Little Joe was born in Methuselah Baptist Church, and by the time he was ten years old, Little Joe recognized his sin and his need for forgiveness, he understood Christ’s death upon the cross, and he was saved. After his baptism, Little Joe continued in the programs of the church and grew through the church’s youth ministry. Upon his high school graduation, Little Joe, who had become big, big Joe, went away to college on an athletic scholarship. Little Joe looked for a church like Methuselah for a couple of weeks, but eventually, he turned from church and from his Lord. He was confused by the confident professors who proclaimed that belief in God was an unnecessary crutch. He was tempted in ways he had not been tempted before. He was on his own, and he was not ready to be the godly man he had been told he would become.
Stories like this can be repeated in church after church. New studies have compiled statistics that reflect the multitude of stories like Little Joe’s. Churches are looking for answers and are turning to this new idea called Family Ministry as a solution. Books have been written on Family Ministry, and conferences have been held. I organized one myself. Churches have implemented various versions of what they call Family Ministry, everything from celebrating life milestones to full bore all family all the time. But what is Family Ministry?
When all is said and done, Family Ministry is more a goal than a ministry, per se. Actually, it is a title given to any church’s effort to achieve the goal of helping and encouraging parents to train their children to follow Jesus, rather than passing that training on to others in the church.
More technically, the goal can be defined as “locating the bulk of the disciple-making/maturing process, especially of children through young adults, within the home, as the responsibility first of the family.” It seems that any approach to reaching this goal falls under the category of Family Ministry. This goal makes sense because it is the biblical goal. Parents are to teach our children (Deuteronomy 4:9-10; 6:4-9), train up our children (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4), and bring our children to Jesus (Matthew 19:13-15).
In Perspectives on Family Ministry, Timothy Paul Jones groups all of the current Family Ministry methodologies under three general categories: Family-Integrated Ministry, Family-Based Ministry, and Family-Equipping Ministry. I would encourage you to read the book, which provides us some basis for evaluation of the many approaches to achieving the goal. However, the bottom line is that Family Ministry is not a ministry so much as it an idea or a goal.