I believe every church and leadership team should have a conscious family discipleship strategy. How are we as a church planning to build up the family?
Below are six reasons to have a family ministry strategy.
Reason #1 Because Leadership Training Begins in the Home
Church after church decries their lack of spiritual leaders. Who wouldn’t gladly receive numerous individuals who will shepherd others for their spiritual good? When Jesus saw the crowd and had compassion, he prayed for spiritual workers.
But how will those spiritual leaders be trained? To begin with, they learn how to shepherd in their homes. Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:4-5, He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
Let’s work backwards. God wants individuals to care for his church, his household. (see 3:16). The way we know someone can care for God’s household is that he knows how to lead his own household. There is a lot involved in leading a household well. Setting goals, encouraging the discouraged, communicating well, correcting and disciplining the wayward, resolving conflict, and having self-control. All these things are aspects of managing individuals well. And those same skills are needed in the church.
If we back up further, then Paul links good household management with a father keeping his children submissive with dignity. In other words, being a parent reveals and trains spiritual leaders. Specifically, the affection we have at home, the standards we have at home, and how we administer correction are important for spiritual leadership development.
Reason #2 Because many of your counseling cases come from problems at home.
I don’t know percentages, but I do know that much of my pastoral counseling time was spent addressing problems in the family. And it just makes sense. One sinner marries and lives in close proximity to another sinner. What are you going to have? Problems.
Then those same two people get together and bring another little sinner into the world. What are you going to have? Yes, joy, but also more challenges.
Besides the problems you know about, there are other family problems in so-called “successful families.” And it is hindering your church’s growth. How much better to proactively teach principles of godly living in the home and so prevent many of the counseling cases that come your way?
Reason #3 Because it multiplies your ministry and makes for effective disciple-making.
Unfortunately, too many pastors see the families as individuals. We have a men’s ministry, a women’s ministry, a youth ministry, and a children’s ministry. All of those are very helpful to equip those in different life stages.
Yet our homes are not individuals who sleep under the same roof. They are a family. The family is God’s smallest disciple-making unit. Each of these units is meant to be a God-glorifying, Trinity-displaying community that works and functions together.
That’s why calling and equipping fathers and mothers in their roles multiplies the ministry of the leaders. Parents are God’s intended shepherds of their children. By equipping these undershepherds, our ministry is multiplied. We fulfill our Ephesians 4 mandate when we are not just ministering to people but equipping them for service.
Reason #4 Because Scripture both commands it and assumes it.
In Titus 1, Paul instructs Titus to finish the final piece of church planting – appoint elders. What is he to look for in elders? Paul lists the qualities to look for. The overarching quality is that these men are to be above reproach. Though all are sinners, elders are not to have obvious and overt sinful manifestations.
How will we know? What are we to look for? Paul lists the qualities to look for. They center around qualities of the home, of positive and negative character, and knowledge of the word.
But the first quality he looks for is the home. An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion (CSB).
Before Paul lists personal character qualities, he looks at a man’s relationship to women – his wife and others. Then he looks to what characterizes his family.
Reason 5: Because so many young people are walking away from their faith and the church.
Additionally, we need a family discipleship strategy because so many young people are walking away from their faith. It seems that the numbers may be as high as 50%. With approximately 15 million evangelical youth in the U.S., that means that 7.5 million are at risk.
When asked for the main cause of their walking away, the overwhelming majority cited hypocrisy by their parents or spiritual leaders. They looked at their parents who are professing Christians and say, Why would I want to turn out that way? How the parents were living in the home was undermining the gospel preached at church. Though not true for everyone, it is true for many.
Reason 6: Because God intends family disciple-making to be a growth process for the adults.
Finally, even if your church did have all the resources to disciple children, we actually short-circuit God’s intended growth process for adults. God gives us little children for a reason – to mature the parents. We don’t really understand something until we can articulate it. Churches often mistake receiving the teaching with comprehending the teaching. But articulation leads to apprehending.
Again, we mistakenly assume that discipleship means receiving our message. If we have said it and someone has heard it then we have trained them. But a higher level of discipleship occurs when we coach another person as to how to answer a question. So don’t let parents excuse their own ignorance and defer to you. Like families on the beach, parents are their first lifeguards. You are there as a help for trouble.
A healthy church has a strategy to make sure it stays healthy. Similarly, a healthy church will also have a strategy for helping families become and stay gospel healthy.