Family Worship: Book of Acts

Here are some simple ideas for studying the Acts 1-9 with your family.  Begin by gathering the family to hear from God by reading His Word then responding to Him through asking, praying, memorizing, and doing.  This brief outline will help you lead your family in short times of family worship.  Children should be involved as much as their age allows. Devotions should last around 15 minutes.   If this is a new experience for your family, keep it very simple. Have the whole family gather in the living room or bedroom, or around the table together. Even the very young children should participate. Turn off any radios or televisions that might be distractions.

Step #1: Hear from God’s Word—Read one chapter each time you gather together.  If your children are confident readers, ask them to read portions of scripture from their Bibles.  Prepare in advance to explain difficult concepts and words.

Step #2: Respond to God—Truly hearing from God involves responding to what he has said.  Here are some ideas for leading your children to respond to God.

  • Ask: Ask your children questions about what you’ve read: Ask about the main characters in the story.  For example, who wrote the Book of Acts? (Luke)  Who did Luke write the Book of Acts to?  (Theophilus).  Ask what key verses stand out in each chapter.  Each night, as your kids to name the three persons of the Trinity. (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit)  Ask your children what happened in the chapter. Chapters 1-9 follow the basic outline below. You can refer back to it as you are asking questions.  Ask your children to remember what God did in the chapter.  Then, praise Him for what He did.The Birth of the Church, chapters 1-5
    –chapter 1: The ascension and replacing Judas
    –chapter 2: The day of Pentecost
    –chapters 3-5:  The church grows as the apostles continue Jesus’ works

    The Church is Persecuted and Expands, chapters 6-9
    –chapters 6-7: Stephen
    –chapter 8: Philip
    –chapter 9: Saul of Tarsus

  • Memorize: Take a month to memorize this key passage as a family.  Repeat the words aloud with your family, and put them in a prominent place in your home (like the refrigerator door) where family members can regularly see them. Acts 1:8 (NIV) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  • Pray: As a way to pray through the Acts 1:8 memory verse, draw a large circle with 2 smaller concentric circles inside the larger circle.   Talk to your kids about what Jesus meant when He told his disciples to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.   Use a map (found in the back of many Bibles) to point out the areas mentioned in the verse.Jerusalem is where the apostles lived.  Place the name of our city (Louisville) or your neighborhood (e.g. Germantown, St. Matthews, Smoketown, etc.) in the center circle.  Think of the names of three people in your neighborhood that you can pray for.  Put them in that circle.  Pray for them.  Pray especially for those who need to hear about Jesus.  Walk and pray in your neighborhood.  Include your kids in your times of prayer.

    Judea and Samaria
    was the region that Jerusalem was a part of. In the second circle have your children write the name of the state they are in and some surrounding states (Kentucky or Indiana).  Pray for friends and family that live outside of your immediate area (maybe friends across the river).  Pray especially for those who need to hear about Jesus.

    The ends of the earth include the whole world.  Explore the National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers online (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/kids-world-atlas/). Have students write in the 3rd circle some names of countries.  Pray for other states and other countries around the world.  Pray for Sojourn missionaries in Ethiopia (the Groce family), in Italy (the Karr family), and in Argentina (the Hess family).

  • Do: The three circles remind me about what happens when you throw a stone in a lake or pond.  There is a ripple effect that happens because the rock hit the water.  It’s the same with the message of the Gospel.  When you and I take that message to others there is a ripple effect that takes place.  As you share with others and they believe in Jesus, they share with others, and the circle keeps growing.  Challenge your family to be intentional about investing in the people on your circle chart.  Invite them into your home for parties, and invite them to celebrate Jesus with Sojourn at a Sunday service.

Resources: Kelly Henderson, “Lesson: Journey through the Book of Acts.”

The History of Family Ministry, Part 4: The Family Ministry Movement

The Family Ministry Movement (present day) is seeking to address and deconstruct the departmentalizing /compartmentalizing of the church’s people by re-connecting church and home. Listen to Reggie Joiner.

