I’ve had several conversations recently with pastors and deacons who are struggling to minister effectively to today’s changing family models. The biblical model for marriage and family hasn’t changed, but the family in our world has.

We can chastise and ignore new emerging families and thereby build barriers between them and the church, thus probably never reaching them. Or we can learn to meet them where they are and be willing to create structures, curricula and experiences that might help them take the next step in their spiritual journey as a family seeking identity, purpose and meaning in a chaotic and challenging world.

Emerging and Challenging Family Structures
  • Single Parent Families. Single dads are rapidly increasing in our culture.
  • Dual Career Families. An increasing number of people working from home are blurring lines between family and work life.
  • Starter Marriages. These short “trial marriages” before actually settling into real marriages are increasing among GenXers.
  • Divorce. It continues to be rampant, even in the Christian community, creating many heartaches and challenges for children, grandparents, parents, siblings and the divorced couple and their friends.
  • Grandparents. They are increasingly become parent figures again to their children’s children.
  • Cohabitating. There’s a host of people who, for various reasons, live with others and consider themselves family.

Are you prepared to minister to these various family systems? Here are some tips.

Tips for Deacons Ministering to Today’s Families

  • Keep and Maintain a Resource Notebook. This notebook can be online or in a three-ring binder. Build a section for each category of family and collect resources, articles, ministry tips, etc.
  • Build a database for networking various types of families. Divorced people, single-parent families, people living together out of wedlock and unwed parents are some examples.
  • Create forums for these families to network, fellowship and build community together. Weekend seminars, retreats, ice cream suppers, swimming parties and golf tournaments would be just a few such opportunities.
  • Build relationships with local community resources to help these families.Social service networks, court systems, mental health professionals and other organizations can help.
  • Recognize significant dates/anniversaries.Other than birthdays and traditional wedding anniversaries, what special days are there? What about divorce anniversaries? Adopting of stepchildren? Creation of blended families? Births? Deaths? New careers?
  • Know that life passages/stages of a family have spiritual implications.Creating spiritual formation experiences around life passages is a significant part of discipleship in an unchurched culture. My new book, Reframing Spiritual Formation, addresses this in detail (see below).

Eddie Hammett is leadership/discipleship consultant for Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and adjunct professor at Gardner Webb Divinity School.

Buy Hammett’s books now from Amazon.com!

Reframing Spiritual Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture

Making the Church Work: Converting the Church for the 21st Century

The Gathered and Scattered Church

Other resources to improve ministry to today’s family:

Acacia Resources curriculum for family ministry (from the Baptist Center for Ethics)

Leadership Journal from Christianity Today

The Alban Institute

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