Rethinking Sunday School: the Family-Sensitive Model?

lightstock_183410_small_byrene_haneyThe Need:

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 Goal:

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.”

The Strategy:

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.⁠[1]• 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.⁠[2]• 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.⁠[3]• 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.⁠[4]

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.



9 Comments on “Rethinking Sunday School: the Family-Sensitive Model?

  1. Christ is the light of the world. I believe His love covers every tribe, and nation. I don’t think God is prejudice. It is taught in our schools, and I regret that it is taught at times in our homes. I believe God looks on the heart, so if you love God with all your heart, and you are His child, then your attitude is His love covers me. I can tell when one has the love of God on them. They have dropped their attitudes, and given God a green light to help them love all peoples of this world. We must think on Him, on the Word, and when we are rejected, then go back home and pray for the person. Ed, and I were rejected one day at the hospital. A grandmother was worried over her little granddaughter. The family belonged to our church, but we could not pray for the child. The grandmother shooed us away. God looks on the heart. I eventually forgave her.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s quite interesting. Could it be that their environment creates a defensive and more combative nature, resulting in the suspensions? I say this, because I saw that in my sister, who had been in a foster home prior to coming to be with us. She had a very insecure beginning and didn’t trust. No matter how much I tried to show her love, she was guarded, un-trusting and at times suspicious and challenging to any overtures we made to reassure her that we meant her no harm. It was something that stayed with her a long time and that made it difficult for us to show her as much affection as we might have had she been more receptive. What was interesting too is that we got her siblings as well, but they did not seem to respond as she had and they had been singled out for far harsher treatment than she ever got prior to being taken away from their mother. She had actually been her mother’s favorite, so my guess was that she resented having been lumped in with the others when her mother had not done her the same way. Yet, she responded more to my ex husband, who’s mother had committed suicide when he was a teen. So, finding a common ground and level for healthy communication being key. The human psyche can be so complex. I noticed this too when I worked at the clinic. Some folks respond in kind while others challenge your intent for their well being. In those cases, it was best not to try too hard and give them plenty of space.
    Some troubled youth, like an injured caged wild animal, will pace and pace until it checks things out before it settles down and accepts your help. Probably not the best analogy but it can work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I consider God looks on the fondness, so if you sexual love God with all your fondness, and you are His baby, then your position is His sexual love covers me. What was interesting too is that we got her siblings as well, but they did not seem to respond as she had and they had been singled out for far harsher intervention than she ever got prior to being taken away from their female parent.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Four Modern Sunday School Strategies – The Light Breaks Through

  5. Pingback: Is A Family-Equipping Model Right For Your Church? – The Light Breaks Through

  6. Pingback: Creating a Family-based Ministry Environment – The Light Breaks Through

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