The History of Family Ministry, Part 4: The Family Ministry Movement

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

The Family Ministry Movement (present day) is seeking to address and deconstruct the departmentalizing /compartmentalizing of the church’s people by re-connecting church and home. Listen to Reggie Joiner.

  • Reggie Joiner, “Chapter 26—Where Do You Start?” in Collaborate: Family + Church, (2010)“If we can be more effective at engaging parents to partner in our ministries, and improve the quality of relationships in the family, we will increase the possibility of a child having a dynamic and authentic faith.”

    “When we partner with ministries, we call this an ‘Orange’ way of thinking.  If the color red [warm nurturing hearts] represents parents and the color yellow [bright missional lights] represents church leaders, they need to combine to make orange.  Orange is the idea that two combined influences will make a greater impact than either of the two influences alone…  [So,] family ministry is ‘synchronizing church leaders and parents around a master plan to build faith and character in their sons and daughters.’”

Most practitioners agree with Reggie, but few agree on how to go about the changes that need to be made.  Here are a few contemporary family ministry models:

Family Integrated—Family integrated ministry is by far the most radical.   They have solved the problem by going back to Baxter.  In a family-integrated church, all age-graded classes and events are eliminated. There is no youth group, no children's ministry, and no age-graded training program.  The generations learn and worship together, and parents bear primary responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their children.

Family Equipping—In the family-equipping model, many semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact. But the church leaders plan and organize their ministries so that they champion the place of parents as primary faith trainers.   The church intentionally co-champions the role of both the church and the home in equipping students and families.  As such, there is a clear focus on church insiders.  Family pastors champion family worship guides, parenting classes, and milestone strategies (baby dedication, baptism, rites of passage, etc.).  Often parents are required to serve.

Family Based—In the family based model, no radical changes occur in the church’s internal structure. The congregation still maintains youth ministry, children’s ministry, singles ministry, etc.  Gospel mission—reaching outsiders—remains the primary emphasis of the church as a whole even as ministry areas shift to draw generations together. Students may still experience worship and small groups in peer groups, separated from other generations, but each ministry sponsors events and learning experiences that are intentionally designed to draw generations together.

The greatest danger in the family ministry movement is that all these models are pragmatic methodologies. While principles drive these methods, the methodology chosen by each local church is a matter of Christian freedom—a matter of conscience and context.  One potential danger for family ministers is allowing the family emphasis to eclipse the gospel so that ministry becomes family-driven rather than gospel-driven.  Our prayer for SojournKids and Sojourn’s Student & Family Ministry is that it remains gospel-driven rather than family driven.  Thanks for praying for us while we've been at the Orange conference.  Please continue to pray as we return and serve at Sojourn.  We're driving back today.

History of Family Ministry, Part 3: The Invention of the Teenager

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

American culture invented “teenagers," and youth ministry was created as missionary ministry to teens. Believe it or not, the term “teenager” was never used until 1941.  Of course, the fact of adolescence is ancient.  After all, the book of Proverbs is written to address the young adolescent man.  But the social function of the adolescent years changed during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  What emerged during the decades following the industrial revolution was a distinct adolescent culture that differed radically from the culture of parents and other adults.  The teenage years were no longer viewed as an intermediary life-stage with adulthood as the goal but a distinctive “youth culture” or “orientation” that resisted movement toward adulthood.  The late 19th and 20th-century church responded to this phenomenon with a legion of age-focused ministries.    These began as para-church ministries (the YMCA, Young Life, Youth for Christ).  These were evangelistic and youth missionary movements that gave us leaders like D.L. Moody and Adoniram Judson.  The para-church youth movement was innovative and successful.  Because of its success, church youth groups began to imitate the para-church ministry models, and they have experienced years of success.

In more recent years, youth groups have developed their own distinct expressions of Christian community disconnected from the faith of their mothers and fathers.   Youth ministries have often pursued their own ends, connected to the larger church’s vision like one of Mickey Mouse's ears (that is, barely connected at all).   In our day, 70% of teens are leaving the church by their sophomore year in college.[1] Many blame the church's compartmentalized and segmented ministry to youth.  In response to this situation, the family ministry movement has begun.

