Thursday, April 22, 2010

Family + Church = Collaborate / The Book Review

The latest book to hit the virtual shelves of Amazon and other websites in the genre of Family Ministry is called Collaborate!  This book is a compilation of 35 different authors that focus on different aspects of the  intentional partnership between the church and the home.  I was given the opportunity to receive an advance copy (for the purposes of reviewing it on this Web-Log) from Ministers Label and Michael Chanley - the collaborator of Collaborate!

This type of book is, from what I know, a one-of-a-kind approach within the field of Family Ministry.  It was enjoyable to hear the different stories of how certain ministries and programs came into existence.  For instance, Carey Nieuwhof's chapter on his journey into understanding the centrality of the family for evangelism and discipleship was excellent!  Maybe it's just because I feel a slight connection with Carey (he lives in Canada and I live near Canada - goofy I know) - even though I'll likely never meet him - I enjoyed hearing his story.

Another chapter filled with Story is Fred Stoeker's chapter called "Doing Book."  Fred, one the authors of the "Every Man's Battle" series, put his heart into explaining how he was able to have difficult, yet meaningful conversations with his pre-teens and teens.  You should check it out!

Basically, I liked just about every chapter that put the family BEFORE the programs and ministries of the church:

  • "The Missing Piece - Developing a Biblical Worldview in your Children" by Jim Wideman
  • "Paramount Parenting" by Matt Markins
  • "The Small Conquering the Big" by Steven Dilla (again one with a dramatic personal story)
  • "Living the Shema as a Dad" by Timothy Smith
My favorite chapter, by far, was Dr. Rob Rienow's entitled "Building a Theology of Family Ministry."  Rob does simply an amazing job at laying a whole-Biblical approach to the importance of Family Ministry - far beyond the standard Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78 passages.  His linking of the First Commandment (Genesis 1:28) and the overarching Meta-Narrative of the Covenant of God, the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34-36), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is exactly what every church needs to read / hear to see just how central the family is to the Covenant Plan of God.  I love this quote:
"If we are passionate about seeing the advance of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ, let us begin by turning our hearts toward home.  Let us ask God to help us begin our ministry in this world by 'making disciples' of our family members, even if they are scattered around the country - our parents siblings, spouses and children.  Let us passionately and biblically defend God's plan, structure and purposed for the institution of the family, as well as the institution of the church."
If we accept on any level what Dr. Reinow lays out, then that calls for a serious evaluation of how we do ministry! Is the Church missing the mark?  Has the modern church moved too far away from the plan of using the family to be the first and central place of discipleship and evangelism?  If that's the case, then it is a move that is AT BEST, ineffective or AT WORST, un-Biblical!  To that end, there were some frustrations with some of the chapters within Collaborate.

One such chapter for me was Justyn Smith's chapter on "PJ's All Stars Leadership Team."  This chapter about PJ's (Pastor Justyn's) seems like a great way to develop kid leaders - even including components for the kids to do at home.  But underneath this program is the idea that what happens at church is more important than what happens at home.  It puts the onus of raising discipleship squarely on the church - PJ specifically - and not onto the parents.  There are others that do a little of this as well: 
  • "Selling Out - Sold Out" by Rob Bradbury
  • "Family Nourishment" by Joyce Oglesby
  • "Parent Liaisons" by Anna J. Light
  • Even the logo on the front of the book puts the "church" about twice as big as the "home"
The problem is not that our churches DO NOT or CANNOT do discipleship with kids effectively, nor do I believe that we should stop all Children's Ministry programming ('cause then I would be out of a job!☺). But, are our ways of doing ministry with kids, youth and adults minimizing or even violating scripture by taking the responsibility away from parents.  Common objections would be:  "Well, parents aren't doing it effectively" or "This is how we choose to partner with the home."  Well, if that's the issue, what about if the families in our churches are not tithing or giving financially?  Do we begin to give FOR them?  Or do you teach and instruct them on the importance and commandment to give financially back to God?

I realize this may make me unpopular with many Children and Youth workers, so feel free to disagree.  In fact, I encourage it as I believe we are all still works in progress - ME INCLUDED!!!  I too am trying to work this stuff through and bring honor to God in my family and service in ministry.  Thanks Mr. Chanley for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this though-provoking book!

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