Rethinking Sunday School: The Family-based Ministry


It is common for Orthodox Jews to recite every morning and evening of every day Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This section of the Torah is written on the door frames of their homes. There isn’t a practicing Jew today who can’t quote it from memory. It is popular as John 3:16 is for the Christian. The core of the Old Testament is summed up in these few sentences.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

We have discussed in previous posts three modern Sunday School alternative models. The Family-based model is the last model left to explore. What makes this approach unique is that Family-based ministry isn’t a program, it’s a mindset. It returns the church back to its biblical foundation and the Deuteronomy understanding of the role of parents. It is the responsibility of the parents to take their calling back and to “impress upon their children” the Word of God. Parents are the best examples to talk with their children about faith and then to live out that faith walk daily. Back in olden days, each child knew his or her place in the family and in their faith journey.

The Foundation of the Model.

Family-Based Ministry described by Brandon Shields.

Most closely resembles the age-segregated ministries common in the 20th century.
Rather than completely revamping the existing ministries and starting over, this approach builds on it, using the ministry platform to equip parents and encourage intergenerational discipleship within its framework.

Family-based ministry finds its strength in its intentionality to take formerly age-segregated events and make them intergenerational or family oriented and the style is more easily achieved with the existing models and culture

Because it does look similar to what currently in place, sometimes it can be challenging to change the underlying culture of the church towards family and transition to a family-focused church.1

The Downside of this Model.

As much as I love giving ministry back to parents because it is biblical, this model can become internally focused. Parents have a greater lasting impact on their children than a youth pastor or church volunteer. Equipping, encouraging and ultimately empowering parents to live out their calling as the primary faith influencers in their children’s lives is really important. I don’t want to in any way minimize that. My question is where in this model is there room for the outsider? That family that does not have a relationship with the Risen Lord? In my experience, those who are not already believers have little interest in being connected to Jesus. Connecting them to Jesus and the church comes over time, it is something that the Holy Spirit has to nurture over time. The church that adapts this model must find intentional ways to build outside relationships into the system.



If you have been following this series here are all the models of family ministry.


4 Comments on “Rethinking Sunday School: The Family-based Ministry

  1. Pingback: Kingdom Impact for the Week of November 13th – The Light Breaks Through

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