Book Title: Family Ministry Field Guide: How your church can equip parents to make disciples
Author: Timothy Paul Jones
Publishing Info: Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, Indiana, 2011
Reviewed by: Eric West, Pastor to Families at Gateway Baptist Church on Vancouver Island
Quick Blurb of Overall Thoughts: Timothy Paul Jones’s book Family Ministry Field Guide is a text that stays true to its’ aim to help churches equip parents to disciple their children. Jones makes it clear that this is not a “how-to” book but desires to lay a set of foundations that any church can apply to their context. The details and expressions of the presented foundations can therefore be as diverse as the church in North America is today. For any church wanting to equip the families in their congregation to make disciples of their children this book is a “must-read.”
The author: is a best-selling and award-winning author of books, magazine articles, and reference materials. He is senior editor of The Journal of Family Ministry and professor of leadership and church ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Overview of Content: Jones organizes his text in five basic foundations to establish in the local church.
Foundation 1: Map the Gap
- What Families In Your Church Are Doing—And Not Doing—When You’re Not Looking
“When it comes to the process of discipling their progeny, most Christian parents—especially fathers—have abandoned the field. If you as a parent are personally engaged in a process to transform the contours of your child’s soul, you are a minority.” pg. 25
- What Family Ministry Is And Why It’s Worth It
“Here’s what I mean by family ministry: The process of intentionally and persistently coordinating a ministry’s proclamation and practices so that parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.” pg. 33
Foundation 2: Rethink Your Goal
- Why Not To Do Family Ministry
Jones takes on the validity of the infamous “drop out rate” for youth transitioning out of High School to College. He writes, “Retention rates aren’t the launching pad or the end point of God’s plan; Jesus is (Rev. 22:13).” pg. 52
- How To Find The Right Motivation
“Yes, growth is part of God’s good design for his cosmos and for his church. And yes, the proclamation of God’s Word does result in growth and the fulfillment of God’s purposes…Godly growth is sometimes slow, often hidden, and frequently frustrates our dreams and designs. But it is always centered on Jesus and the gospel.” pg. 57
Foundation 3: Frame Your Ministry in God’s Story Line
- Discover Who Your Children Really Are
“When the whole story of God frames every part of a family’s existence, parents don’t just see their children as son and daughters. They also see their children as potential or actual brothers and sisters in Christ. When parents see their children not only as their children but also as their brothers and sisters, it changes everything.” pg. 71
- The Split In God’s Story Line
“The unspoken message has been that the task of discipleship is best left to trained professionals. Churches have presented moms and dads with the impression that active participation in the discipleship of children is optional for parents.” pg. 83
Foundation 4: Give Parents the Guidance They Need
- Give Parents The Guidance They Need
“So what are these two top factors in parents’ failure to disciple their children? The primary point of resistance was that churches weren’t training the parents. The secondary reason was that parents weren’t making the time. It was a matter of training and a matter of time.” pg. 100
- A Matter Of Training And A Matter of Time
“…the issue seems to be not so much that parents have resigned their role as primary disciple-makers. It isn’t even that parents don’t desire to disciple their children. In most cases, the problem is that churches are neither expecting nor equipping parents to disciple their children.” pg. 108
- Providing What Parents Really Need
“What parents really need: telling, training, and time.” pg. 111
Foundation 5: Transition to Family-Equipping
- Killing The One-Eared Mickey Mouse
“Conceived the late nineteenth century and professionalized at the height of the baby boom, the one-eared Mickey Mouse turned out to be an attractive option for churches in the twentieth century. By segmenting the generations, churches didn’t have to directly deal with the emerging generation gap. Youth had their own activities for themselves and their peers, separate from other generations.” pg. 125
- Family Equipping Transition 1: Be
- Family Equipping Transition 2a: Equip Families for Faith Talks
- Family Equipping Transition 2a: Equip Families for Faith Walks and Faith Processes
- Family Equipping Transition 3: Acknowledge
- Family Equipping Transition 4: Synchronize
Audience: For leaders in the trenches who see parents disengaging from their children’s spiritual development, see too many students leave for college and drop out of church, or are frustrated with programmed ministries that fail to produce results.
Strengths: This author is experienced in articulating his findings and proving his theories in the trenches of ministry. His biblical usage is academically solid while his conclusions are practically accessible and hands on. Jones presents the material in a format that makes it easy to learn and to re-teach to volunteers, parents and to the whole church.
Overall Assessment/recommendation: I highly recommend reading this book if you are a church desiring to do family ministry. I would recommend reading this book as a team of ministry leaders. It was written to be done in this context and will require dialogue to fully flesh out in the local church context.
Share your thoughts on Jones’ book or this review by commenting on the blog or emailing Cailey at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more resources and inspiration about children and families ministry, contact Sherry Bennett, CBWC’s Director of Children and Families, at email@example.com.