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History of Family Ministry, Part 1: The Reformation & the Home as a Little Church

Children were brought up in the Lord through the teaching of their parents. There was little if any training for children by the church as an institution.  Pastors trained fathers, and fathers trained their children.  There was no youth ministry, children’s ministry, or Sunday School, but church leaders championed the home as a place where fathers taught their children about God:

  • Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 21-25 (1539)“Abraham had in his tent a house of God and a church, just as today any godly and pious head of a household instructs his children… in godliness.  Therefore such a house is actually a school and a church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.”
  • Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (1657), chapter 2, section 1.4

    “Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labor, but will much further the success of your labors.  If a captain can get the officers under him to do their duty, he may rule the soldiers with much less trouble, than if all lay upon his own shoulders.  You are not like to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much future increase.”

    “Go occasionally among them, when they are likely to be most at leisure, and ask the master of the family whether he prays with them, and reads the Scripture, or what he does?  Labor to convince such as neglect this, of their sin; and if you have opportunity, pray with them before you go, and give them an example of what you would have them do.  Perhaps, too, it might be well to get a promise from them, that they will make more conscience of their duty for the future.”

Thinking Orange: A History of Family Ministry from the Reformation to Reggie Joiner

Later this afternoon, Pastor Gary Almon and I will be taking four other Sojourn leaders to the “Orange” conference in Atlanta, GA.  “Orange” is a conference about connecting church and home.  If red represents the home (and its warm nurturing hearts) and yellow represents the church (and its bright missionary lights) then orange represents what happens when these two influences combine.  One of the most influential brains behind this strategy is Reggie Joiner, founder of the ReThink group and co-founding pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta.  In honor of Reggie’s conference, I’ll be blogging through the history of family ministry from  over the next few days.  I hope you enjoy this little journey as much as we’re going to enjoy our trip to the ATL.

Christian Freedom & Parenting Series Review

Sojourn believes in Christian freedom, and our church has done a good job of staring down some of the legalistic controversies that plague many churches.  Sometimes we really do seem to “get it,” but what do we believe about Christian freedom when it comes to our children?  Is there freedom when it comes to feeding babies, school choices, spanking, and immunizations?  And what does Christian freedom look like when it comes to these kinds of issues?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a look at several of these issues.  This has been an informative series.  I’ve learned a lot about what it means to dive into controversial matters with an eye on the Scriptures.  Perhaps on another day we’ll revisit these issues and touch on other controversial matters for kids–like spanking and what age you might allow a child to have ear rings or a tattoo.  But for now, we’re going to put these matters aside.  If you missed them, here are links to the posts in the series:

Justin Hyde: How do you pastor your family?

Here is a great article by Justin Hyde, an Acts 29 pastor in Brenham, Texas, on how he leads his family.  This is his outline and a few of the gems from his article:

1.  Routine

2. Intentional Evenings

I get home from work between 5:30PM and 5:45PM each night. But I have to prepare myself before 5:30PM so that I can hit the ground running when I walk in the door. Though I am invariably tired from my day’s work, I have to remind myself that the most important part of my vocation happens after 5:30PM, not before. This takes prayer, practice, and intentionality. It’s easy to fail.

Husbands/dads, don’t clock-out on your way home; be ready to be present and engaged; don’t let your kids or wife expect to hear your formulaic: “I’m tired;” turn your phone off (I recently read something like this: “If you touched your wife as much as you touch your iPhone your marriage would be in a much better spot.”); cancel your cable TV; repent of your addiction to new projects, hobbies, and distractions.

Wives, be gracious; be forgiving; learn and grow with your husband; make your home inviting and pleasing; manage the stress level (for you and the kids) before dad gets home (i.e. don’t let the water boil all day so that it’s boiling over the top right when dad’s car pulls up).

3. Time to Play

We eat dinner at 6:00PM. So I walk in the door and devote myself to the kids for 20-30 minutes. Rarely do I take 5 steps into the house before having a 5 year old around my left leg and a 3 year old around my right leg (and now, often, a baby in my arms). Dads, your kids are ready to see you. Ready to punch you. Ready to kiss you. Ready to play. Ready to build. Ready to read. And of course your wife needs this from you too if she’s making dinner or just needing a break after her long day. Husbands, remind yourself daily that your wife is likely more exhausted than you are by 5:30PM. Serve her well. This is also a good time to teach the kids about setting the table, helping to pick up the living room, honoring mom, serving a younger sibling, etc. But mainly this is a good time to play. Continue Reading…

Christian Freedom & Parenting, Part 5: Schooling

Schooling controversies for Christians were born just as Christianity was getting started .

As a young family in Jefferson County, we were overwhelmed with the school choices available to us! We have great public schools in our cluster. We have great private schools to choose from, and, of course, educating in the home is an option for a family.  With our first child we were accepted at two schools – a public magnet, and private school. I remember agonizing over the decision.  We prayed and fasted.  At that time, we believed that one of our choices was morally right and the other morally wrong, and we believed there would be severe consequences for choosing the wrong school. We made our choice, and we were happy there for several years.  After her being in the home for five years, it was agonizing to send our precious little baby-girl into someone else’s care for 7 hours every day!!!  We have since decided to do things differently, but we donʼt see our first choice as morally wrong.  Rather, a different choice is better for our family in this season.

When Christianity was born, schools were not merely secular. They were pagan.  As a teacher, you were expected to reverence all sorts of false gods in your classroom.  Faced with this system, Tatian, an early Christian writer, argued that all Christians should pull their children out of these schools, declaring, “We renounce your wisdom and we no longer concern ourselves with your tenets.  We follow God’s Word instead.”[1] Many heeded his call and followed the ancient Jewish practice of home education.  The early pastor, Tertullian, disagreed, encouraging Christians to leave their children in these schools even though most Christian teachers could not work there with a clear conscience.  A converted schoolteacher, Pantaenus, had another idea: Why not start a Christian academy to teach children a Christian perspective on all of life?  And so schooling controversies for Christians were born just as Christianity was getting started. Continue Reading…