The Heartbeat of the ChurchFamily Ministries seeks to enable families to stretch toward divine ideals, while at the same time extending the good news of God's saving grace and the promise of growth possible through the indwelling Spirit.
The over-arching objective of the North England Conference Department of Family Ministries is to strengthen the family as a discipling centre. The family was established by divine creation as the fundamental human institution and is the primary setting in which values are learned and the capacity for close relationships with God and with other human beings is developed. Family Ministries seeks to enable families to stretch toward divine ideals, while at the same time extending the good news of God's saving grace and the promise of growth possible through the indwelling Spirit.
Focusing on people in family relationships, Family Ministries reinforces and encourages wholesome families as they pass through life's predictable stages and contend with unexpected changes in their lives. It extends hope and support to those who have been injured and hurt by abuse, family dysfunction, and broken relationships. The department provides growth opportunities through family life education and enrichment and encourages individuals, married couples, and families to avail themselves of professional counselling when necessary.
Specific tasks include preparation of resources and leadership development to equip pastors and lay leaders to offer services to the community in the areas of premarital guidance, strengthening marriage, and parent education, with attention also given to extended families, single parenting, step-families and the family needs of singles.
Recognizing the mutual strength and support which the church must be to the home, and the home to the church, if the mission of the church is to become a reality, the Department of Family Ministries has adopted the following objectives:Proclaim
To proclaim the reviving and restorative message of the everlasting gospel within the context of family living. Christ is and must be acknowledged as the Saviour and Head of every home. In Him, family members are at peace with God and at peace with each other. As they are drawn near to Him they are drawn nearer to each other, in love, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and renewal.Strengthen
To affirm and strengthen every Seventh-day Adventist family in the conference territory as a primary discipling unit. Family Ministries seeks to deepen understanding of the relational dimension of being and making disciples and to strengthen family members as disciple-makers within the family. A married couple is viewed as the primary unit of the family. The department seeks to provide couples and families with access to educational, enrichment, and counselling opportunities to enhance the development of the relational skills necessary for the effective discipling of one another and growth toward optimal Christian marriage, parent-child and extended family relationships.Enable Parents & Families
To enable parents and families to increase the likelihood of successful transference of Christian Seventh-day Adventist values to the next generation. Family Ministries develops materials and provides learning opportunities within church and family settings designed to enable parents to make biblical values winsome to their children and youth. The department encourages an atmosphere within homes and churches which promotes questions and on-going discussion regarding Christian values and tenets of faith among parents and children, young and old, leaders and members in an effort to foster the development of mature faith.Family of God
To create a "family of God” experience in every Seventh-day Adventist church. Family Ministries fosters an atmosphere which respects and celebrates diversity within congregations and within the World Church, recognizing that unity is not found in uniformity, but in Christ, the Head of the body. Through a shared commitment to a common message and mission and a reciprocal openness, honesty, and vulnerability in relationships with one another, the oneness we have found in Christ may become a reality in experience.Empower
A Theology of Family Ministries
Several major assumptions drawn from biblical study and theological reflection undergird Christian family ministries:
- God is a relational being who has made human beings for relationships (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18; Eph. 1:4-6; Rev. 4:11). God often reveals Himself to us in family terms. From Him we learn of marriage (Is. 54:5) and the parent-child relationship (Deut. 1:31; John 20:17).
- Broken relationships with God and with fellow humans were the tragic outcome of the Fall (Is. 59:2). Jesus' mission restored agape-love relationships (Matt. 22:37-40; John 13:35; 15:12). His Church is an ongoing extension of His work in restoring broken relationships. The Church will incorporate into its evangelistic mission the sound of God's healing voice in the midst of human tragedy and brokenness (John 10:10; 20:21; Gal. 6:2; James 5:15).
- The image of God is expressed in human beings as male and female. The Creator's act of bringing the two together as equals in a monogamous, heterosexual union established the pattern for marriage. This union provides for companionship, fulfilment and the perpetuation of the human family (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18, 21-25). The relationship of the sexes in marriage has been distorted by sin (Gen. 3:16), but redeemed by Christ (Matt. 20:26, 27; Eph. 5:21-31). Christ makes a difference in the marriage of Christians. A mutuality prevails that restores the Edenic ideal. Husbands and wives are "heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).
- Despite the high biblical ideals for marriage and the divine power that is available to enable marital commitment to endure, some individuals will not survive in marriage. Some will commit adultery in taking another partner (Mark 10:11, 12). Despite the heartbreak, loss, disruption and long term consequences of divorce, within the context of redemption divorce and marriage to another that may follow are not viewed as unpardonable sins beyond which there is no spiritual life and fellowship. Through repentance, confession, and the appropriate bearing of responsibility, grace can bring assurance of pardon, healing and new beginnings (1 John 1:9; 2:1).
- While marriage is God's general plan, singleness is within the divine design as well. It may be in the best interest of certain individual Christians to live singly (1 Cor. 7:7). God's special acceptance and protection are over those who by choice or circumstances face life alone (Ps. 68:5, 6; Jas. 1:27). Friendship is a source of intimacy and of experiencing family. The fellowship of the Church, the household of God, is available to all regardless of their married state (1 John 1:3).
- Sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage (1 Cor. 7:2-6). Expression outside of marriage is contrary to the divine purpose (Gen. 2:24; Prov. 5:1-18; 1 Cor. 6:15, 16). Sexuality serves a unitive function in marriage which is distinguishable from the procreative function. Joy, pleasure and delight are intended for married sexuality (Eccl. 9:9; Prov. 5:18, 19; Song of Songs 4:16-5:1). God intends that couples have on-going sexual communion apart from that utilized for procreation (1 Cor. 7:3-5). This strengthens and protects marriage from inappropriate bonding with one other than one's spouse (Prov. 5:15-20; Song of Songs 8:6, 7).
- Bearing children is an option through which couples who are able and choose to do so participate in the blessing God intended children to be (Ps. 127:3-5). While marriages generally yield offspring (Gen. 1:28), procreation is not viewed as an obligation incumbent upon every couple in order to please God. God values children (Matt. 19:14). Children help parents understand about loving and trusting God (Ps. 103:13). They encourage the development of sympathy, caring, humility, and unselfishness in families (Ps. 127:3-5; Lk. 11:13). Parents are to provide, teach, and correct their children so they may come to know God, choose biblical values and be prepared for responsible interdependence with others (Deut. 6:6-25; Prov. 22:6).
- God's covenant love with His people is the basic principle of family life. In God's covenant we experience love, forgiveness, commitment, acceptance, intimacy, and even sacrifice, that our deepest needs might be met. As we reflect the gospel in our families, our relationships with each other are fashioned after the likeness of the divine relationship with humanity. Christian family members are called to love, to serve one another, and to forgive just as He loves, serves and forgives us. Strength and grace from God are promised to accomplish that to which God calls us (Jer. 31:31-34; Matt. 20:26-28; Eph. 4:32; Heb. 8:10-12; 1 John 3:16).
- The family was instituted by the Creator as His primary setting for human development and nurturance (Gen. 2:18-25; Ps. 68:5, 6). Since family is the primary place where the capacity for love and intimacy with God and other human beings is developed and where spiritual values are transmitted across generations, it is central to the disciple making process.