Karen & Ron Flowers General Conference Directors of Family Ministries

Karen & Ron Flowers General Conference Directors of Family Ministries

The woman's eyes were misty as she paused on her way out of the seminar. "Thank you," she said. "There are just so many things that I never understood before—about myself, about my husband, about our children, about relationships, about Jesus." The words tumbled out as her thoughts raced ahead. "What a difference this is going to make. And I want my friends to know too."

"It's all so exciting," she went on. "Now not only do we feel a burden for families, but we're also beginning to feel that we can do something. More than that, the skills we're learning and taking back to our churches will make us more than just better husbands and wives, moms and dads, brothers and sisters. They will make us better witnesses for Jesus. All around us are people who need to feel understood, cared for, and loved. Christian families who know how to love are naturals for pointing the way to Jesus." She had just completed a weekend leadershipdevelopment program in family ministries for church leaders, a program occurring with increasing frequency worldwide as our church fulfills its mission to make disciples who follow Jesus where they live, perhaps most especially in their homes.

There is good reason to minister to families and households. Not only are their needs great, not only do healthy families contribute to healthy churches, but family ministry addresses a vital aspect of Christian living—our relationships. Family ministry is unique from other ministries in that its focus is on the family as a whole and on the special connections within the family group. Family ministry is a ministry to the "and" of husband and wife, father and mother, parent and child, brother and sister.

Instituted at Creation with the union of the first man and woman, "family" is as old as Eden. It also is lodged firmly in the history of God's people through the ages. In the circle of the family, people's deep and abiding needs for belonging, love, intimacy, and social contact are to be met. Here the establishment of identity and the development of personal worth take place. Here the earliest work in the socialization of individuals occurs. Here values are implanted in the young and carried from one generation to the next. By God's grace, the family can be a powerful agency in the discipling of its members for Christ.

God intends that we shall gain a revelation of His character and His ways from our relationships in our families. (See Ps.103:13; Isa. 54:5.) So special and significant is the family that domestic imagery is often used to convey theological truths. (See Isa. 49:15; Jer. 31:32; Eph. 2:19; Rev. 21:2.) In Malachi 4:5, 6, family reconciliation and restoration become a focal point during lastday events. The Bible predicts that before the great day of the Lord, a message will go forth as in the days of Elijah that will turn the faithful toward God and family members toward one another. As the message of Revelation 14:7 goes forth about God as Creator, it is fitting that the creation design for marriage and family be lifted up, even as the creation Sabbath is lifted up.

The subject of home and family was close to the heart of Ellen White. The quotations that follow are indicative of her view of the strategic importance of the Christian home:

"The restoration and uplifting of humanity begins in the home. The work of parents underlies every other. Society is composed of families, and is what the heads of families make it. Out of the heart are the 'issues of life' (Prov. 4:23); and the heart of the community, of the church, and of the nation, is the household. The well-being of society, the success of the church, the prosperity of the nation, depend upon home influences."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 349.

"Our work for Christ is to begin with the family, in the home. ... By many this home field has been shamefully neglected, and it is time that divine resources and remedies were presented, that this state of evil may be corrected."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 429, 430.

Family ministry reinforces and encourages wholeness in families. It is a ministry of grace that thinks inclusively. Singles and marrieds, intact families, divorcing and divorced families, step-families, nuclear and extended families—all have relationship needs that are within focus. All the possible ands that comprise households are worthy targets of our endeavors. Because families are the foundational unit of the church, family ministry seeks to foster closer bonds within the larger family of God. Here indeed is the and with a capital "A."

While families benefit from specialized programs especially tailored to their needs, they are also helped by caring churches that consider the impact on families of all church activities and seek to embed family strengthening features into existing programs. (For a summary of family ministries in the local church, see the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, Revised 2000, pp. 116, 117, 130, and 131.)

Meeting the challenge of the family today is an enormous task. Happily, many resources abound. The General Conference Department of Family Ministries produces an annual resource called the Family Ministries Planbook including program materials for the annual emphases on "Christian Home and Marriage Week" and "Family Togetherness Week." For 2006, the planbook is entitled Managing God's Resources at Home. Contact your local conference Family Ministries Director. GC Family Ministries has family life education resources available for downloading on its Web site: <http://adventistfamilyministries.org/world>. AdventSource <www.adventsource.org> also stocks a large line of family ministries resources for sale. But the greatest resource of all is caring church leaders who think "family," who put family first in their personal lives and in their service to the church.

A ministry to families is a ministry to the "and"—husband and wife, parent and child, mother-in-law and daughter-inlaw, brother and sister—creating practical experiences in relational growth.

Karen and Ron Flowers
Department of Family Ministries Directors of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.