The Family: Why the Church Plays a Crucial Role in Building Strong Foundations
Throughout Scripture, our Lord puts family at the center.
In Genesis, He created the first family. With Noah, He preserved the faithful. Throughout the Old Testament, we see how He strengthened and enlarged the household of faith in preparation for the coming Messiah.
The New Testament, too, is filled to the brim with exhortations to care for the ‘least of these,’ to provide for widows and orphans, and for husbands and wives to love and honor each other.
Furthermore, Jesus welcomed little children, healed Peter’s mother-in-law and ensured at His crucifixion that His mother would be cared for by the Apostle John.
God cares for families. So should we.
Since our Lord found it pleasing to bring forth our Savior through the family, we know that caring for children and families is one of the most critical tasks we’ve been given.
And what better way to care for them than to equip parents to pass the faith on to the next generation, model what it means to live a life of faith and encourage the formation of solid marriages and parents. In short, focusing on building healthy families has eternal consequences.
But what happens if we don’t do this?
According to a March 2023 report from the Pew Research Center, “the share of U.S. adults who say they generally attend religious services once a month or more has dropped slightly, from 33% in 2019 to 30% in 2022.”
Furthermore, approximately half of individuals aged 65 and older reported attending religious services in the preceding month. In contrast, roughly 30% of adults under 30 indicated any form of engagement with religious services.
What does this reveal? How generationally unequipped many families are to pass on the faith.
“When talking about faith at home and all the holy habits of family—the focus of family discipleship is really about the adults,” said Pam Nummela, director of Christian education and family discipleship coaching facilitator for the LCMS Missouri District. “You can’t teach what you don’t believe or know to do.”
“If we do not prioritize the family, we are leaving our children to the vices of the world,” explained Deaconess Alex Shick, director of program ministries for Redeeming Life Outreach Ministries.
“If Christ-centered living, unconditional love and security are not modeled in the home, our children and families will not have a foundation to stand on. [They] will seek it in other places, and there are plenty of places in our world today willing to sell them conditional love and a false sense of security. If we do not prioritize the family, we risk raising another generation after us who does not know ‘The Lord or the work he had done for Israel.’”
Satan’s assault on society
“Post-Fall, God’s plan for the family doesn’t change,” said Roni Grad, chair of Lifeline, the life ministry committee for the LCMS English District.
“The nuclear family remains the basic building block of an orderly church and society; things do not go well when that fails. Satan knows this and has been attacking the family since the Fall. Issues now are nothing new under the sun but seemingly magnified, with no-fault divorce, domestic and child abuse, sexual relations outside of biological male-female marriage, abortion, euthanasia, gender identity, etc.”
“Today’s society is broken because of sin, but when we have a relationship with Christ and raise our children to know the Lord, we follow His command,” said Kay Meyer, the founder and president of Family Shield Ministries and host of the Family Shield radio program and podcast.
“Ephesians 6:16 says, ‘In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.’ We work to strengthen families because Satan is firing flaming missiles at us daily. Families are under attack, but our churches are here to support them.”
Today’s society is broken because of
sin, but when we have a relationship with
Christ and raise our children to know the
Lord, we follow His command.
—Kay Meyer, president, Family Shield Ministries
The church’s duty
The psalmist says, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (Ps. 139:5). This is precisely what the congregations, districts and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) of the LCMS are doing—caring for families from birth through forever—from every angle.
Through various thoughtful programs and the generosity of Lutherans around the country, families are being protected, hemmed in and nurtured by ordinary people serving as the hands and feet of Christ.
For many families, just conversing about life and parenting topics can make all the difference. One RSO, Family Shield Ministries, offers resources, a podcast and a radio ministry dedicated to just that. Their goal is to help build strong and healthy families, teaching them everything from showing appreciation and affection, communicating more effectively and spending quality time together, all with Christ at the center.
A child shuns the faith
One difficulty many families face is children leaving the faith. This happens, said Meyer, more often than most people realize, and it also means that many people in our churches are suffering in silence out of embarrassment or despair.
“Congregations don’t realize how many ‘prodigal parents’ are in their churches,” shared Meyer. “We help loved ones, mostly parents, whose children [have walked away from the faith], and we encourage them to keep a great relationship with their child, which can be difficult. Prodigal parents tend to keep it a secret. It’s important they don’t because they need the body of Christ joining them in prayer.”
Family Shield Ministries recently merged with Faith Family Reunion, a ministry focused on “prodigals,” to help care for those families to an even greater capacity.
Meanwhile, nurturing families, especially church workers’ families, have experienced some momentum at the district level.
The ‘Tell the Next Generation’ program helps pastors, congregations and schools embrace home-centered, church-supported family discipleship in the LCMS Missouri District.
“Congregations, especially smaller ones, need support, and research shows that the most common factor of youth staying in the church is the parents passing on the faith,” explained Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan, president of the LCMS Missouri District.
“The Tell the Next Generation program provides a dozen trained coaches and
facilitators, mostly pastors and directors of Christian education, who can work with our district’s congregations or a cluster of congregations to help them equip parents for their role of passing on the faith in the home.”
The program, said Hagan, looks different from one congregation to the next.
“In one church, before Advent, they might bring the families together, help them learn to do Advent devotions in the home and actually model it. In another church, the pastor would visit one family monthly and do devotions with them. This way, the parents can teach their children to pray, read God’s Word and practice the Christian faith in the home.”
The LCMS English District’s Lifeline life ministry committee has focused on the theme “Year of the Family” to “provide resources to help in the support and nurturing of healthy families as a sanctity of life issue,” said Grad. “We are considering the gift of children, the gift of life in the family, sexual ethics and the treatment of the parents, elderly and chronically ill.”
While the Year of the Family resources are for anyone in the district and beyond, Rev. Jamison Hardy, the LCMS English District president, hoped that church worker families would especially benefit from this initiative.
“We have noticed post-COVID, more than ever, that there is a lot of family strife, especially with church worker families,” explained Hardy.
“Focusing on the importance of healthy families makes for a healthy society. When I speak about church workers, it’s not to discount laity. But if church workers aren’t healthy, how can they help? It has to be organic from the inside out—if they are healthy, they can better help other families.”