Why Congregations Do Family Ministry, Congregational Family Ministry And Public Family Service Programs, Who Leads Family Ministry?
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, the term family ministry has been used predominantly in the Roman Catholic Church internationally and in other Christian churches in the United States, including mainline and evangelical Protestant denominations and their congregations, and congregations organized independently of any denomination.
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 counseling services for families in crisis. Family ministry can also refer to all the programs and services that take place in a particular location; a congregation's Family Life Center can include a wide assortment of programs and services: exercise and fitness programs, sports activities, stress management seminars, childcare, and emergency assistance for families in crisis, for example. Finally, congregations collaborate to provide services to families through other agencies, supporting these agencies financially and with volunteers: community family and children's service agencies, residential treatment programs for children with mental illness or behavioral disorders, residential programs for older adults, counseling centers, community centers, agencies providing emergency assistance to families in need, foster care and adoption agencies, and so on.
Family ministry refers not only to family-targeted programs, however, but also to the ways congregations support and strengthen families simply by being a supportive community. Intergenerational friendships develop as people worship, share fellowship meals, serve others, do the business of the congregation, and play together. These friendships can encourage and sustain members of families in the celebrations, challenges, and crises that family living presents. Congregations often support families by providing celebrations of births and marriages, informal mentoring to new parents or spouses, friendly visiting to families in grief or crisis, meals and other tangible support in times of illness and death in the family, and the support of prayer and concern across many life circumstances.
Finally, family ministry targets not only families who are members of the congregation but also families in the larger community and world. Family ministry includes congregations volunteering to serve as mentors to families in their community seeking to escape poverty and welfare, providing after-school activity programs to keep neighborhood children safe and help them succeed in school while their parents are working, providing transportation and support to children of incarcerated parents who want to visit their parents in prison, or collecting funds and supplies to send to families in distant places who have been impoverished by war or natural disaster.
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