Engaging the Whole Family Part 4: A Way Forward

BY Barefoot Ministries

May 15, 2012


In this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) we have used the works of David Elkind, Diana Garland, and Marjorie Thompson to guide our reflections on discerning the family. We continue this reflection by turning to the challenges facing the family and their proposals for a way forward for the church to minister to families.

The Challenges
Elkind, a child psychologist, is concerned with the health of children in North America. He describes three major shifts in the roles of parents, children, adolescents that correspond to the modern to postmodern shift. Parenting in modernity was focused on intuition and technique in postmodernity. The view of the child changed from innocence in modernity to competence in postmodernity. The view of adolescents changed from immature in modernity to sophisticated in postmodernity. Elkind concludes that these shifts led to an imbalance of stress upon children and adolescents which he calls the “new morbidity” of youth (98-152).

Garland, a Christian social worker, is primarily concerned about the faith of families. She is informed by Craig Dykstra’s work in faith practices when she engages the particular stories of families. She finds that the challenges facing the faith practices of families are busy schedules, lack of training of parents, lack of knowledge of Scripture, competing values within a family, and different levels of personal faith in the family (127-198).

Thompson suggests one of the main obstacles to the faith development of families is the church. She writes, “What I am suggesting is the communal church and the domestic church need to recapture a vision of the Christian family as a sacred community. This will require an awareness of the ‘sacred’ in the ‘secular,’ of God in the flesh of human life (20-21).”

A Modest Proposal
Elkind, Garland, and Thompson all suggest a way forward for the family and I believe that youth and family pastors can find a generous and faithful way forward in their collective proposals. In bullet points here are some suggested movements forward….

  • Elkind suggests a concept called the “vital family.” The vital family values include emotional ties of committed love (a movement beyond intimate love and mutual engagement), authentic parenting (blend of parenting out of intuition and technique), interdependence (blend of autonomy and togetherness) and a balance of unilateral and mutual authority.
  • Elkind suggests a reinvention of adulthood. This reinvention includes parents appropriately exercising authority and sharing space with children and adolescents. This space sharing includes the development of safe environments for children to grow in competence and teens to grow in sophistication.
  • Garland and Thompson suggest that the local church is integral in teaching families the practice of faith. They call for the church to see their role as learning community for families of faith.
  • Garland suggests the informal teaching moments for faith in families are found in the dark moments of death and conflict.

I find hope in these suggestions. I believe that God can choose the local church in these days to lead families forward into God’s mission. The church by God’s grace can practice space sharing with youth in our corporate worship. In humility, the church has the opportunity to publicly seek Christian ways of resolving the conflict as a way to train families. We can learn together what it means to seek God in the dark moments of life. We can practice the values of the vital family through Christian faith practices. We can provide space for families to learn and serve together. We can extend the call to all families to enter into God’s saving embrace in Christ as a way forward for their family.

More Resources:

Parent Journey Series

Practicing Our Faith


Photo credit: Capt Kodak

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