background as the newest quick-fix takes center stage. Such patterns reflect much of the pragmatic consumerism of Western culture and little of Gospel-centered community. According to the apostle Paul, the pagans of past cultures “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles” (Rom. 1:23). In our own way, we too trade the glory of God for the short-lived pleasures of lesser gods. Whereas the pagans exchanged divine glory for images of terrestrial beauty, we tend to substitute one more curriculum, one more series of steps to success, one more problem-solving program that eclipses the Gospel.
Family ministry of the sort that I am describing in these articles is not a program to fix a congregation’s retention problems. It cannot be reduced to a series of conferences or activities or seminars. The kind of family ministry that I am envisioning is a movement toward equipping Christian households to function as outposts of God’s mission in the world. Through family ministry, families become contexts where Christian community is consistently practiced with the goal of sharing the good news of God’s victory beyond our families. The Gospel is rehearsed in families and reinforced at church so that God’s truth can be revealed to the world. This isn’t about retaining young adults on the attendance rolls; it’s about coordinating families around a shared, Gospel-motivated perspective on parents and children.
Please note the other articles in this series by Timothy Paul Jones:
[Editor's Note: This article was adapted from The Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones. Used by permission.]