I took Introduction to Family Ministry with Chap Clark during my first year at Fuller. I had no intention of doing family ministry, but part of the reason why I came to Fuller was to study youth ministry with professors such as Chap Clark, and this happened to be the first class offered with him during my seminary career. So, I registered, expecting to learn a lot from Chap but not really thinking that I would wind up doing family ministry. I loved the class. There’s a lot to be said for being in a class full of youth workers, the least of which is that no one takes themselves *too* seriously. The assignments were challenging, though–we had to write a theology of family ministry, and for our final project we had to design a family ministry. How do you develop a theology of something you’ve never actually considered as a career option?
Most of what we talked about in class were the three modes of family ministry, which are as follows:
1. Guardrails and Emergency Rooms – This mode of family ministry is most prevalent in large churches. It consists primarily of programs designed to prevent family crises (guardrails) and to work with families in crises (emergency rooms). Think: Divorce Care for Kids, Mommy and Me, Mothers of Preschoolers, etc.
2. Nuclear-Family Focused – This mode of family ministry, often found in non-denominational and “Bible” churches, is primarily focused on the nuclear family, and having parents raise up their children as disciples. Rather than excessive programming, churches who function in this mode of family ministry focus on equipping parents to raise their children well, but also assume that parents have the biblical know-how to do so.
3. The Church as Family – This mode of family ministry is most commonly found in small churches. Its goal is to treat the church body as a family. The primary focus on family ministry programming is all-church events, such as potlucks, family dinners, and so on.
Fast forward three years. Here I am, still in California, still working at Fuller, and serving as the Director of Christian Education at a small church, and much of what I do is family ministry. When you work at a small church, you interact with parents quite frequently, as it is possible to know almost every family in the congregation. Our church primarily functions within the third mode of family ministry, but we’re working on appropriating aspects of the other two. I am glad I took this class! It has been very useful.