Worship and the family (a guest post from Jenn Glover)

When I was a brand-spanking new believer, I found myself teaching children. Actually, to be honest, they taught me. “Who is the Balaam character anyhow?,” I remember asking. Jenn was my student in the 3rd to 5th grade class. You might say that everything I knew about Balaam, I learned from Jenn and a few close friends. In exchange for the free Balaam lesson, I taught her to put away the Babysitter Club books during worship. It’s my joy to share this post from her about seeing her family worship. Jenn’s blog is Knee-Deep in Muchkin Land.

I love church worship! It feeds my soul… it allows me to express thoughts and emotions to and about God in ways that I couldn’t do on my own. And most importantly, it allows me to share truth with my children. Little kernels of truth that they might not yet understand or comprehend, but are planted for future use.

Often times, I will sing the songs as a benediction over their heads. A prayer that the words will take root in their hearts. It’s a heritage and legacy, passed from my parents to me, and now to my own children.

This past Sunday, standing as a family of six, I looked over at my husband and our four-year-old daughter. There they stood, Reagan held in his arms, as they sang the lyrics from Matt Redman’s “You Never Let Go.”

Oh no, You never let go

Through the calm and through the storm

Oh no, You never let go

In every high and every low

Oh no, You never let go

Lord, You never let go of me

My heart splintered into pieces as I soaked it in. What symbolism in that moment. My daughter being held in the arms of her earthly daddy, while singing to her heavenly Father.

“Oh no, you never let go. Lord, you never let go of me.” Sweet Reagan, you may not understand these words yet, but I pray that someday, you might know this truth in the depth of your soul.


The idol of family

In family ministry, it might be easy to treat the family as an idol. We easily fall so in love with the family that we place it where only God should be in our lives.

The goal of family ministry cannot be to protect our family, it cannot be to protect the institution of family, and it cannot be to help people to enjoy their families more.

The goal must be the goal of Abraham in Genesis 22 when he was willing to sacrifice his family when God called him to do so. It must be the goal of God himself when he called his son to give up everything for the good of the Kingdom.

We can be like Abraham when we fearlessly lead our children into God’s hands. Rather than protecting them, we demonstrate for them an example of men and women who fear God, but don’t fear worldly loss…even the loss of a child. Our children and families are in God’s hands. After all, if perfect love drives out all fear, fear of the failure and loss of our children is an imperfection in our love. We must trust them into God’s protection.

Family ministry leaders love Deuteronomy 6, but we often teach verses 7 and 8 louder than verses 4 and 5. We tell parents to teach their kids as they walk through life as a means to an end–that is holy children or children who will not stray from their faith. We forget that we are to teach them to love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength. To love God is to follow Abraham’s example. He was prepared to make his promised son become his sacrifice to God.

How does the family idol manifest itself? It does so when we demand our children be raised in perfect little Christian worlds protected from anything that might drag them away from God. It does so when we value our lifestyle more than our call. We idolize our family when we make the Christian message a safe, moralistic, and black-and-white message, rather than allowing our children to discover the complexity of God and his story even as they learn to obey in an uncertain world.

God can protect our families and the institution of the family. Our job in family ministry is to be committed to the Gospel and to help others live as examples of Kingdom dwellers.

Note: I would like to thank Scott Jones for inspiring this post through his message on Genesis 22:1-19 at the Well on Sunday, December 23, 2012.