Family ministry models: what we can learn from each other, part 1

Posted on June 1, 2010

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In the fall, Southern Seminary will be re-launching their Journal of Family Ministry. The focus of their first issue will be on models of family ministry, and I wanted to share some of the articles I have contributed on what we can learn from each other. Below is part 1 of a series entitled, “The Family-Based Model and the Family-Equipping Model: What the Two Can Learn From Each Other.” Other articles in this series can be found here.

Very seldom does one observe athletes from different teams get together to “learn from each other.”   How often do you think Lebron and Kobe, Tiger and Padraig, or Machida and Silva sit down over a cup of green tea in a collaborative effort to share ideas for the mutual benefit of one another?  Probably not too frequently.  And, it would seem, justifiably so, for such an exchange would necessarily erode the competitive advantage one athlete or team enjoyed over another.

Sadly, men and women from different ministry “tribes” can be much like professional athletes.  We keep a safe distance from those on other teams, refusing to learn from them in order to keep our perceived competitive advantage.  We don’t read outside our own camp, instead choosing to parrot our favorite authors and publishers.  We caricature and oversimplify the positions of those with whom we disagree, demonizing them with cute slogans, platitudes, and pithy sayings gleaned from our favorite blogs.  We narrowly pursue the perfection of our own models of ministry, refusing to admit our own shortcomings and acknowledge the merits of other successful approaches.

This kind of thinking reflects a tacit immaturity, for we have much to learn from each other as we strive to accomplish the Great Commission in biblically-faithful and culturally-fruitful ways.

Family ministry is no different. Even a cursory look at the cultural landscape shows that we have our work cut out for us. Families are hurting, and they desperately need the redemptive power of the gospel to bring healing to situations that seem broken beyond repair.  Moreover, evangelical churches don’t seem to be faring much better: our families are experiencing divorce, moral failure, and despair at rates similar to the culture at large.  Those working with families need to learn from each other – we need to be sharpened, challenged, and refined by other models.

In what follows, I would like to suggest some ways that two of my preferred family ministry teams, “Family-Based” and “Family-Equipping,” can learn from each other in an attempt to more strategically and effectively reach more families for Christ.

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