Perhaps you have stood in your minister’s office and stared at a wall of books: commentaries; practical guides to ministry; 10 different translations of the Bible and Greek and Hebrew guides. Perhaps another book is the last thing you would think to offer them? Well, I dare you! I dare you to ask your minister to read Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. But just remember, never dare something you wouldn’t do yourself!
Why would I ask you to do such a thing? Because if you are reading Growing Faith, you will know that ministry to families matters, and my hunch is that you too want to encourage your church to grow in this pursuit. This same longing is at the heart of Timothy Paul Jones' book, Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Let me tell you more about the book.
Part 1: Re-thinking how we minister to children
The book falls into two parts. Timothy Paul Jones writes Part 1. Jones is the Professor of Leadership and Church Ministry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has worked as a Children’s Minister, Pastor and Senior Pastor. In Chapters 1 and 2, he shares his hands-on experience of ministry, mistakes and successes and the theological thinking he did in response to this. He also provides a short history of the development of the family in the 20th century. In just two short chapters, a window is opened to look hard at ministry to families.
In Chapters 3 and 4, Jones argues that, in essence, family ministry is about ministry which honours the Bible’s guide that the primary context for the discipleship of the next generation is the home. That is, Mum and Dad (or a child’s primary care-giver) are best suited to the task of rearing their children for Jesus. He is pushing us to ask ourselves two key questions:
- Why do so many contemporary Christians expect specialised student ministries to accomplish what Scripture has clearly commanded parents to do?
- What can churches do to equip these parents to pursue the task that God has ordained for them? (p.25)
Jones seeks to call people to think theologically about the impact present models of ministry have on families. For example, how would a church-based children’s program look different if one of the key values in designing it was equipping parents?
Part 2: Developing a model for your church
The second part of the book is edited by Jones and comprises contributions from three family ministers who share the same set of values, but express them very differently. They start from the same set of values: parental responsibility; biblical authority and; the need for the different generations to minister to one another. In this section you read one contributor's view and then the responses of those whose practice is different. Basically, in this section, we are shown how churches with the same values express them in very different manners.
Who should read this book?
You and your minister! The danger in reading this book, as a church member, is that we read looking for ammunition to get our church to do things our way. The danger for a church worker is that they read it to affirm their own practice without considering what it means for families. By reading and talking together, there is a great opportunity to both grow ministry to families and ensure it is grounded in the word of God.
Jones is clearly saying one thing: we do a disservice to families and the hard work of ministry if we do not take the time to think theologically. I would add that we do a disservice to his book if we read it but do not engage with one another.
I dare you!