You may have noticed that I have a new book out that I co-edited with my colleague Dr. John David Trentham. In Practical Family Ministry, we’ve brought together several practitioners to provide you with a plethora of practical ideas to strengthen your church’s family ministry.
Sometimes, I’m hesitant to ask you to purchase a book that I’ve written or edited. That’s because you and I both know that I have a fiscal interest in the sales of my books. Every time you buy a book I’ve written, at least a little money eventually trickles down to me.
But not this time.
No one who edited or contributed to Practical Family Ministry will make anything off this book. That’s because the contributors and I worked with Nappaland Literary Agency and Randall House Publications to direct every cent of royalty proceeds to support orphan care through Bethany Christian Services.
When you purchase a copy of Practical Family Ministry, all royalty proceeds go directly to orphan care. Since I make nothing from this book, I will, without hesitation, beg you to buy it—so, right now, I am!
By purchasing this book, you are supporting efforts to end abortion by caring for the physical and spiritual needs of women who are facing unplanned pregnancies.
Why Practical Family Ministry?
So why did we write this book in the first place?
The purpose of this book was to provide a wide range of new approaches and patterns for each of your church’s ministries. Each of the chapters was authored by someone who is actively doing what they describe in their chapter. These ideas are structured around what I believe to be the two key dynamics in faith-at-home ministry: family-as-church and church-as-family. Let’s take a look together at each of these two dynamics.
Family-as-Church: Helping Every Family to Become Like a Little Church
The goal of the family-as-church dynamic is to equip parents to disciple their children in the context of their daily lives together. What this means is that Christian households become living microcosms of the larger community of faith as families learn and live God’s Word together. Great Awakening pastor Jonathan Edwards described the Christian household as “a little church” and declared “the head of the family has more advantage in his little community to promote religion than ministers have in the congregation.” The thought that parents must be primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives did not, however, originate in the Great Awakening! This expectation is woven throughout the pages of Scripture (see, for example, Exodus 12:25-28; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; 11:1-12; Psalm 78:1-7; Ephesians 6:4).
Yet, in many churches, church leaders have not equipped or even acknowledged parents as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. Packed rosters of age-segmented activities coupled with silence regarding parents responsibility to disciple their children have contributed to the unspoken assumption that the Christian training of children is best left to professional ministers. As a result, Christian parents desperately need focused guidance to know how to follow God’s design. Family-as-church ministry contributes to this reorientation by training parents to function as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. The first five chapters of this book are focused on family-as-church equipping.
Church-as-Family: The Dynamic of Helping the Church Interact More Like a Family
The goal of church-as-family is to help God’s people relate to one another more like a family. What this means is that the church nurtures members within a rich matrix of multi-generational relationships. Children and teenagers whose parents aren’t believers find their lives intertwined with mature men and women who become spiritual parents and grandparents. Married couples mentor singles. New parents learn child rearing from empty nesters. The entire congregation works together to meet the needs of widows and orphans (James 1:27). Church-as-family ministry clearly recognizes that, inasmuch as I am a follower of Jesus, my family includes anyone who does the will of my heavenly Father (Mark 3:35).
In church-as-family ministry, the church draws people together in a multi-generational family reunion—except that the purpose of this reunion is far greater than enduring a picnic with people we can’t stand for the sake of pleasing our earthly parents. That is why the Holy Spirit of God, speaking through the words of Scripture, specifically calls for close multi-generational connections among God’s people (Titus 2:1-5). Jesus has bonded believers together by breaking the barriers between them on the basis of His own blood (Ephesians 2:14-15). As a result, those who rub shoulders in the shadow of the cross should be precisely the people that the world would never dream of mingling together—including brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers from many different ethnicities and generations and socioeconomic strata.
These are not issues of preference or convenience. They are issues of faithfulness to God’s design for His people, and they are rooted in the gospel itself. The last five chapters in this book focus on church-as-family ministry.
The Challenge of Faith-at-Home Ministry
So which of these two dynamics should your congregation embrace?
Church-as-family or family-as-church?
The answer, of course, is both.
This twofold approach is the foundation for comprehensive faith-at-home ministry—ministry that coordinates the God-ordained function of the Christian household with the church’s role as a Christian’s first family. Alone, either dynamic becomes unhealthy. Together, these two dynamics help the church to leave behind the segmented programmatic approaches that segregate the generations and fail to equip parents to disciple their children.
Church-as-family and family-as-church are radically counter-cultural dynamics. Particularly in Western culture, people cluster together according to peer groups and personal interests, so church-as-family doesn’t happen easily or naturally. Parents tend to turn over the shaping of their children’s souls to trained professionals, so family-as-church doesn’t come easily either. But efficiency and ease are not the goal of gospel-motivated ministry. Conformity to the character of Jesus Christ—the one through whom the first family was formed in Eden and the one who is bringing together a new family even now on the basis of His own blood—is our goal, our purpose, and our ultimate objective.
 For historical exploration of “church as family,” see Joseph Hellerman, The Ancient Church as Family (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001). I first heard the term in a lecture by Chap Clark.
 Jonathan Edwards, “Living to Christ,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723: Volume 10: The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. W.H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale University, 1992), 577.
 Nearly seventy percent of parents in evangelical churches stated that no leader in their church had made any contact with them in the past year regarding how parents might be involved in their children’s Christian formation. In another survey, conducted by Barna Research Group, 81% of churched parents placed themselves in a similar category. See Timothy Paul Jones, Family Ministry Field Guide (Indianapolis: Wesleyan, 2011), chapter 8, and, “Parents Accept Responsibility for Their Child’s Spiritual Development But Struggle With Effectiveness,” Barna Research Group, accessed December 13, 2010, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/ article/5-barna-update/120-parents-accept-responsibility-for-their-childs-spiritual-development-but-struggle-with-effectiveness.
 Bryan Nelson, “The Problem with Family Ministry,” in Trained in the Fear of God, ed. Randy Stinson (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2011). For the term “church as first family,” see Rodney Clapp, Families at the Crossroads (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1993), chapter 4.