5 Ways to tell the difference between Traditional Family Ministry Churches and Missional Family Churches

Last week I wrote about the two basic models of family ministry, a Traditional Family Ministry and the Missional Family. The post was well received, but I did get one question that I think many people may benefit from in reading my response. The question came through LinkedIn, and the person was looking for help in identifying the differences between a church under the traditional family ministry model and one under the missional family model. Allow me to help.

1. The world is the a threat vs. the world is God’s and is in need of redemption.

The traditional family ministry church is worried. It is afraid that the institution of family is under attack. In its concern they will make statements in the messages about how the world threatens the family.

The missional family church is excited about the potential of the family to reach the world. The world is under threat, but the church has the answer- Jesus Christ.

2. Programs for the family vs. environments that favor family.

Traditional family ministry churches like programs. They have classes, groups, and events. Many design these programs to bring the whole family together, like a family picnic or fair, but often they employ programs that break the family apart, like youth groups, adult life groups, and children’s clubs.

Traditional family churches also have programs for the home. They send parents home to be the leaders of their family and they offer a curriculum to do that. They teach parents to have regular family devotion times which can look a lot like a children’s Sunday school class at home.

Missional family churches have programs, but the focus of the missional family is what they do as the people interact with the world. Parents are challenged to live spiritual lives before their children. Parents learn to talk to their children about how everyday things are spiritual in nature. The church encourages its people to gather, even when the church leaders do not list the gathering in the bulletin.

3. Church supports the mission of the family vs. families collaborate to accomplish the mission of the church.

The traditional family ministry church considers the family a mini church. As such, the greater church is a support to the home. The job of church leaders is to provide resources and equip the parents, which means the local church takes on the role of seminary to the family leaders. Each family has its own outworking of the ministry in the end.

The missional church unites all its families because it believes that ministry is the work of the people. The local church is the context for this ministry, but not the church that meets at a certain time or place; it is the church that is sent out into the world to interact with the people of their community. The role of the church is equipping, but it is also encouragement, prayer, and accountability. Parents teach their children, but their children are equally taught in the community of believers.

4. Family is the church vs. the church is a family.

Some traditional family ministry leaders have said that the family is the church and the church is a gathering of many family-churches. A family may belong to a church as long as it is beneficial to the development of the family.

The missional family church believes that the church is itself a family, and that the New Testament replaces the natural family with a surrogate family. This is because frequently the natural family does not minister well to it’s own members, and not all the members are equally engaged in gospel work. The natural family isn’t dissolved, but it or individual members are enveloped into a bigger family. Members of the bigger family must act like family members.

5. Favors nuclear family vs. Expecting people all stages of life to interact.

Traditional family ministry churches favor the nuclear family. Singles and seniors ministries often exist in these churches for those who are not actively in the parent-child stage of life. Sermons and other church messages will often focus on the role of parents and children in their homes. Singles are often encouraged to look for a spouse in, and through, church ministries.

Missional family churches will focus on the sibling relationship of all members of the church. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, singles, widows, parents, and children are encouraged to interact in many ways. Singles are encouraged to be serious about their call to the work of the church in a missional community.

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