Relevance of Ministry to the Families Today          

            ‘Family is the basic unit of the social fabric of society’, is the official teaching of the Church. “Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society” (CCC 2207). The family, therefore, as an institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it.  Family is the first place where children can learn about love, companionship and forgiveness. Parents can set children a good example of how to live a Christian life. 

What does the term Family ministry mean?  As per the encyclopaedia.Com, Family ministry is a term used to describe the many and diverse activities of religious congregations in support of family relationships. Although congregations of many different religious traditions worldwide have activities and programs for families, Family ministry often takes the shape of family-targeted educational programs, such as parent and marriage education programs, support groups for families dealing with various life issues (illness, disability, divorce), and counselling services for families in crisis.  Family ministry refers not only to family-targeted programs,  but also to the ways congregations support and strengthen families simply by being a supportive community.   

Why Family Ministry? In today’s context, families are facing a lot of problems as an institution. The secular and worldly ambitions only cater to the individuality of the persons. Family as a communion of persons is not given importance. Therefore, ministering to the families is very essential to save this sacred institution which is the original plan of God when He thought of creating human beings. Some of the major reasons for having ministry to the families are:

  • God’s institution of the family is under spiritual and cultural attack.
  • Justice and safety depend on strong marriages and families.
  • God created families and the Church to partner together to advance the proclamation of the Gospel.
  • Families are facing various forms of suffering.

Family - Basic unit: Family is the foundation of the church, not vice versa. If husbands, wives, children and siblings are living in a home whose members don’t embrace the faith in their daily lives, no amount of going to Church or Sunday school can help to bind the members of a disintegrated family.  Think of your family ministry as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Without these basic building blocks, the algebra and calculus of church are simply not possible. Good parishes are built on good, Christian families.

Relevance: Although the physical act of going to church is a central tenet of the faith, true faith is rooted in the Christian household. For people of faith, family ministry is crucial to maintain a true understanding of Scripture and a relationship with God. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9, NIV). 

Faith taught and practiced at Home: The true responsibility of imparting a Christian life and faith to children lies with the parents at home. The Bible is filled with examples of family ministry. Providing your family with not only the study and practice of Scripture at home, but, more importantly, showing your children firsthand examples of a Christian lifestyle by living biblically on a daily basis is the foundation of the family ministry structure. 

Church – the Launch pad of family ministry: Try not to think of your church as being separate from your family ministry. Your Church can and should be the springboard—the launch pad—for your ministry at home. It is through your church that you'll meet the people and develop the resources that will become the basis for your ministry. Not only isn't your church a separate entity apart from your family ministry, but it is your family ministry's home base.

Accountability of parents: There is no singular, agreed-upon definition of a family ministry. Each family is different, and so will be family ministry. But one overriding principle is the responsibility and accountability of parents. The blessing of children comes with extraordinary responsibility, and when it comes to imparting the faith to children, the burden must lie squarely not on the school or the church, but on the mother and father. 

Conclusion: Family ministry is crucial for the Church. The final commission left to the Church by Jesus was to “Go and make disciples.” (Mk 16:15) Discipleship goes beyond Church membership, service attendance, or biblical assent.  Being a disciple means being a follower and imitator of Christ and making disciples means leading others to do the same.  As Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  Our first mentors in life are our parents so if we are to make disciples, it starts at home.

Sr Deepa Moonjely OP