Southern Seminary – FamilyLife partnership already bearing fruit

Communications Staff — July 23, 2008

A partnership forged last fall between The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and FamilyLife Ministries is already helping the School of Leadership and Church Ministry to tailor its curriculum to better serve families through local churches.

FamilyLife has loaned the seminary a husband-wife team who will work for Southern for three years, helping the school to better teach its students to conduct biblically-faithful family ministry in the local church. Randy Summers and his wife Lou moved to Louisville late last year to work directly with Southern’s Lead School and its dean, Randy Stinson.

The partnership is already bearing fruit, Stinson said, as the Summers’ are spending the early months identifying churches that do family ministry in a way that is faithful to Scripture, churches that will help Southern to develop its curriculum that, in turn, will equip students for family ministry.

“Randy and Lou are identifying key churches that are doing family ministry in a different way, a way that seems to be effective, a way that is different from the typical youth and children’s ministry that most have agreed has been largely ineffective over the last 20 years,” Stinson said.

“Many churches out there are trying some different things. They are structuring themselves in a different way. Randy and Lou are documenting some trends and patterns and helping me to identify churches out there that see themselves as ‘teaching churches’ that our students can be a part of.”

In addition to helping identify churches that are conducting biblically-faithful family ministry, Stinson cited two other areas on which the partnership will focus: building a network of youth, children, family and discipleship pastors that are doing God-centered family ministry, and organizing weekend trips for Southern students to “lighthouse churches” that are doing family ministry well.

“The last eight months have been incredible,” Stinson said. “What we’ve identified for certain is this: there is a legitimate movement in the evangelical community that is rethinking how we do youth and family ministry, children and family ministry.

“This movement is rethinking the roles that associate pastors are going to play in the next couple of decades. There is a rethinking going on even in terms of how they should be trained and what kinds of things they need to know.”

For more than three decades FamilyLife has focused on the mission of using biblical principles to build healthier marriages and families. FamilyLife works in 100 countries around the world to help to transform lives and restore hope through its Weekend to Remember marriage conferences,
Homebuilders Bible studies, FamilyLife Today radio broadcasts, Hope for Orphans orphan care ministry, FamilyLife publications and the Internet.

“FamilyLife’s desire has always been to help the local church. When we learned that Southern Seminary was moving toward more family-centered training for pastors, we offered our assistance,” said Summers, a former pastor who has served with FamilyLife for five years.

“More and more churches are recognizing and initiating family ministry. We want to leverage our expertise and experiences to provide solid resources for churches and pastors looking for direction in this area,” Summers said.

Stinson said he expects the FamilyLife partnership to make a profound contribution to helping the seminary to equip its students for ministry in local congregations.

“We are already restructuring our degree programs in the School of Leadership and Church Ministry to reflect what we’ve already learned about what’s going on out there,” Stinson said.

“We are learning a lot in terms of what kinds of competencies are needed by associate pastors in order to go out into local churches and effectively structure their ministries so that it won’t fragment families, but it will bring them together. We want to strengthen families and help equip parents to do the primary discipleship of their children, which is their main calling.

“The church is central to the task and we are already putting things in our coursework that reflects some of the things that Randy and Lou Summers have learned.”

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