What is family ministry? Dr. David Marine Mabry explores this topic in the article below.
Sarah loves her family. They are not perfect, but to Sarah, they are a gift from God. So, when her life was transformed when she began following Jesus as a teenager, she had a strong calling to make a difference in the world through a life dedicated to ministry. She began volunteering at her church in children’s ministry; then she interned in youth ministry during her college years; finally, she started her first full-time ministry position after graduation as a youth and family pastor. Ever since Sarah volunteered with children, she has been doing family ministry.
Family ministry is any work that is with families or their members for the sake of the kingdom of God. This vital ministry can happen inside and outside of the official ministry of a local church. Family ministry can broadly connect with the whole family or minister to individual members with the entire family’s context in mind.
What are the specific areas under the Family Ministry “umbrella”?
One can say that there are many expressions of family ministry. Some of the most popular opportunities to do ministry in this field include marriage and parenting work. Couples are at many different life phases and face many challenges. The four couple types include premarital, crisis, enrichment, and remarriage. Equipping and encouraging parents could be an excellent partnering ministry when working with marriages or a stand-alone ministry effort.
Many times age-specific work can occur through family ministry. Youth ministry, children’s ministry, college ministry, and singles ministry are great ways to impact families. Each of these generational ministries should be done with relational connectivity in mind. This is especially true for children and youth ministries. Thankfully, the trends have moved away from siloed ministries that neglect the essential relationships that young people have with their families. Young adults and singles are not that different. While they are learning, or living, independence from family, they are best served through healthy interdependent relationships. Ministries can play a significant role in the essential practice of relational balance.
Another critical “umbrella” family ministry is with men-specific or women-specific endeavors. Most men and women are part of family units, and the Bible studies, training, retreats, and other programs that disciple these adults can be a significant family ministry.
What opportunities are outside of the local church to do family ministry?
There are parachurch ministries doing family ministry. Many of which are focused on marriage and parenting work. Relationship educators and family mentors/coaches come alongside couples and parents to help them thrive in their most important relationships. Like youth and children’s ministry within the church’s four walls, organizations like Young Life, Youth for Christ, and Youth with a Mission cater to a younger generation. A person could also do family work in a non-ministry setting. These “ministers” serve families in a secular environment while living out their faith. There are countless government and private social organizations that focus on improving families and the individuals within them.
How does someone prepare for and go into a ministry career in family ministries?
Like Sarah, you may be involved with or feel called into one of the many family ministry opportunities available. Your passion and experience may align perfectly with a vocational call to caring for families for the sake of the Gospel.
The first step is to get involved with a family ministry, even if it is simply volunteering for this vital ministry. Experience of any kind will help you build relationships, learn ministry first-hand, and gain advocates for your future ministry opportunities.
Secondly, if you have not done so already, find a good quality opportunity to be trained in a specialized area. Pursue a degree. Barclay College offers many great options for an undergrad degree, either online or on campus. The Barclay College School of Graduate Studies offers a Master of Arts in Family Ministries. This two-year online program is an excellent opportunity to deepen your understanding, experience, and knowledge in family ministry while working in your setting. The faculty represent a diversity of experience and education in ministry with families. They have years of experience with all of the specialized areas of family ministry mentioned above.
Why should we do Family Ministry?
Relationships are not always easy. None of us naturally get a marriage, parenting, or “getting along with your siblings” manual to succeed. Many marriages and families are splitting up or simply reeling in dysfunction. When families struggle or fail, our churches, communities, and culture at large suffers. The Church has an exceptional opportunity to care for people through family ministries. The Church also has a “manual” for healthy relationships in the Bible. People like Sarah are called to love people through family ministries that they may know the One who speaks life, hope, and healing to all of their relationships. Family Ministries is an opportunity to be faithful in the call to help people experience transformation in Christ Jesus.
David Marine Mabry serves as the Director of the M.A. in Family Ministries and as the Associate Dean for the School of Graduate Studies. Before coming to Barclay College, he had been involved with pastoral and para-church ministry since 1990, serving as a youth pastor, sports and recreation pastor, senior pastor, an Area Director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and as a marriage and family educator and advocate. He has an earned doctorate with a published dissertation entitled “Impacting Marital Health in the Local Church Context through the Prepare-Enrich Group Program.” Presently, he and his wife, Theresa, lead One Another Marriage. OAM is a marriage coaching and training ministry that is focused on marital health and equipping the church.