[1] Timothy Paul Jones, “Chapter 3—Historical Contexts for Family Ministry,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. Timothy Paul Jones, (B & H Academic, 2009), pages 26-36; Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, “Chapter 12—Children and Young People,” in Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, (Crossway, 2009), pages 181-190.  For my own part, I don't see the connection between the youth ministry model and this statistic.  However, as I'll write in the next segment, I'm happy with the family ministry movement's adjustments.

History of Family Ministry, Part 2: Sunday School & the Industrial Revolution

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Robert Raikes invented Sunday Schools to minister to inner-city boys (July 1780). We should understand this as missionary ministry for a very specific people group—children in the inner-city slums. Raikes was a philanthropist and an Anglican layperson.  He initiated the Sunday school movement by founding a school for boys in the inner-city slums.  Raikes had been involved with prisoners incarcerated in the “Poor Law”—workhouse prisons set up for those in poverty, and he wanted to set up a Christian school to educate boys before they got in trouble.  The best available time was Sunday as poor boys were often working in factories the other six days. The best available teachers were ordinary people.  The textbook was the Bible, and the originally intended curriculum started with learning to read and then progressed to the catechism. Raikes bore most of the cost for the Sunday Schools in the early years. The movement began in July 1780 in the home of a Mrs. Meredith.  Only boys attended, and she heard the lessons of the older boys who coached the younger.  Later, girls also attended.  Within two years, several schools opened in and around Gloucester.  Later the schools were publicized through papers, and they received some criticism—including that this would weaken home-based religious education, and that Sunday School might be a desecration of the Christian Sabbath. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain were teaching weekly 1.25 million children, approximately 25 percent of the population. "The children were to come after ten in the morning, and stay till twelve; they were then to go home and return at one; and after reading a lesson, they were to be conducted to Church.   After Church, they were to be employed in repeating the catechism till after five, and then dismissed, with an injunction to go home without making a noise.” –quoted in Montrose J. Moses, Children’s Books and Reading (1907).

Consider the words of Pastor Charles Spurgeon as he talked about Sunday School nearly one hundred years later:

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, “Children Brought to Christ, and Not to the Font” (July 24, 1864)

    “So soon as they become of years capable of understanding the things of God, we endeavor to bring them to Christ by teaching them the truth.  Hence our Sabbath schools, hence the use of the Bible and family prayer, and catechizing at home.”

    “I do think that the gospel is suitable to little children. There are boys and girls in many of our Sabbath-school classes down below stairs, who are as truly converted to God as any of us.”

History of Family Ministry, Part 1: The Reformation & the Home as a Little Church

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Children were brought up in the Lord through the teaching of their parents. There was little if any training for children by the church as an institution.  Pastors trained fathers, and fathers trained their children.  There was no youth ministry, children's ministry, or Sunday School, but church leaders championed the home as a place where fathers taught their children about God:

  • Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 21-25 (1539)“Abraham had in his tent a house of God and a church, just as today any godly and pious head of a household instructs his children… in godliness.  Therefore such a house is actually a school and a church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.”
  • Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (1657), chapter 2, section 1.4

    “Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labor, but will much further the success of your labors.  If a captain can get the officers under him to do their duty, he may rule the soldiers with much less trouble, than if all lay upon his own shoulders.  You are not like to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much future increase.”

    “Go occasionally among them, when they are likely to be most at leisure, and ask the master of the family whether he prays with them, and reads the Scripture, or what he does?  Labor to convince such as neglect this, of their sin; and if you have opportunity, pray with them before you go, and give them an example of what you would have them do.  Perhaps, too, it might be well to get a promise from them, that they will make more conscience of their duty for the future.”

Thinking Orange: A History of Family Ministry from the Reformation to Reggie Joiner

UncategorizedJared Kennedy3 Comments

Later this afternoon, Pastor Gary Almon and I will be taking four other Sojourn leaders to the "Orange" conference in Atlanta, GA.  "Orange" is a conference about connecting church and home.  If red represents the home (and its warm nurturing hearts) and yellow represents the church (and its bright missionary lights) then orange represents what happens when these two influences combine.  One of the most influential brains behind this strategy is Reggie Joiner, founder of the ReThink group and co-founding pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta.  In honor of Reggie's conference, I'll be blogging through the history of family ministry from  over the next few days.  I hope you enjoy this little journey as much as we're going to enjoy our trip to the ATL.