  • Reggie Joiner, “Chapter 26—Where Do You Start?” in Collaborate: Family + Church, (2010)“If we can be more effective at engaging parents to partner in our ministries, and improve the quality of relationships in the family, we will increase the possibility of a child having a dynamic and authentic faith.”

    “When we partner with ministries, we call this an ‘Orange’ way of thinking.  If the color red [warm nurturing hearts] represents parents and the color yellow [bright missional lights] represents church leaders, they need to combine to make orange.  Orange is the idea that two combined influences will make a greater impact than either of the two influences alone…  [So,] family ministry is ‘synchronizing church leaders and parents around a master plan to build faith and character in their sons and daughters.’”

Most practitioners agree with Reggie, but few agree on how to go about the changes that need to be made.  Here are a few contemporary family ministry models:

Family Integrated—Family integrated ministry is by far the most radical.   They have solved the problem by going back to Baxter.  In a family-integrated church, all age-graded classes and events are eliminated. There is no youth group, no children’s ministry, and no age-graded training program.  The generations learn and worship together, and parents bear primary responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their children.

Family Equipping—In the family-equipping model, many semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact. But the church leaders plan and organize their ministries so that they champion the place of parents as primary faith trainers.   The church intentionally co-champions the role of both the church and the home in equipping students and families.  As such, there is a clear focus on church insiders.  Family pastors champion family worship guides, parenting classes, and milestone strategies (baby dedication, baptism, rites of passage, etc.).  Often parents are required to serve.

Family Based—In the family based model, no radical changes occur in the church’s internal structure. The congregation still maintains youth ministry, children’s ministry, singles ministry, etc.  Gospel mission—reaching outsiders—remains the primary emphasis of the church as a whole even as ministry areas shift to draw generations together. Students may still experience worship and small groups in peer groups, separated from other generations, but each ministry sponsors events and learning experiences that are intentionally designed to draw generations together.

The greatest danger in the family ministry movement is that all these models are pragmatic methodologies. While principles drive these methods, the methodology chosen by each local church is a matter of Christian freedom—a matter of conscience and context.  One potential danger for family ministers is allowing the family emphasis to eclipse the gospel so that ministry becomes family-driven rather than gospel-driven.  Our prayer for SojournKids and Sojourn’s Student & Family Ministry is that it remains gospel-driven rather than family driven.  Thanks for praying for us while we’ve been at the Orange conference.  Please continue to pray as we return and serve at Sojourn.  We’re driving back today.

History of Family Ministry, Part 3: The Invention of the Teenager

American culture invented “teenagers,” and youth ministry was created as missionary ministry to teens.

Believe it or not, the term “teenager” was never used until 1941.  Of course, the fact of adolescence is ancient.  After all, the book of Proverbs is written to address the young adolescent man.  But the social function of the adolescent years changed during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  What emerged during the decades following the industrial revolution was a distinct adolescent culture that differed radically from the culture of parents and other adults.  The teenage years were no longer viewed as an intermediary life-stage with adulthood as the goal but a distinctive “youth culture” or “orientation” that resisted movement toward adulthood.  The late 19th and 20th-century church responded to this phenomenon with a legion of age-focused ministries.    These began as para-church ministries (the YMCA, Young Life, Youth for Christ).  These were evangelistic and youth missionary movements that gave us leaders like D.L. Moody and Adoniram Judson.  The para-church youth movement was innovative and successful.  Because of its success, church youth groups began to imitate the para-church ministry models, and they have experienced years of success.

In more recent years, youth groups have developed their own distinct expressions of Christian community disconnected from the faith of their mothers and fathers.   Youth ministries have often pursued their own ends, connected to the larger church’s vision like one of Mickey Mouse’s ears (that is, barely connected at all).   In our day, 70% of teens are leaving the church by their sophomore year in college.[1] Many blame the church’s compartmentalized and segmented ministry to youth.  In response to this situation, the family ministry movement has begun.


