ABOUT THE FAMILY TABLE MINISTRY
Several years ago, a group of pastors set out to deepen our understanding of our calling into "Youth and Family Ministry." For many of us, that meant examining how our congregations delivered all kinds of programs, such as Sunday School, Christian elementary school, youth groups, confirmation classes, and more.
The more we talked, the more we began to suspect that something was not right. In terms of results, we were seeing more and more young people walk away from the church. All of our programs and preaching were doing little to stop that trend.
We began to realize we were not alone. So often, we see fellow pastors, parents, and grandparents come to tears over the fact that young people - our own flesh and blood children - are not remaining connected to the church, or more importantly, to Jesus. It is incredibly painful to see so many children walk away. What were we going to do about it?
The disturbing reality led us to wrestle with God’s Word in an attempt to understand what we as called workers could do to more effectively reach and retain our youth.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Our wrestling led us to key portions of scripture, particularly Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6. In those portions of scripture, God calls parents to be the primary disciplers of their children. He provides the command, the rationale, the motivation, the encouragement, and the patterns for living that parents need to bring up their children to know and love their Lord. This led us to the question:
What are church leaders doing to encourage and equip parents for this vital role?
We’re starting with an acknowledgement that our focus has been in the wrong place. Perhaps unintentionally, we in the church have made family ministry church-centered and family supported, rather than family-centered and church-supported. Our methodology for the last two to three generations has been all about trying to disciple young people through youth programming without much adherence to the biblical truth that God has called parents, especially fathers, to take the primary lead in discipling their own children. We know that keeping the parents as primary in the spiritual lives of their children is biblical, but this truth does not seem to be expressed in our overall practice.
Drawing on God's direction in the Bible, we have focused our work on equipping parents as the primary ministers to their children. Next to the calling each of us has to lead our own families, equipping parents in the congregations we serve has become our focus, our mission as a team.
"Family Table" is the place where we have collected our resources for parents. Call it a potluck of sorts. It's a place where parents can find encouragement, support, and biblically sound resources for family spiritual growth.
It's also a place where we can wrestle with the tough stuff. We can dive into what God's Word says about our callings, our struggles, our failures, our hopes, and our dreams for our families. Our progress toward being everything God called us to be.
God has called parents, and especially fathers, to be the primary spiritual leaders of their families. The church is here to help. Pastors and teachers are here to help. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.
We are the Northern Wisconsin District Commission on Discipleship for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). It is our mission to uphold and promote the biblical teaching that, as both a duty and a blessing, God calls godly parents to serve as the primary spiritual leaders of their own families. To that end, our commission is dedicated and committed to advocating for the church's ongoing support for Christian families by teaching, equipping, supporting, and encouraging Christian parents to fulfill their vital role.
"Pastors and teachers have only a moment to inform the head and touch the heart. And they do that so well! Parents have been designed by God to bear influence on a child so that they can impress these truths on the head and heart in the most impactful ways and for the better part of a lifetime.
Imagine what would happen if we worked together more, and better?"