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Family Ministry

Who Leads Family Ministry?

The parallel developments of community mental health services and church family ministry programs have shaped the leadership of family ministry. During the 1960s and 1970s, research and theory in family sociology and psychology were mushrooming. Family therapy was developing into a profession. Seminary degree programs that educated church clergy were increasingly providing content in their basic ministry degree programs in pastoral care and family counseling. That content drew directly from the social sciences and the professional literature of psychology, psychiatry, social work, and family therapy. Larger seminaries began offering specialized degree programs in psychology, social work, and family therapy. Pastoral care was also becoming recognized as a ministry specialization, and many came to seminary to prepare for church positions as pastoral counselors. Grounded in the social science literature of research and professional practice, these new church leaders saw the significant role that congregations could play in providing professional services to families through premarital preparation, educational programs, and family counseling. Although churches had historically been involved in these activities, now professionally educated social workers, psychologists, and pastoral counselors were offering leadership and writing resources in family ministry for congregations.

Most congregations, however, have small professional staffs and cannot afford to have someone identified as the official family minister. Family ministry often is the responsibility of a congregation's clergy leaders who are not themselves family professionals or family ministry specialists. Family ministry is also often led by a committee of lay persons designated to be advocates for families in all the programs of the congregation. In some large congregations or congregations with a special emphasis in family ministry, family professionals serve as congregational leaders, whether as full-time, part-time, or volunteer staff in congregational life. At the end of the twentieth century, many congregations had begun employing family counselors or at least providing counselors with use of the congregations' buildings as places to conduct private counseling practices. These counselors were variously trained as social workers, pastoral counselors, psychologists, and marriage and family therapists.

In order to provide a resource to congregational leaders in family ministry, a group of family professionals began publishing The Journal of Family Ministry in 1987, later renamed Family Ministry: Empowering Through Faith. A second professional publication in family ministry was launched in 1999, the Audio-Magazine in Family Ministry (AM/FM). Many denominations publish guidebooks for congregations in doing annual program planning in family ministry, and such writers as Diana Garland, Don Hebbard, Ben Freudenberg and Rick Lawrence, and Merton Strommen and Richard Hardel are providing resources for congregations across denominations and Christian traditions.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily & Marriage TraditionsFamily Ministry - Why Congregations Do Family Ministry, Congregational Family Ministry And Public Family Service Programs, Who Leads Family Ministry?