The church knows of the complexities of today’s families. One revelation of urban ministry is that there are many family structures and needs. The breakdown of the family has led to dysfunctions within our households in the 21st century. The church assists these family systems to become spiritually healthy.
The overarching objective of any family ministry is to strengthen the family as a disciple-making center. Whenever I talk about discipleship, I need to clearly define it. Ann Swindoll defines it this way: “What is discipleship? Put simply, discipleship means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him—so that he or she can then help others do the same. Jesus taught His disciples to follow Him and obey His commands so that they could lead others to do the same after His death, resurrection, and ascension. The Apostle Paul continues the pattern with Timothy and encourages him to keep the cycle going: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).”
Our goal is to help families be the primary disciple-makers for their children. Dr. Martin Luther opens the catechism with this discipleship directive: “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”
Chap Clark suggests–operate with therapeutic-counseling. In this perspective, the phrase “family ministry” describes church-based curricula and workshops that strengthen families. Connect this method with crisis-intervention programs to rescue troubled households. This was the method of family ministry developed in the 1970s and 1980s in books by Oscar Feucht and Diana Garland. I connect with this family approach because I served parishes in urban areas.
Here is some data from my Bible study on race. It reveals the problems my congregations faced as we dealt with the disintegration of the black family in our communities.
It has manifested itself in a breakdown in the foundation of some black families. It is not the only factor. Joblessness, failing schools in urban areas, economic hardship, an institutional system that has not figured out the most effective way to care for the poor and disenfranchised are all factors. But the loss of identity could be an underlining factor. Take a look at these statistics and we will get your input.
- Black preschoolers are far more likely to be suspended than white children, according to an NPR report. Black children make up 18 percent of the pre-school population but represent almost half of all out-of-school suspensions.• Once they get to K-12, black children are three times more likely to be suspended than white children. Black students make up almost 40 percent of all school expulsions, and more than two-thirds of students referred to police from schools are either black or Hispanic, says the Department of Education.• The disparities exist in our neighborhoods and communities. Take income. In 2014, the median household income for whites was $71,300 compared to $43,300 for blacks. But for college-educated whites, the median household income was $106,600, significantly higher than the $82,300 for households headed by college-educated blacks, the report found.
• A black man is three times more likely to be searched at a traffic stop, and six times more likely to go jail than a white person. Blacks make up nearly 40 percent of arrests for violent crimes.
Some people will look at these stats and point to the breakdown of the black family, but it is not an issue limited to black families. I heard some blame the lack of a strong male role model in the home. While it is true is some cases, the bigger issue is a breakdown in hope in far too many communities. Many in the urban community have this feeling of hopelessness. Joblessness, poverty, and poor education systems are all part of the breakdown of the institution.
What this family ministry strategy is designed to accomplish is restoring the broken family system. You could argue that every church should provide programs to strengthen and to restore families, but these programs cannot be the whole of a church’s ministry to families. Take the three-thousand-foot approach. Look at how your church addresses the bigger needs. You may provide counseling for troubled youth. That is only one piece of the overall youth ministry. Doing only that will burn out your leaders because of the intense emotional involvement and toll that will take on your youth leaders. You might view such programs as one aspect of your church’s youth ministry. You will not want your ministry defined solely by that program. In the same way, programs for families in distress are not what you will use as a base for all your family ministry programs.
If your congregation is in a setting where family systems are severely broken or are non-existent then this may be a model to add deeper meaning to your Sunday school/family ministry.