Category Archives: Family Ministry

#OrangeTour comes to the San Francisco Bay Area!!!

I’m excited to be at the Orange Tour at Westgate Church in San Jose, CA.

I thought these name tags with your Twitter handle were great!

Reggie opened up with a great challenge to meet the changes of culture in a positive light. I love this emphasis by Reggie and the ReThink group. He challenged all of us to think about how we are trying to reach the 75% of the people who will never enter the church. I can go on about my ideas of the theological and sociological ideals that have led to the church focusing on just the 25% who are already here, but that would take too long and many of you would nod off. In short, I agree with Reggie that we have lost sight of one of our imperatives to go outside of ourselves and respectfully engage those who don’t believe what we believe.

If you haven’t attended anything Orange, and you are in any type of ministry that engages families, what are you waiting for? Check out one of the Tour stops or go to the Orange Conference!

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Family Ministry Blog Tour

I’m a couple of days late on getting this post up for the Family Ministry Blog Tour. (You can take a look at all the other posts on this tour here.) Life’s been crazy between being a dad taking care of kids on summer break, beginning research for my masters thesis (which has yet to take any coherent form), and working part time as part of the children’s ministry team at Menlo Park Presbyterian.

Figuring out what it means to minister to families has been something I’ve wrestled with since I stumbled upon a Children’s Ministry article in 2001 about a church in Atlanta that was doing a shared family experience. It talked about how this church was finding ways to intentionally partner with parents in the discipleship of their children. Following that, I had the opportunity to hear the family ministry director of the church at that time speak at a conference. While at that conference, I was able to grab lunch with that ministry leader and was challenged about my ideas and prejudices in children’s ministry.

Fast forward to the present… I’m still wrestling with what it means to minister to families! My views, thoughts, philosophies, understandings and practices continue to change. I’ve been in ministry as a volunteer and on staff. I’ve been in megachurches, small churches and churches in between. I’ve worked as a solo children’s minister and as part of a team. I’ve also served in various contexts in the United States and Canada. Family ministry has looked differently in each of the different places I’ve been.

I’m currently reading a book by Stephanie Coontz, a historian and family researcher, entitled “The Way We Never Were.” In it, Coontz details and debunks our fascination with the idea of a “traditional family” by shedding light on what families, especially American families, have looked like over the past 200 years. One of the themes in the book is that we will not be able to move forward and help families thrive if we continue to long “for a past that was never as idyllic or uncomplicated as we sometimes imagine” (p. xxviii). While Coontz is referring to helping families thrive socially, I believe the same issue is keeping us from helping families thrive spiritually.

As I survey the different discussions surrounding family ministry, I have heard many voices calling for a return to “gospel-centered” or “biblical” families. While these calls are well-intentioned, I don’t think they do much to help families enter into what Skye Jethani refers to as the “with-God” life. The reason for this is because those calls infer that there is an ideal style or model of family that exists or existed. Those calls berate families for falling short of this mythical ideal and, in turn, discourage parents who already feel deficient in how they are conducting the direction of their families.

Family has always been in a continual state of flux. (Note that I did not say that the Gospel has been in a state of flux.) There has never been a “golden age” of family life and there never will be; trying to point back to one is pointless. So, how do we move forward and frame what family ministry is?

First, we recognize the gospel story is a story… God’s Story. It is a story of hope, love and redemption that God began at creation, turned on its head with the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ and continues to write today.

Second, we recognize that the idea of family is a continually changing story. Families throughout history and locations will look different from each other, and each of those families is writing their own stories.

Third, we help families discover how to allow God to rewrite their stories rather than God simply being a recurring character or footnote in their stories.

This kind of family ministry is messy. This kind of family ministry doesn’t have all the answers. This kind of family ministry isn’t about replicating an ideal family type. This kind of family ministry empowers each family to uniquely become more like the family God wants them to be rather than the kind of family I think all families should be like.

Where Are You Gonna Go?

I have found in many family ministry conversations I’ve been in, there is always this ideal of what a family should look like that gets touted out. Laments about the state of the family and the lack of parents taking their role as spiritual teacher immediately follow. Discussions like these always have ended up with someone elevating a certain family in his or her church to demagoguery status because that family is what all other families in the church should aspire to be.

In her book entitled The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, Stephanie Coontz challenges the notion of an historical traditional family. “Myths that create unrealistic expectations about what families can or should do tend to erode solidarities and diminish confidence in the problem-solving abilities of those whose families ‘fall short.'” I can’t agree more! Even my confidence starts to wane when I compare my family to “perfect family,” and I’m supposed to be the professional with all the answers!

One huge reason I maintain respect for the ReThink Group and believe that Orange is a conference worth investing in is the belief by Reggie and the rest of the Orange crew that there is no such thing as an ideal family. Families come in all flavors and conditions. I remember watching Reggie speak a few years ago at the opening session of an Orange Conference. He held up a picture frame holding the picture of a “perfect” family and bluntly stated that no such families exist and never have. He, then, proceeded to show pictures of real families–families that don’t fit into our neat and tidy boxes entitled “traditional family.” He emphasized the need for a strategy that helps all of these families grow closer to God that includes both the home and the church.

Where are you gonna go? Where are you gonna go to be inspired to expand what it means to minister to all families? Where are you gonna go to connect with other ministry leaders who are trying to figure out this family ministry thing? Where are you gonna go to get what you need to put together a strategy for your church to reach families in your community?

I’m going to the Orange Conference. I’d love to meet you there. The conference is April 25-27.  If you register before February 16, you’ll save $40 on the registration.