Today in my Anthropology for Missions class, the professor made a point to state boldly that a missionary's first and primary ministry is to his own wife and children. This is true for pastors, and it is true for all believers.
A father and mother ought to take their child's spiritual formation into their own hands. They, not the church community, bear the primary responsibility for raising up whole and holy children who love God and serve humanity as Jesus Christ.
So what is the role of the church community in helping parents raise up these kind of children? And what is the role of the church community when children are part of a church without their parents? Or just one of their parents? Or what if they only are with one parent at at a time? And so what does children's ministry look like in a local church? It depends on where that church is located. And it depends who are the people being that church and doing ministry.
I know for me, my two biggest success in ministry will be 1) Is my wife more beautiful, wise, loving, holy, just/merciful, serving due to my husbanding her over the years; 2) Are my children more beautiful/handsome, wise, loving, holy, just/merciful, serving due to my parenting (with their mother/my wife) of them? Following my ministry to my wife and children is my ministry to fellow believers. My effectiveness in ministering with other believers hinges on my ministry at home. And my ministry with other believers primarily consists of helping them minister to other believers.
The question ends up being - how does my ministry with other believers over time result in them becoming more beautiful, wise, loving, holy, just/merciful, serving? The church community is only as vibrant as the homes that make up that church. The children/youth ministry is only as vibrant as the homes they come from and the homes of the leaders that work with them. So where do I spend my time? Who helps me become more beautiful before God? Wise, loving, holy, just/merciful, serving? Out of what do I help that happen with my wife, children and fellow believers? It starts at home...what kind of home am I constructing...what is life like around my kitchen table...who am I inviting to sit around my kitchen table? Who's welcome?
The goal of my family and my church is not just to be healthy, vibrant, good - the goal is much larger then that. Health, vibrancy, goodness are means to another end - God's work on earth to bring about reconciliation in a fractured world, redemption for those enslaved to vices, renewal for those burnt out and dried up, restoration for those defiled and wounded. Jesus himself was good news - his words, his work, his way was the Gospel. You can leave the darkness behind, you can be full of light and life. God's work will result in a New Heaven and a New Earth - my work, my family's work, my church's work is in line with Jesus' - to BE good news, and thus live out the Kingdom of God. Our ways, our words, our work will be the means through which God helps our friends, family and enemies trust Him and join his redemptive, restorative, renewing work.
If this is to be...in my life...I must make sure that God's redemption, restoring, renewing, reconciling is at work in me...and then in my wife and my family...and then my church.
Hmmmm....I said more then I intended...