[1] Timothy Paul Jones, “Chapter 3—Historical Contexts for Family Ministry,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. Timothy Paul Jones, (B & H Academic, 2009), pages 26-36; Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, “Chapter 12—Children and Young People,” in Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, (Crossway, 2009), pages 181-190.  For my own part, I don’t see the connection between the youth ministry model and this statistic.  However, as I’ll write in the next segment, I’m happy with the family ministry movement’s adjustments.

History of Family Ministry, Part 2: Sunday School & the Industrial Revolution

Robert Raikes invented Sunday Schools to minister to inner-city boys (July 1780). We should understand this as missionary ministry for a very specific people group—children in the inner-city slums. Raikes was a philanthropist and an Anglican layperson.  He initiated the Sunday school movement by founding a school for boys in the inner-city slums.  Raikes had been involved with prisoners incarcerated in the “Poor Law”—workhouse prisons set up for those in poverty, and he wanted to set up a Christian school to educate boys before they got in trouble.  The best available time was Sunday as poor boys were often working in factories the other six days. The best available teachers were ordinary people.  The textbook was the Bible, and the originally intended curriculum started with learning to read and then progressed to the catechism. Raikes bore most of the cost for the Sunday Schools in the early years. The movement began in July 1780 in the home of a Mrs. Meredith.  Only boys attended, and she heard the lessons of the older boys who coached the younger.  Later, girls also attended.  Within two years, several schools opened in and around Gloucester.  Later the schools were publicized through papers, and they received some criticism—including that this would weaken home-based religious education, and that Sunday School might be a desecration of the Christian Sabbath. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain were teaching weekly 1.25 million children, approximately 25 percent of the population.

“The children were to come after ten in the morning, and stay till twelve; they were then to go home and return at one; and after reading a lesson, they were to be conducted to Church.   After Church, they were to be employed in repeating the catechism till after five, and then dismissed, with an injunction to go home without making a noise.” –quoted in Montrose J. Moses, Children’s Books and Reading (1907).

Consider the words of Pastor Charles Spurgeon as he talked about Sunday School nearly one hundred years later:

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, “Children Brought to Christ, and Not to the Font” (July 24, 1864)

    “So soon as they become of years capable of understanding the things of God, we endeavor to bring them to Christ by teaching them the truth.  Hence our Sabbath schools, hence the use of the Bible and family prayer, and catechizing at home.”

    “I do think that the gospel is suitable to little children. There are boys and girls in many of our Sabbath-school classes down below stairs, who are as truly converted to God as any of us.”

Thursday Book Club: Goals for Education

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages.

Estes’ third chapter unpacks goals for education.  He gives four goals.  The goals for education “focus for the most part on the cultivation of the learner as a mature godly person, rather than upon the transmission of a discrete body of knowledge” (85).  The first three speak to the kind of person that biblical education seeks to equip and disciple.   These goals answer the questions: Who should you become?  What is your character?  The final goal speaks to the reward of becoming that kind of person.

  1. Commitment (Knowing God).  “A primary goal for education is that the learner may accept for himself the values that wisdom propounds so that his life is shaped according to Yahweh’s desires” (85).  Commitment requires conversion and faith.  This is the first goal of a Christian education–that learners might know, fear, and trust in God.
  2. Character. Commitment leads to godly character, which “provides the learner with an internal compulsion to keep learning and growing in wisdom” (85).
  3. Competence in Skillful Living. Proverbs uses many words for wise living, but this is the most obvious point of the book.  The learner should be skillful in the way that he learns to live within God’s world.  How often do we really teach for this kind of response?  How often do we connect the truths of the Bible to life in a way that equips our children and students to live in a way that is wise?
  4. Prosperity and Protection.  The  result of becoming a faithful, godly, and wise person is the prosperity and protection that wisdom affords.  The Lord’s way of wisdom generally leads to well-being, success, stability, wealth, honor, protection, and satisfaction.  This does not mean that suffering is totally avoided.  Suffering is inevitable in a sinful world.  But one can follow God and generally expect good to follow rather than harm.  One can follow God and know that ultimately (even if this is only in heave) good will follow rather than harm. This is an important part of our teaching for kids.  Without making prosperity the point of the gospel, we should be clear that following God generally brings success.