by Kevin Langford
As I travel and visit various congregations within our brotherhood, I try to take note of the different ways congregations are ministering to the flock. It appears that most congregations are spending much of their resources on ministering to their women through retreats and monthly fellowships The men have an annual retreat, quarterly breakfast, and an occasional Bible class to minister to their needs. The young people have lots of activities to aid in their spiritual growth development through devotionals, retreats, camps, etc. But please consider with me this question: “What are we doing to grow, strengthen, and minister to the ever changing needs of the family as a whole?” It seems that almost everywhere we look we see and know people who are trying to persevere through the storms of life. Many of them are facing financial strain, failing marriages, apathy, and/or dysfunctional parenting. We see the toll it is taking on them, but what are we as ministers and the church doing to aid them?
There has become a growing trend in which the answer to this question is, “We have a youth and family minister who works with our young people and our families. That is his area of ministry.” However, when I speak with most of these ministers and inquire how they are ministering to the families I receive the same answer; “I’m not doing as much as I should or I don’t have the time to minister in this area because I am also working with the youth group.” I even recently met a man who was hired as the new “family minister” for a large church who admitted that he had no clue where to begin or what to do because he had never seen a healthy, functioning family-ministry model.
I have spent much time praying and meditating on some practical things that I feel can become a starting point for churches to consider. I want to be very clear: I am in no way an expert. I am just like many of you, a servant who is trying to discover the most effective way to minister to our church families.
A few things I would encourage you to consider as you look for ways to strengthen the church by strengthening the family:
1. Develop the compassion of Jesus.
Jesus was a man of deep compassion. He has compassion upon those who were distressed (Mark 6:34; Matt. 9:36), hungry (Mark 8:2), afflicted (Matt. 20:34; Mark 1:40-41; 9:22, 25), bereaved (Luke 7:12-13) and the spiritually lost (Luke 15:20) to list a few. Like the old saying goes, “People don’t care what you know, unless they know how much you care.”
2. Truly know the sheep.
Jesus saw people for who they really are. Spend time with the flock and get to know them and their spiritual and emotional needs. We must work to get past the “I’m fine so leave me alone” phase and get to the point where we can be accountable and transparent with one another’s true needs.
3. Fulfill our mission.
God’s Word is very clear as to what the purpose and function of the body is to be. He clearly states that we are to focus on evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 9:22; Phil. 2:15-16). We are to fellowship together (1 Cor. 12:25-26; Gal. 6:2; Heb. 10:24; Jas. 5:16). We are help others grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ as an individual and as a family unit (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:17-19; Col. 1:28; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:12). The Lord wants us to serve others through ministry (Gal. 6:10; Mark 10:43-45; John 13:14-17) and finally we are to glorify God through authentic worship and Christian living (John 4:23-24; Rom. 15:5-6). I want to strongly encourage each of us to consider each of these purposes and find ways to incorporate each of them within our ministry to families. If we spend too much time in one area then we do not have a healthy, well-balanced ministry. Often many of our current ministries can simply be modified to meet more than one of these purposes.
4. Minister to their needs.
There are so many good resources available to help get us started. It is always a good idea to sit down with some of the families at church and brainstorm as to what type of ministry the families you minister to truly need. They may need some classes over Biblical finances, parenting, grief recovery, marriage enrichment, and/or how to have family devotionals.
5. Don’t try to be the expert.
This is the best advice I ever received. Far too often we feel as though we have to be the expert on every problem or situation that our families will face. Develop a team of people, and a good library covering strengths in various areas of ministry, that can be utilized as a resource for family growth and improvement.
I wholeheartedly believe that if we will follow these principles that families will be strengthened, lives will be enriched, and the church will be blessed beyond all we can possibly hope or imagine. May the Lord bless each of us richly as we fervently serve Him by wholeheartedly serve one another.
Kevin Langford serves as the Youth & Family Minister at the Keller Church of Christ in Keller, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.