Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thoughts on the Family-Equipping Model

In the Family-Equipping Ministry Model, many semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact. In some cases, the family-equipping church might even retain a youth minister or a children’s minister. Yet church leaders plan every ministry to champion the place of parents as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives, asking at every level of the church’s ministry, “How can we best equip families to become fundamental units of discipleship and evangelism?” At the same time, parents recognize the church as a community that’s been called to participate actively in the discipleship of all believers, including children. The church equips parents to disciple their children, and the parents recognize the church as an active partner in this process. Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational events and activities within current structures, family-equipping ministry reworks the church’s entire structure to call parents to disciple their children at every level of the church’s ministry. Every aspect of the congregation’s life consciously “co-champions” the church’s ministry and parental responsibility.

In many ways the family-equipping model represents a middle route between the family-integrated and family-based models. Semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact in family-equipping contexts. Many family-equipping churches even retain youth ministers and children’s ministers. Yet every practice at every level of ministry is reworked to champion the place of parents as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. Because parents are primary disciple-makers and vital partners in family-equipping ministry, every activity for children or youth must resource, train, or directly involve parents.

To envision the family-equipping model in action, imagine a river with large stones jutting through the surface of the water. The river represents the Christian growth and development of children in the church. One riverbank signifies the church, and the other riverbank connotes the family. Both banks are necessary for the river to flow forward with focus and power. Unless both riverbanks support the child’s development, you are likely to end up with the destructive power of a deluge instead of the constructive possibilities of a river. The stones that guide and redirect the river currents represent milestones or rites of passage that mark the passing of key points of development that the church and families celebrate together.

- Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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