[notice]Musings around children’s ministry.[/notice]
Over the Easter period I met some ladies for prayer. We talked about many things including the fact that our earthly experiences of family have a great effect on our relationship with our Heavenly Father and other Christians. This makes sense because Jesus used the example of our earthly parents to explain the Kingdom of God to those he was addressing. Jesus said if our earthly parents are willing to give us good gifts and provide for us, what more our Father in Heaven who is a good God (Matthew 7:7-11).
The organisation I work for (Reaching a Generation) has a mandate and strategy to do children’s ministry by influencing the influencers in the lives of children. This idea of ‘influencing the influencer’ has us working across several platforms including education, church, arts and media, governance, peers(directly to children and youth) and family. To a certain extent RaG participates in initiatives and facilitates programmes that minister in these areas with children being our end concern. All of these people have a say in what happens to the future of our children and we strive to shine the light of Jesus in these different areas.
Recently, RaG participated in conducting a survey with One Hope which investigated the Spiritual State of the World’s children. The survey which can be found at http://onehope.net/sswc/country-research/ , was done across five continents and written up country by country. In general the research suggests that families show the most profoundly significant impact on children. In South Africa they found that children and youth do not have a clear understanding of healthy marriage and family. This isn’t surprising when 45% of South Africa’s children live with both their natural father and mother, and 49% of children here spend 60 minutes a week (as a maximum amount of time)talking with their mothers about things that really matter. Only 49% spend time talking with their Fathers about things that really matter.
There is a real need to support families. There is a massive attack against families which is devastating our children now and having negative effects on their futures. We need to protect our children.
How? Well prayer is the obvious thing in this case, but I am convinced that we need to do practical things to foster good family habits in general. In Deuteronomy 11:19-21 the Lord instructed the Israelites to teach His words to their children, “talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, when you lie down and when you rise…that the your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.
It is clear here that parents have a responsibility to teach their children good family practices in order to ensure that they live the lives the Lord intends for them. The trouble is, with our current society as it is, many of our children (even parents) have never experienced what God intended family to be like. There are so many theories as to why, in America, some blame the Hippy movement and the Cold War (especially Vietnam) for raising up a generation of children with absent fathers. Here in Africa, the ravages of a colonial history and AIDS epidemic often get the blame for destabilising families. But the Bible says we don’t war against flesh and blood, if we take our eyes off the real cause of the attack against families, we are in danger of falling into the trap of using these explanations as excuses to stay as we are.
The research may show that there is a prevalent misunderstanding about the family, and what it means to be a family, but as Christians we have the Word of God which shows us God’s plan for families.
Tools for parents
The Lord is raising up men and women in this time who are fighting for the restoration of families and developing tools for parents that equip them to lead their families effectively in a godly manner. Focus on the Family are definitely on the frontlines in this area, they have so many resources that equip families to function the way God intended. Werner Cloete, a teacher from the Western Cape, initiated a programme calles Engage to turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers (Malachi 4:6).
Reaching a Generation and One Hope, in response to the Spiritual State of the World research have developed a book called Our Family which is a totally free resource to strengthen family bonds. The Our Family programme seeks to enable families to develop stronger bonds by getting families to spend more time together in order to discuss important issues, have fun together and build confidence as a team. The Our Family programme will provide families with the opportunity to achieve small successes in things like spending time with each other and understanding the importance of being led by God’s Word.
I want to encourage all of us to seek out resources that will cultivate family function and purpose for the family now and in the generations to come. It is so vital to raising godly men and women in the future. It is in the context of family that we pass on the ‘baton’ of the precious things contained in God’s word. We must guard the family unit fiercely.
This means walking in forgiveness, and bearing with one another, making no excuses to avoid striving for unity (even when we are justified in our gripes). We must fight this war against families, and with dogged determination contend for restoration in our earthly families (also in our churches, as Christ’s family).
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14).