“Sunny days, sweepin’ the clouds away. On my way to where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get, how to get to . . . ?” If that couplet strikes a chord in your memories of childhood, you were probably an avid viewer of the American PBS program known as Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and Snuffleupagus, Gordon and Susan and Mr. Hooper—all of them were recurring characters in my life as a preschooler. One of my favorite characters was a furry blue monster known as Grover.
What I remember most clearly about Grover is a skit that you may recall too. Grover began by running to the camera, pressing his pink nose toward the lens, and announcing that he was “Neeeaaarr!” Then he hurried into the distance and declared that he was now “Faaaarrr!” Over and over, Grover rushed from one end of the set to the other, near and then far. The blue puppet didn’t settle for near, and he didn’t stay far. He constantly alternated between the two.
That’s how family-equipping ministry has to work too—and it must begin in the homes of ministry leaders.
It’s not just about reaching those that are near, and it’s not all about reaching those that are far. It’s about both. Family-equipping begins with those that are near—our own families and the families in our churches—but then it moves immediately to those who are far. A passion to reach those who are far is good, but that passion does not give us permission to abandon or ignore those who are near.
That’s what I mean by the Grover Principle.
For some ministry leaders, it’s tempting to focus their ministries only on those who are near—on the church families who need to develop discipleship practices in their homes. Families in these churches do tend to develop holy habits, but such congregations may lack a passion for seeing the gospel take root in people whose lives might be messy.
Other leaders center on those who are far, designing their programs to bypass parents and reach children whose families are fractured and fragmented. The problem is this focus on reaching children directly can become so thoroughgoing that the church never explicitly expects any parents—even Christian parents—to disciple their children.
Family-equipping ministry recognizes that the gospel compels God’s people to view every person as a potential or actual brother or sister in Christ. This passion begins with those who are near and then moves to those who are far—but the ministry with those who are far remains possible only because we continue to equip those who are near. Family-equipping ministry is about near and far.
Of course, none of this originated with the hyperactive blue puppet who lives on Sesame Street. The apostle Peter put it this way during the Feast of Pentecost: “This promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39). Do you see the principle at work? The promise of the gospel is for those who are near—but this nearness compels us to share the Word with those who are far, so that the gospel becomes near to them as well.
Interested in attending a family ministry training event with me in January? Click here for more details.
For more on gospel-motivated family ministry, try this resource.