The other day I read something that said, “Our churches need to realize how essential strong families are to the church.” I couldn’t help but thinking, “In this country, I think it’s the other way around.”
I won’t say that James Dobson started the family-centered trend, but his Focus on the Family ministry certainly brought families to the forefront in our churches. Now churches are focused on how to cater to families. Parenting classes. Marital workshops.
Far too often, our children grow up with a church focused around them. Children’s church so they don’t get bored. Youth ministry designed to keep them entertained. Campus ministry that isn’t designed for discipling, just a desperate effort to somehow keep our kids going to church once they leave home.
Family focus has led us to value youth sports over church attendance, family meals over pot lucks, school plays over midweek gatherings. If we find time in the midst of all of our family activities, we’ll go to church. If not, well… family is the most important, right?
Our families need to understand that they need the support of a strong church to grow as they should. If we want to build our families, let’s do so through building our churches.
Want strong families? Teach people to be like Jesus. Want good parent-child relationships? Let them bond through serving other people.
A few writers these days are speaking about the idolatry of families. I think we need to recognize that danger. Our children need to know that God is the most important in our lives. We communicate that with our words, but also with a thousand small decisions we make along the way.
Yes, there are ways of “doing church” that end up hurting the family. But healthy Christian discipleship builds families. Worshiping God together bonds a family. Christian service unifies our homes.
And let me say that I think there is a lot of good in marital workshops, parenting classes, youth ministries, and children’s church. But they can’t be pop psychology with a little Bible thrown in. They need to have a Bible focus, a God emphasis, and the goal of making these families part of a strong church.
Focusing on the church won’t always produce a perfect family. But focusing on the family above the church will almost always yield a dysfunctional faith. Which will eventually produce dysfunction in the family.
The next time I’m invited to speak about families or marriage or parenting, I’m going to go tell people that they need to be more like Jesus. That’s the focus I think families need.