In this session, you’ll explore having a ministry mindset in your family. This context of ministry is often the most personal and emotional. You may feel deeply connected to your family and motivated to serve them. Or you may feel alienated from your family members and question whether a ministry with them is even possible. Regardless of your situation, you can make it a priority to serve those whom you have come to call family. They may be those who raised you, those whom you have raised or are raising, or those with whom you were raised. Take time in this session to consider how you can be an ambassador and servant of Christ to your family.
Individual Aim: To reevaluate your vision of ministry in the home and identify action steps that will help you attain it.
Group Aim: To encourage and support each other in the process of developing action steps for ministry in the home.
Read Session 7: Ministry in the Home.
Complete the Life Vision: Action Steps, The Home exercise beginning on page 121.
No matter your family role––single adult, grandparent, daughter, married parent––you have the responsibility to minister to your family members. The responsibility we have to family members is of highest priority within the command to love others as Christ loved us. The New Testament writers had a lot to say about how family members should relate to one another (see Ephesians 5:22–6:4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:4,16; 1 Peter 3:1-7). These passages are full of instructions for husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, siblings, children, and other relatives. How can you fulfill your responsibilities to your family with the attitude of a servant, just as Christ did when He took on the form of a servant (see Philippians 2:5-8)?
In Mark 7, Jesus passionately rebuked a group of Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) for neglecting the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). The fifth commandment is the first one that deals with relations among human beings. Strikingly, it even comes before the commandment against murder. Jesus accused the Pharisees of developing traditions that nullified the responsibility to honor one’s parents:
And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:9-13)
The Pharisees had created an arrangement whereby they could insulate their assets from the responsibility to care for their elderly parents. It was like refusing today to help pay your needy elderly parent’s hospital bills because that would infringe on your 25 percent tithe to the church. Or saying that you can’t help out because your money is wrapped up in a retirement fund. While this example of neglect toward family members involves money, there are many examples that don’t.
Suppose you live in the same town as your grandson and he plays on a Little League team on Saturdays. What kind of ministry are you going to have in his life if you constantly tell him you can’t make it to his games because you play tennis every Saturday afternoon with a friend? You may even rationalize your choice by saying you are a witness to your tennis partner.
If you live at a great distance from family, it may be easy for you to operate with the motto “Out of sight, out of mind.” However, telephones and e-mail enable you to be involved with family members from a distance. In addition, the way you use vacation time demonstrates the level of priority you place on family relationships.
The parental role is also crucial. Though we may not often think in terms of serving our kids, parenting is a servant role. As a parent, you serve your children by training them in such a way that they will reap gigantic dividends in the future. You repeatedly rebuke them for offensive speech toward others. You ingrain in them a respect for others, especially for authority figures, such as teachers, coaches, and employers. You encourage them to pursue endeavors (such as music and sports) that will further their growth and development. You take time to enter their world and listen to what’s on their minds. You do all that as service to your child. You freely give of yourself for their benefit.
Finally, your marriage relationship is a ministry. Far too often, spouses neglect to ask how they can minister to each other. While couples may discuss their parenting, they rarely ask each other, “What can I do to make you feel appreciated?” or “What do you need and want from me as your partner?” Just as they need God to minister to them so they can serve in the church, parents need their spouses to minister to them so they can serve their children. This is one reason why single parenting is especially difficult.
Don’t be like the Pharisees, who created ways to neglect service to their families. Seek wisdom from God on how you can minister to your family.
Family relationships can be stretching. You may feel patronized around your brothers if you are the youngest sibling, even though you are forty-two and have three kids of your own. You may feel disconnected from your sister whom you have seen only twice in ten years. You may be going through a time of tension with your spouse. Or you may struggle with your father’s constant disapproval of your majoring in literature instead of premed.
You can always grow in ministry to your family, even though you may find this context of ministry to be the hardest of all. Your style of relating to some family members has been ingrained in you from early childhood. Those habits are hard to change. But with the Spirit’s guidance, strength gained through prayer, and the support of a community of other believers, you can make great strides in this area.
Read Sessions 8–10: Life Vision Presentations.
Prepare a “Life Vision” presentation by using the guidance of sessions 8–10.