Please note other articles in this series by Brian Nelson and Timothy Paul Jones:

The Problem with Family Ministry
Where Family Ministry Has Been: A Brief History
Family Ministry Today: An Introduction to Three Contemporary Models
The Family-Integrated Model for Church Ministry: A Complete Break from Age-Segmented Structures


The Family Based Model
The family-based model seeks to merge a comprehensive-coordinative vision for parents with the segmented-programmatic perspective that remains prevalent in many contemporary churches. Mark DeVries pioneered this approach in his book Family-Based Youth Ministry after recognizing that “the real power for faith formation was not in the youth program but in the families and the extended family of the church. . . . Our isolated youth programs cannot compete with the formative power of the family” (1). DeVries indentified two key priorities in creating and maintaining a family-based model. First, churches must empower the parents to participate in the discipleship of their children. The second priority is to equip the extended family of the church so that the generations build relationships with one another. In this model, age-segmented ministries continue with minimal change, but the congregation constantly creates opportunities to involve parents and other adults. The model that Reggie Joiner has dubbed “supplemental family ministry” would probably describe the more programmatic side of family-based ministry (2).

Proponents of the model are quick to assert that the segmented-programmatic paradigm is neither faulty nor broken. The segmented perspective simply needs to be rebalanced so that parents are empowered and intergenerational relationships are emphasized. “There are,” Brandon Shields asserts,

no pressing reasons for radical reorganization or restructuring of present ministry models. There is certainly no need for complete integration of age groups. What churches need to do is simply refocus existing age-appropriate groupings to partner intentionally with families in the discipleship process (3).

Family-based congregations add new activities and expand existing opportunities so that the generations grow in their appreciation for one another. In the process, the church’s leadership calls parents to engage actively in Christian formation within their household.

Next: The Family-Equipping Model for Family Ministry: Transforming Age-Organized Ministries to Co-Champion the Family and the Community of Faith

(1) Mark DeVries. Family-Based Youth Ministry 2nd edition(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 61, 67. A new chapter in the second edition of God, Marriage, and Family incorrectly states that “family-based ministry” is not widely-known or widely-pursued, overlooking the fact that family-based ministry first made an appearance in the early 1990s, in the first edition of Mark DeVries’ Family-Based Youth Ministry, and has remained widespread both as a practice and as a terminology ever since. See Andreas Köstenberger with David Jones, God, Marriage, and Family 2nd edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010) 372-373 (footnote 20).

(2) Reggie Joiner, Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2009), Concentrate 6.2.

(3) Brandon Shields, “Family-Based Ministry: Separated Contexts, Shared Focus,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville: B&H, 2009), 98-99.

[Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from the book Trained in the Fear of God, edited by Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones.  Used by permission.]