Family ministry models: what we can learn from each other, part 2

Posted on June 17, 2010


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 2 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.

The “Family-Based” and “Family-Equipping” models have become quite popular in the last several years.  As the smoke of bloated budgets, attractional programs, and drop-off youth ministry cleared, many youth pastors began to rethink the effectiveness of a philosophy that rarely penetrated the doorposts of their families’ homes.

Additionally, the realities of a struggling economy are forcing churches to invest every dollar strategically in areas with the greatest return.  These factors have converged to create a new reality for family ministry, where focusing on parents is biblically/theologically, philosophically, and economically satisfying and necessary.

In response to these challenges, Family-Based ministry seeks to “keep the priority of the family at the forefront of our mission, to give families the understanding and tools they need to raise their children to grow to their legacy of faith.”[1] Rather than implementing a complete structural overhaul, the Family-Based approach is methodologically flexible and practically accessible for churches of any size: “We are not suggesting a radical change in programming. What we are suggesting is a fresh mind-set: Parents and family are crucial to faith development in every area of a ministry’s program.”[2] The Family-Based model maintains a great deal of continuity with traditional and historical youth ministry, recognizing the value of evangelistic venues targeted specifically at a youth culture that does not enjoy the luxuries of a traditional family structure.

Similarly, the Family-Equipping model attempts to reconceptualize the task of youth ministry: “Our goal? To engage our church’s leadership in a radical restructuring of priorities that would reengage parents in the spiritual lives of their youth and children.”[3] To accomplish this task, Family-Equipping churches (starting with the pastor) radically reorganize their ministry structures to reflect this parent focus, including staff, budgets, events, communication, and curriculum.  The Family-Equipping model casts off many of the encumbrances of traditional youth ministry, instead choosing to promote family offerings almost exclusively.

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