Dr. Mark is a medical doctor involved with family practice. He was also president of his church council when I met him. After hearing him tell his thoughts about family ministry, it was clear to me why he had made time in his busy schedule to take on a leadership role in his congregation. I felt there must be some correlation between his knowledge of treating patients through family practice and the passion and interest he showed for supporting family ministry in his congregation.
I asked him for his thoughts about how the two may be connected. He said he originally wanted to be a pediatrician, but discovered it was challenging to specialize with just the children when there was a clear need for parents to be healthy themselves. He told me parents play a major role in the health of their child and that after realizing this he decided to become a family practice doctor. He wanted to treat the entire family, not just the children.
I appreciated Dr. Mark’s story and after searching for a few definitions, began to compare the role a doctor plays in treating children and families with the role the church has to equip children and families for lifelong faith formation. I found some similarities in the definitions between medical family practice and family faith formation.
Pediatric doctor: A doctor specialized in focusing on maintaining health and providing medical care for children from birth to late teens.
Director of Children and Youth Ministry: A staff member in the church focusing on maintaining spiritual health and providing religious instruction, especially from preschool age to late teens.
Family Practice: Comprehensive medical care that treats the patient in the context of the entire family.
Family Ministry: Comprehensive spiritual care that treats the children, youth, and parents in the context of the entire family.
My conclusion: Our congregations need to begin a family faith practice where we treat the entire family, not just the children and youth. We need to let parents know it is their job to be faith role models for their children.
The congregation should be responsible for placing tools in the hands of parents to practice faith in the home. This would be a step in the right direction to provide comprehensive care for the entire family and in turn, the entire congregation.
Ten years ago, resources were few for taking faith home. Although parent’s role in their children’s faith is Biblical, we didn’t seem to take helping parents and other adults in a child’s life seriously in our congregations.
Today, thanks to an awareness of the importance of this ministry coupled with technology, there are many resources available for parents to use in the home. From apps to online books to devotions sent to your email daily to Facebook groups supporting parents. There are many resources available for today’s young parents and for grandparents.
Many congregations are providing tools and equipping parents and grandparents by role modeling a faith practice once a week. Families are then encouraged to do the same faith practice at home.
There is no question that eating healthy and taking proper medications everyday maintains a healthy body and helps it grow. There is no question that having a spiritual practice every day is a vital component to maintain spiritual health and grow the body, His body.
What will faith formation in our congregations look like in ten more years if the priority becomes treating the entire church family?
Perhaps we should heed the advice from another doctor, Dr. Luke. In reference to the wise and foolish builders, he writes, “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like.” Luke 6:47 (NIV)
Suggested Family Ministry Books:
Family the Forming Center: A Vision of the Role of Family in Spiritual Formation by Marjorie Thomas
The Family Friendly Church by Ben Freudenberg
The Great Omission by David Anderson
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