Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Helping Hurting Families

Family Matters

A Cause for Concern

Our culture as a whole is no longer “pro-family.” Our culture loves self and money too much to give family the high standing that it once held. Our culture has chosen to distance itself from God and from Scripture. Our culture no longer thinks that marriage is the only way to create a new family. Even thinking that marriage is the best way to create a family is considered narrow, old-fashioned, and prejudicial.

Our culture is sick. The last days are here. The perilous times have come. Men are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, disobedient to parents, unloving, unforgiving, without self-control, headstrong, haughty, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. You recognize that limited paraphrase of 2 Timothy 3. That’s our world.

That’s the bad news. Our culture is sick. Here’s the good news. An ever-increasing number of people have hurt until they’re tired of hurting. Good people are sick of seeing families fall apart. God’s people are beginning to wake up to our tremendous opportunity. So many people want better families that they’re willing to let us help them. God has used the anti-family bias of our culture to open a great door of evangelism and healing.


  1. We can give our neighbors something to shoot for. We can model the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 5. We can model the parental responsibility taught in the Proverbs and Ephesians 6. We can show them what healthy, happy homes look like.

    We must do this first. Otherwise, they won’t care about our words. Hollow words fall to the ground with no effect.

  2. We can restore the concept of the church as the household, as the family of God. We live in the most mobile society ever. Folks marry and move across the country. Extended flesh-and-blood family is left behind. But, children need grandparents and parents need the support and counsel of those who’ve been there before. Titus 2 gives older ladies permission to teach younger ladies to love their husbands and their children. 1 Timothy 4:12 calls on Timothy to be an example to the believers in every aspect of life. The Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 and the command to love in Ephesians 5:1-2 gives every Christian permission to act like family. My kids have more adopted grandmothers than they can count.

  3. Elders can get more involved in the daily lives of church members. The biblical model describes elders as shepherds. You remember that from 1 Peter 5:4. Elders shepherd under the authority of Christ the Chief Shepherd. When they do it right, they shepherd following the example of Christ the Chief Shepherd. You know John 10. Read John 10:1-3. Elders can’t shepherd people whom they don’t know. And they can’t know people whom they see only in the church building. “You can’t oversee what you never see.”

    DISCLAIMER: Of course, we need to help elders in this vital role. We need to help them know us and welcome their guidance.

  4. Preachers can preach from the heart about family. The Bible is a treasure of family values. The Bible knows family conflict. The first kid born killed his own brother. The Bible knows parental favoritism and sibling rivalry – remember Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau. The Bible knew dysfunctional families before that term was coined – remember Joseph and his brothers.

    “Preach from the heart.” Not just telling folks what’s wrong with families, but focusing on solutions. Not just telling folks what’s wrong with families, but holding up God’s dream of happy, healthy, loving homes. Not presenting a façade of perfection, but letting people know us, letting people know that we struggle, too.

  5. Churches can teach family skills in a way that connects to people’s hearts. Classes on Sunday and Wednesday are an example. Special teachers with special skills – put our money where our mouths are. Actually create classes where older women teach younger women. Offer premarital counseling, marriage enrichment, parenting classes, divorce recovery, single parenting classes and support groups.

    We can back off the old myth that such classes encourage divorce. That’s the devil’s own lie. Divorced people know better than anyone how much divorce hurts.

  6. We can start using our buildings on the other 5 days of the week.
    1. Mother’s Day Out. Moms who make the sacrifice and stay home with their kids can use a break.
    2. Christian Day Care. I’m the most anti-day care person you know. The greatest blessing in our children’s lives was their mother’s desire to be home with them during their preschool years. But, when mom must work outside the home, we need to help minimize the cost to children. It’s also a wonderful outreach to the un-churched.
    3. After School Care. Tap our senior members for homework help.
    4. Those seminars and support groups we mentioned above.

    DISCLAIMER: It’s not about the building. It’s about doing God’s work. It’s about helping families. It’s about reaching out to others in love.

  7. We can buy and share pro-family resources. Church library. Books. Videos. Create a family resource center. Better yet, do a marriage resource center and a parenting resource center.

  8. We can educate ourselves in helping skills. I often say that most of counseling is “grandma stuff.” It’s stuff that good grandmas do by nature. Such as listening, not giving “pat answers” and quick cures, asking good questions, and speaking the occasional wise word. What statement would it make if an entire eldership told the congregation, “We’re all going back to school. Next semester, we’re all taking a course in people-helping skills so that we can better lead this church.” That course wouldn’t hurt most preachers, either.

    Counseling is too important to be left to the “experts.” When it’s done biblically, counseling is just a one-word summary of Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

  9. We can identify resources for families who have deeper needs than we’re able to address. Counseling centers like our own Alpha Center. Not the answer, but part of the answer.

  10. We can pray. What if a congregation announced a special hour of family prayer every Monday morning at 8? Send your request by mail. Fax it. Call us. Email. You can use full names, first names, no names, or fake names (pseudonyms). Just give us the opportunity to pray for your family.

  11. We can love. We can embrace the hurting, even those who’ve caused their own hurt. Love heals. Love is the environment of healing.

  12. We can try. I often try without any visible positive result. I sometimes try and actually feel like I make things worse. I can live with that. I can also tell you what I can’t live with. I can’t live with not trying. Not trying is not Christian. Not trying is not caring. Nobody can go to heaven that way.

People are tired of the mess that most families are in. If we can show them a better way, many of them will take it. It won’t be clean, neat, and easy; dealing with hurting people never is. It won’t be clean, neat, and easy. But, it will be powerful, loving, and effective. “…The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). It’s time we stepped up to the challenge.

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