Family Ministry: The Key to the Future of the Church

Article review: “Family Ministry Approaches: Three Models toward a Lifestyle,” by Li Sha, ChinaSource Journal, Fall, 2010, 7-8, 11.

As always, the latest issue of the ChinaSource Journal comes packed with authoritative, insightful articles. All deserve reading, but our focus will be on Li Sha’s most helpful survey of three family ministry models prevalent in Chinese churches today. As you will see, her essay brings a message to churches outside of China as well.

Three approaches to family ministry:

1. The “Outsourcing” Approach.

“Drop off your kids at our door (school, church, community center) for all your academic, athletic and spiritual training needs. We have teachers, coaches, tutors and curriculum so that you (parents) don’t need to take your time. We are the professionals and we know what is best to teach and train your child.”

Applied to church, this model calls for parents to “outsource” all spiritual training and nurture to the church’s Sunday school and youth programs, and thus to abdicate their responsibility.

2. The “Compartmentalized” Approach.

“Use this devotion and DVD one night a week during a ‘family night’ to teach your child Bible stories and godly principles. Your child will be entertained; you have a tool to help train your child to love and serve God.” Alternately, you can also delegate most of this to church teachers and youth leaders.

Better than total outsourcing, this model at least gets parents involved in the Christian education and upbringing of their offspring. That’s certainly better than nothing. On the other hand, it doesn’t allow for daily contextualization of biblical truths in the individual child’s life, and it gives the impression that our spiritual life is confined to special times at church and at home.

3. The “Family ConneXions” Approach.

“Our church will equip you (mom and dad) to train your child to know, love, and serve God. We will nurture your own spiritual life so that you can pass that on to your child, and we will help you develop strategies, methods and tools for you to disciple your own children.”

This method, developed by Malcolm Webber, Executive Director of LeaderSource, focuses on the “5-C Approach”: “A healthy Christian disciple is growing… in Christ, community, character, calling [to serve God] and competencies.”

Based on Deuteronomy 6:7 and Jesus’ own method of training his disciples, the strategy involves total training for the total person in a context of total devotion to Christ and his church. It works to build a healthy church and a healthy family. Ideally, both church and family will collaborate to show and tell both adults and children what following Christ looks like. The training goes on daily, as well as during special events. It is “a lifestyle, not a program. Church leaders mentor parents so that they bring Christ and Christ-like living into the center of every family instead of only developing more programs.”

The church can use at least five ways to encourage discipleship: “Nurture the spiritual life of parents.” “Inspire and mobilize parents to realize their responsibility to be the primary spiritual nurturers of their kids.” Equip “parents to be what God called them to be.” “Resource parents with books, DVDs, curriculum, mentors and prayer intercessors.” “Partner with parents as they raise their children as spiritual champions.”

With marriages disintegrating and families falling apart in a worldly and even hostile culture, could there be anything more important than helping Christians learn how to bring the love and truth of God into their homes?

Of course, all of these models presuppose something other than a healthy house church, which would combine doctrine and life, both family and congregational, in one integrated setting, where the principles presented in this article could be implemented very well. With the current shift towards building-based, institutionalized churches, however, the comprehensive approach outlined by Li Sha is surely the best.

There’s more in the article and in the entire issue of the Journal, so I recommend that you subscribe to ChinaSource Journal, which will be delivered online only beginning the next issue. You will be given access to all previous issues, including this one. For information go to or email

G. Wright Doyle