The following is from our series of Sunday morning discussions with several families from Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL who are a part of the church planting efforts in eastern Lee County. We have been discussing core values for this new church.
2. Family Focused – The Bible teaches that the primary spiritual leaders of children are their parents (Deut. 6, Eph. 6). One goal of this new church will be to equip and empower families to grow in Christ and cultivate a healthy understanding of how the people of God worship together with those in their household, as well as other areas of life.
There are various ways churches are structured. There is no “right” model. Meaning, though there are characteristics and principles that every church should have, there are multiple ways to implement these principles in a church.
Some churches are designed according to departments and specialize in particular areas of ministry. An unintended consequence of this philosophy of ministry is that the family is divided into fragments while together with the church; and this implies that the church believes the primary spiritual influences of children are ministry directors, pastors, and Sunday school teachers, instead of their parents. (I know some great preschool, children, and student pastors, and all of them believe their ministries are to assist parents to disciple their children. The problem is, many parents have a contrary understanding.)
Before long, the mindset of parents conform to the belief that their children are better off under the teaching of professionals. As a result, children and teens today have a difficult time relating to adults because they are always with their peers, and not their parents and other adults. Once they graduate from the youth group, they find it difficult to join the church in adult settings. This is unfortunate and does not need to happen.
Sadly, many Christian parents resort to the mindset that leads to “contracting” their God-ordained responsibilities out to the paid minister. At best, these specialized church ministries should be viewed as supplements to the parental duties of discipling children.
Consider this. Children and youth ministries are more common today than ever. We have more youth pastors, and bigger and “better” children and youth programs than ever before. Youth camps are vast and plentiful every summer. Yet, I have not read anything today that would suggest we are better off in regards to the spiritual condition of our youth. In fact, many studies, such as this, suggest that no less than three out of four teenagers will graduate from our church youth programs and never return to church again.
So what will this new church do differently? I want to be clear. I am NOT saying that all children and youth programs should be eliminated. I am NOT saying that parents are evil if they have not owned their responsibility over the spiritual condition of their children. I am NOT saying that God has not, or cannot use children and youth ministries to save and disciple young people to follow Christ the rest of their lives.
One thing that has always and will always characterize churches and Christians is the fact that we are NOT perfect. We all need the sanctifying work of grace that comes from God through the Gospel. I have made terrible (sinful!) mistakes as a father. When it is all said and done, I will most certainly look back and recognize even more mistakes. Thankfully, God uses imperfect people and churches! Otherwise, God would not be able to use any of us.
This new church will appreciate and minister within the various seasons of life. We recognize the benefits to occasionally have children and youth classes or events. These types of ministries can be enormously helpful to parents in assisting them in their duty to disciple their children.
Here is the basis for this core value. We believe that the church is best served when we focus on ministering to families as a whole. We believe that the primary spiritual leaders and disciplers of children should be their parents, and parents should not expect the church to do what they are not already doing in their homes.
As such, our goal is to maintain a simple ministry design that will equip and empower families to grow in Christ and cultivate a healthy understanding of how the people of God worship and know God both personally, and in community within their household and church.
* It was noted during this study that the church must define what we mean by family. Families are seldom perfect and often look differently than the traditional: Dad, Mom, and Children. Some families have no children. Others have single parents, etc. Maybe it will be better for us to use the term “household,” rather than family.