college travels

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Family-Friendly Church

Do you want families in your church to know Jesus? Is it your hope that parents in your church will be actively involved in the discipleship of their children? Have you ever wondered how you might be able to encourage and enable families to glorify God within their local community? These are questions that are addressed in The Family Friendly Church by Ben Freudenburg with Rick Lawrence.

In this book, Ben Freudenburg shares his journey of personal discovery in regards to ministry with young people and in particular with young people as they belong to, and interact with their families. In his own experience he has found that ministry to children and families with young children is often overlooked and undervalued. This is not only true in the United States but for many in Australia this can be a common experience. How many of us have seen that when a church grows or adds staff, the first position to be filled, is unlikely to be that of a children’s worker.

However, in this book we are challenged to think more widely about the church’s responsibility to families. Freudenburg says, 'parents are the primary Christian educators in the church’ and that ‘the family is the God-ordained institution for faith building in children and youth and for the passing of faith from one generation to the next’.

This leads us to ask, is it wrong for us as workers to create programs that remove parents from this God-given responsibility? We need to ask ourselves, are we intentionally looking to find the correct balance between the role of Children’s and Youth ministers, Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders with the primary responsibility of Christian parents to pass on their faith?

Having set out his reasoning for why we need to change our focus Freudenburg is particularly helpful in providing practical and helpful suggestions about the way forward. This is a strong characteristic of the book. Its great strength is in biblical principles supported with many ideas for practical application. For example, Freudenburg identifies four simple family habits that make the difference in helping children of all ages to know about faith and to see how this faith works out in practice.

The four "difference makers" are:

Talking about God and your faith with your mother.
Talking about God and your faith with your father.
Praying together as a family each day.
Doing service projects together as a family to help those in need.

He then pinpoints a number of practical ways to implement these ‘difference makers’. For example, here is one of his suggestions in regard to parents talking about their faith:

Use "teachable moments," those moments when you can use events to make a point or open an age-appropriate discussion.


  • When you are reading a story or watching a movie, discuss the moral of the story.
  • You hear about someone ill or injured, offer a prayer.
  • Your child tells you about his friend telling a lie, you talk about honour and the standard of living by God's laws.
  • When your child tells you about something troubling him.
  • When you see your child is struggling with peer pressure, school pressure or experiencing difficulties with relationships.

It is not surprising that that these factors make a difference. Studies have proven again and again that parents are the single most powerful influence in their children's lives. The challenge is to help families recognise and take on board these small but significant steps. How can we help parents to see that giving their children the opportunity to talk with them about God and their faith is easy if they make it a priority? How can we encourage them to have discussions about God with their children as a regular, spontaneous part of life? You will find many helpful and realistic suggestions within this book.

As well as the answers to these questions you will be challenged to broaden your perspective on parent involvement, be encouraged to become committed to educating parents by offering seminars and workshops and be convicted of a need to be scheduling-sensitive. The book provides guidance and resources to help you:

  • Walk alongside parents as they lead and teach their children
  • Bring families together at church
  • Equip families for a home-based, church-supported ministry instead of a church- centred, home-supported ministry.

If this sounds like a change in direction that you and your church are ready for, then I suggest you buy a few copies and pass them around the ministry staff. Plan a day to discuss the concepts and ideas – I’m confident that it will bear fruit for ministry to the families within your care.

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2 Comments:

  • Thanks Kerrie.
    This is all stuff that we are thinking through as a church at the moment, and has been chewing in my mind for quite a while.
    I'll have to give this a read (and hopefully pass around to others)!

    By Blogger Luke, at 3:26 pm  

  • Sounds like an interesting read Kerrie! Is there a copy in the College library I could flick through?
    Nathan

    By OpenID nathanjameslee, at 7:23 pm  

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