I am sure you have heard of the shoe company called TOMS. They do not make high quality shoes. They do not make the most attractive shoes. Nor are they the most comfortable shoes, yet this little company gained incredible popularity very quickly because of the reason behind buying their shoes: for every pair you purchase they donate a pair to a needy child. The reason behind buying these shoes is what drove their incredible success.
TOMS became a movement in and of themselves, but the danger of a movement showed up when TOMS became a norm in youth culture; the true reason for their popularity was diluted as Sketchers, Forever 21, Justice, and many other stores started producing knockoff TOMS. You see what happened? The shoe became such a norm that now people don’t know why they are buying overpriced, low quality, and uncomfortable shoes. People are just buying shoes because they look similar to the shoes everyone else is buying. The reason was diluted by the power of the movement.
The church cannot afford to let the reason drop in our pursuit of family ministry.
Family ministry is a necessity in the American church, and many bestselling ministry books are currently in the area of family ministry. The rise of the movement tells pastors that there is something important going on, so we all want to make sure we take part in it. The problem is that in our vigor to join the movement, we may miss the reason the movement began. Much like teenagers buying knockoff TOMS, we may be missing the point.
Average Christian mothers and fathers likely understand the family to be a launching pad for each child, providing them with all of the love, safety, and affirmation needed to be a successful individual. That sounds great, but is it what God wants for the family? If you read through the Bible (including the Old Testament) it is very difficult to squeeze the individualistic, success-driven picture of the American family into a Biblical response of why God created the family. Time and time again God commanded fathers to teach their children all the commands of the Lord, remind their children of the great things the Lord had done, and discipline their children in order to teach submission to the Lord.
What if we, as Christians, actually believed God knew best? What if we, as parents, actually believed God had a greater plan for our families than raising successful (i.e. rich) children? What if God gave children to parents in order to fulfill the great commission?
Then Christian parents would probably believe themselves to be the primary disciplers of their children.
This is why we need Family Ministry. We need to retrain the American church to understand the family as a primary tool in God’s plan of redemption. It is not a stretch of the imagination to think that God wants to use families in His plan of redemption; he has been doing it since he called one man and his family to be a blessing to all other families. God still wants to use the family, but the family has to be redeemed. It has to be spiritually redeemed by Christ, and its purpose has to be redeemed by parents.
Parents need to see their role through the lens of the Bible. Deuteronomy 6 needs to become more than an idea; it needs to become a guidebook for how we make disciples, starting in our own home. Pastors need to reinforce this role to the parents in our congregations. We need to understand that the first and most important influence in the life of a child will never be our youth pastor; therefore, we should be working to train those who will be doing the heavy lifting of discipleship. We need to minister to families with a constant focus on the reason why. The local church is where parents meet to be equipped and trained; families are the frontlines of gospel warfare.
If we ride the wave of family ministry and lose the reason we need it, then we have done nothing more than take part in a flash in the pan movement, here today and gone tomorrow.
If, however, we work through Scripture and come to an understanding of the family as God’s training ground for new disciples, then we are going to be a part of the greatest movement in the history of the world: the movement of a perfect, holy God towards his sinful, needy children.