Family Ministry — In the Home and Local Church
Family Ministry has been talked about frequently the last few months at New Life. One might say, “There has been so much talk of family ministry lately, is family ministry going to take over our ‘Only Jesus’ on the sign in front of the building?” Certainly not! Our aim in everything we do at New Life and in our homes is to proclaim “Only Jesus.” A crucial part of this proclaiming is done in the out workings of the body of Christ as each member works in the various roles of ministry God has given them. So, what exactly do we mean when we say family ministry? It’s not something that is quickly defined by one verse; rather it is a structure of the Home and the Body of Christ by God’s good design in Christ as seen throughout the Word. Here is a definition from Timothy Paul Jones, a seminary professor of Family Ministry.
“Family ministry is the process of coordinating a church’s practices so that all members develop diverse discipling relationships and so that parents are acknowledged, equipped, and held accountable as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.”
Family ministry is both equipping parents for discipling their children and equipping the whole body of Christ to be discipling one another with the spiritual gifts given to them by the Spirit for the building up and maturing of the Church.
This understanding of family ministry is not something foreign to the way New Life has functioned as a local church body, however, we want to see this done more and more. The Word teaches us that we ought to be supporting, equipping, honoring, and encouraging parents to be the primary disciplers of their children in the Home. Here are some examples:
- Moses instructed a new generation that they were to “impress [these commandments] upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:7)
- Parents are to tell the next generation all the great and wondrous works the Lord performed in their midst and to warn them about disobedience so that they may know and fear the Lord. (Psalm 78)
- The book of Proverbs begins with an extended lesson from father to son on the nature and value of wisdom. (Proverbs 1-9)
- Paul commands fathers to “bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)
The Word also teaches us how we should function together as the body, discipling one another:
- Timothy’s mother and grandmother are commended as models of a sincere faith “that now lives in [Timothy] also.” (2 Tim. 1:5)
- The apostle Paul calls both Timothy and Titus “a true child in the faith.”
- Inter-generational discipleship is seen from passages such as Titus Ch. 2 that tells older men to be sober-minded, sound in faith, in love urging younger men to have self-control. Older women are to be reverent and they are to teach what is good and so train young women to love their husbands and children etc.
Timothy Jones goes on to describe the practical out workings of family ministry in the whole body when he says,
“…Christian households function as miniature communities of the larger community of faith, with families learning and living the gospel together. (Exodus 12:25–28; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; 11:1–12). When this dynamic takes root in a church, children and teenagers whose parents aren’t believers find their lives intertwined with more mature believers who become spiritual parents and grandparents. Married couples mentor singles, and new parents learn child-rearing from empty nesters. The entire congregation works together to meet the needs of widows and orphans (James 1:27). The dynamic of church-as-family declares that, inasmuch as I am united with Jesus Christ and adopted in him, my first family includes anyone who does the will of our Father in heaven (Mark 3:35). “God, in Jesus’ great work of redemption, was not establishing a series of isolated personal relationships with his individual followers. He was creating a family of sons and daughters. The saving work of Christ therefore has a corporate, as well as an individual, dimension.”
This ministry is not for only pastors; rather, pastors are to work to equip all the saints for the work of ministry, specifically by encouraging and supporting parents in their ministry to their family and also equipping the whole body to do their work of ministry to one another.
This changes how we see evangelism and discipleship. There is not a pastor for discipleship, a pastor for evangelism, a pastor for youth, but rather the whole body is to be engaged in these tasks. As Greg, one of our elders, stated in our last vision sharing time, “Fathers, grandfathers, mothers etc. we need to be stepping up to the plate, and children are not to be innocent bystanders.”
Are our eyes to now be fixed on Family Ministry? No! It is still Jesus and ONLY Jesus. As we look to Jesus, who is the designer of, sustainer of, and perfecter of His Bride; may we all prayerfully consider our roles in proclaiming Jesus in this body of Christ, New Life.
Serving alongside all of you in the role given me and done in His strength alone,