Our church's shift toward a family-equipping model of disciple-making has been challenging, but worth it. While we continue to have preschool, children's, and youth ministries (as well as other specific ministries for people) our focus has been to be less about each group individually and more about strategically equipping families to make the home the center of disciple-making. Of course we work to provide for Christian parents/guardians to do this well and for those families where there are gaps and the youngest in the family are the only Christians we stand ready.
One of the most challenging aspects is the paradigm shift required from members and guests who have for decades attended family-based churches. This model has been the primary one in American evangelicalism since the 1950s and focuses on providing ministries to each age group based on development and interest. The big difference is that over time, families have attended church together, divided by ages, and left the disciple-making to the Sunday school or group leaders and ultimately have outsourced a responsibility to be led within the home to the "professionals."
This programmatic system has been effective and during the height of the church-growth movement, it was the most common seen in churches of various sizes. Yet, most common and most effective are not always synonyms, much less most biblical.
As we have begun this shift, a new understanding of our roles as ministry leaders has grown and families have embraced it by and large. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to change one's way of thinking, grading, and evaluating success.
Beyond "Amen, that's a Good Idea"
Now, we are beginning our first strategically-focused family equipping adult group. This group (e.g. Life Group, Small Group, Sunday School class, etc.) will meet weekly as do our other groups. Yet, the group leaders here will work hand-in-hand with our youth minister and children's ministry director to help equip parents in the group learn biblical doctrine and truth and ways to implement disciple-making strategies (such as family worship, spiritual conversation, Bible study, etc.) within the home. It is a grace-focused group intent on developing personal relationships that are deep with others who are working through the same life-stages of their children.
What this means is that some of our current groups will likely have people leave to join this new one. Eventually, all our groups will move toward a more healthy, strategic, disciple-making focus. This, too will be a shift, especially for group leaders and members who have done their classes the same way for decades. It also shifts group expectations reliant on a pre-published weekly curriculum (in addition to the Bible.)
Change for the sake of change just creates confusion. Change for strategic, biblical, strong, and right reasons are...well, a pain, too, but worth it.
More posts on Family Equipping here:
- The Family Equipping Model is Right. It's Biblical. It Just Doesn't Market Well for the Church Consumer.
- When Your Youth Group Functions As a Parachurch Ministry
- Why "Family-Equipping Discipleship" Is Needed Now More Than Ever (And Is Better Than What We Grew Up With)
- When Parents/Guardians Are Equipped to Lead Their Children Biblically