Living Family Life

When I was a kid—way back in the 1900’s—there were a ton of sitcoms that capitalized on “unconventional” families. Who's the Boss?, Full House, My Two Dads, Punky Brewster, Different Strokes, One Day at a Time: the lineup was full of storylines that didn't revolve around the typical nuclear setup with a mom, dad, and 2.5 kids. It's been a long time since the rest of the world actively acknowledged that families come in all shapes and sizes and the importance of telling those stories. But it's a rarity to see places in our Church landscape where the concept of “Family Life” has grown beyond the narrow “traditional” model.

A pastoral colleague told me about his experience preaching for Family Life Day at a sister congregation. During his sermon, he alluded to the benefits of having a Divorce Ministry in the church. There were more than a few who didn't receive his suggestion well! “Are you advocating divorce?” “We should be upholding the ideal of God’s standards!” I've heard similar arguments over the years railing against showing love and support to single mothers. “If the church gives her a shower, we’re encouraging others to do the same!” Extending kindness to sisters and brothers when they need us is what we're supposed to do. Being a source of strength for divorcees or helping hand to a single parent won't dilute the “holiness” of God—quite the opposite: it's displaying the character of God!

I’ve previously written about the exclusion of singles in church fellowship as well as the ever present pressure to push them towards marriage. Why not have singles’ ministries focused on things other than “how to get a mate”? Singles aren't all never married 20 and 30 year olds looking for a spouse. Singles consist of widows and widowers, those who've never married, those who never want to be married and people of all age ranges. Let's not view them as “fractions” of families.

Although it left MUCH to be desired and quite a few areas that were rightfully criticized, the organizational statement on homosexuality did get a few things right. One of which was explicitly stating that everyone is welcome to fellowship regardless of sexual orientation. But do we really understand what fellowship means? Have we cultivated churches where LGBT brothers and sisters will feel they are even able to be a part of our church “Family Life”? We need to be intentional about integrating these families too.

We spend thousands of dollars in research trying to “discover” why people leave our churches; meanwhile folks tell us all the time. Though there are a variety of reasons, one very common refrain is the feeling of separation built between local congregations and those who don't fit into the quintessential model family. “Since my divorce, I’ve felt like an outcast.” “After becoming pregnant out of wedlock, I was disfellowshipped and shunned.” “Being one of the only singles in church, I felt out of place among all the families.” Hearing these stories isn't a new revelation.This isn't earth shattering news. So if we say we want to retain members and win back those who've left, what have we done to address these real felt needs? How are we making our churches into inclusive spaces? Think about your own church. Do those in families with nontraditional configurations feel embraced? Would you? If not, what needs to change? What can you do to change it?

The attrition in weekly attendance will continue to grow unless we work to embrace people in whatever life circumstance they may find themselves. With the advent of web streamed services, those who want to participate in weekly congregational worship don't have to endure the feeling of ostracism that they sense when they physically attend. When people feel judged for not being part of the church’s “ideal”, they will stay away.

There are so many other iterations of families too: foster parents, extended families, co-parenting families, childless couples, blended families, etc. Are they ever considered when we develop our Church ministries? If not, we need to begin retooling our paradigm and catch up to at least the 20th century.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8039

This data is relevant yet it helps to shed the institutional Adventitis mindset and find out why people COME. The typical answer is usually—“to worship God”. That response is shallow & superficial, if not a downright evasion of the truth. People come to become better persons and that response even has different reasons for it.
People have needs of affection, acceptance, appreciation & achievement.

If church attendance does not serve those needs, people will spend time elsewhere attempting to meet them.

A main challenge is that there are about 7000 waking minutes each week for individuals of which a small minority is spent with church or spiritual nurture (200 minutes??)
The worldly/secular competing interests nullifies and/or corrupts the influence of those 200 minutes and if that time is filled with irrelevant, ritual, shallow soteriology, minimal contemporary coping skills and non fat dry milk typical, topical , low exposure bible sermons…what can one expect but churchgoers being victims of the surrounding depraved, cynical, exclusive, anti-social culture?

Competent upper & middle management business personnel know that the attitude/morale of the employees is heavily influenced by their behavior & actions/programs.

The SDA denomination has promoted & perpetuated some very limited & shallow approaches (wineskins).
Since fear & paranoia is so prevalent in most churches, change is not likely until a crisis drives it.

At higher conference levels, only lack of tithe $$$$$$ = a crisis.

2 Likes

Adventist evangelism is based on fear not love and thankfulness. It has no staying power.

6 Likes

I think this is a great topic. We have a few single people in our church that fall into this category. I’m one of them. You don’t fit in because you’re not married and not able to hang out with people because you’re the third wheel. Our church needs Divorce Ministry, Couples Ministry and Singles Ministry to help those groups.

6 Likes

Reliable church growth data informs us that more than 80% of Christians make a commitment to Christ before they reach the age of 18. With that in mind, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that our churches should be invested in reaching and keeping young people. Yet, on average, only a small and dwindling percentage of annual Adventist church budgets is allocated to youth and children’s work.

2 Likes

Yes, at any one date and time approximately half of any NAD SDA congregation is comprised of “unmarrieds” and yet very little is done to address this significant population.