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A Select Bibliography For Family Ministry

Compiled by David L. Parrish

The following are several entries, with brief annotations, relating to two important facets of the church’s ministry to families. The first represents books and articles that deal with the relationship between church and family. Some of these publications are primarily addressing this theme, others have brief sections concerning the church/family relationship. The second section is composed of books on pre-marriage counseling. These resources were helpful in the writing of Casamento 5 Estrelas, the Portuguese pre-marital handbook for pastors.

Family Ministry: The Relationship Between Church and Family

Alexander, James W. Thoughts on Family Worship. Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle Publications, 1991.
Originally published in 1847, this work elevates the importance of worship within the home. The author highlights the influence of worship on the parents and children, as well as the positive results on the home atmosphere in general. Practical “how to” sections are included, and common objections are addressed. A significant chapter presents the relationship between family worship and the local church: the principal results of true worship at home are the impact of intercessory prayer for the church and the personal involvement of family members in Christian mission.

Anderson, Ray S. and Dennis B. Guernsey. On Being Family. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.
The authors desire to present a biblical view of the family that includes important sociological factors. They state: “contemporary Christian approaches to family are too often biblically superficial and theologically shallow.” Even though this book was not very deep theologically, it did present some helpful insights and analyses. The chart on control and support, demonstrating positive and negative possibilities, is one example. Their section on Ephesians 6, showing that spiritual formation is a function of family, was especially worthwhile. The covenantal relationship between God and man is used as a standard for family relationships. I had difficulty with their presentation of the Church as the new family of God.

Balswick, Jack O. and Judith K. The Family: A Christian Perspective on The Contemporary Home. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989.
The Balswick’s attempt to present a biblical view of family that includes sociological insights is a mirror, in some ways, of Anderson and Guernsey’s book. They also employ “covenant” as the operative principle. The progression they present for the deepening of the covenant through grace, empowering and increasing intimacy is an excellent concept and is well developed in the book. However, The Family is another work which fails to develop a theology for family, even though this was a stated goal in the beginning. One strong point for the book is their use of charts to present key ideas, such as “mate selection,” commitment in the family, and types of love relationships. Even though there is an enormous amount of material on a wide range of subjects, the book is not difficult to read, nor overly technical.

Clapp, Rodney. Families at The Crossroads. Downer’s Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993.
In this book on the relationship between church and family, Clapp attempts to show that many evangelical Christians are exalting family over church, and that the church should be the “first family.” He says that American believers have largely misunderstood and misapplied Scriptural teaching on the family, espousing instead a cultural view of family that ignores the larger community and does not meet the needs of those outside the family unit. He addresses some important concerns, especially in reminding us of the danger of being inward-focused, but I believe he misrepresents the thinking of a large majority of families. His characterization of the traditional evangelical view of church and family is incorrect and non-objective. More importantly, his theological method and hermeneutics are weak, further damaging his argument. The author’s presentation of post-modern values is helpful, but unfortunately his challenge to the family to be committed to the church and to be more hospitable and open is negatively affected by his theological method and his tone.

DeVries, Mark. Family-Based Youth Ministry. Downer’s Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1994.
This is an important and timely book, written by an experienced youth minister, that challenges some of the current approaches to youth ministry that can be, in many cases, both harmful to the family and the church. DeVries shows how some of the programs that our churches are running are actually more culturally driven than biblically sound. He makes a strong case for revamping youth ministry in such a way that it is truly integrated into the whole life of the church, and at the same time supports the family and parental leadership.

Gangel, Kenneth. “Toward A Biblical Theology of Marriage and Family.” Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1977: 5:55-69, 150-162, 247-259, 318-331.
In this series of articles, Gangel compiles biblical teaching on the family under several categories, such as purpose of marriage, roles, relationships, cultural issues, divorce, parenting, and family/church relations. The work is helpful since it brings the data together, but does not accomplish the goal of forming a “biblical theology” since it is limited in scope.

Hebbard, Don. The Complete Handbook of Family Life Ministry (Nelson, 1995)
An excellent textbook on the basis, purposes, models, needs, and challenges of family ministry. Very well-written and extremely practical. A must read for church leadership, from Christian education, to solo pastors, to elders.

Money, Royce. Building Stronger Families (Victor, 1994)
Based on Nick Stinnett’s research on what constitutes a strong family, Money presents a practical approach for developing each of the six traits. The author had written Ministering to Families in 1987, a helpful text on foundational ideas for church based ministry to families. This latest book is an excellent contribution to the field.

Otto, Herbert A., ed. Marriage and Family Enrichment. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976.
This book contains an overview of various programs for family ministry. Although not as “evangelically focused” as I would like, it does have many practical ideas, especially in relation to programs for parents. Note: there is no section in this book dedicated specifically to the relationship between church and family.

Palmer, B.M. The Family, in its Civil and Churchly Aspects. Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle Publications, 1991.
Another older work that has been republished, this book has some excellent sections on the biblical teaching on family and roles of family members. I did not find this book particularly stimulating, but his presentation of the position of family in society, and the importance of the family unit, make certain sections worthwhile reading. Unfortunately, his treatment of the relationship between church and family is one of the weaker points in the book.

Sell, Charles. Family Ministry (Zondervan, 1995)
Chuck Sell has given us the best resource for this subject. It is a very comprehensive “textbook” on many facets of family enrichment in the church. He includes treatment of the church/family relationship, theological foundations, various theories of family ministry, different models for effective ministry, parent and marriage education approaches, and much more!

Stedham, Mike. “Family Ministry in the Local Church.” Review and Expositor, 1989, 86:215-226.
The article summarizes some of the things the author has learned and found successful in ten years of ministry to families as an associate pastor. Highlights include the transition from intervention to prevention, the importance of the family-life committee, eight ministry models (an excellent chart that includes costs, prorams, leadership and focus), and the emphasis on counseling.

Wieman, Regina S. The Modern Family and the Church. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1937.
The author writes about the issues facing our families as though she were living in the 2000’s! Although published around seventy years ago, The Modern Family deals with some of today’s vital issues. She says: “the church weakens as family life weakens” I was drawn to the book because of her treatment of the interdependence between church and family, and although there is no original contribution here on this subject, the author writes with passion and skill. Her chapters on family crises and the church’s work with families are the most beneficial.

Other books worth reading:

Curran, Dolores. Traits of a Healthy Family. Winston Press, 1983.

Feucht, Oscar, ed. Family Relationships and The Church. St Louis: Concordia, 1970.

Guernsey, Dennis. A New Design For Family Ministry. Elgin, IL.: David C. Cook, 1982.

Larson, Jim. A Church Guide For Strengthening Families. Augsburg, 1984.

Maston, T.B. and William M. Tillman, Jr. The Bible and Family Relations. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1983.

Olson, Richard and Joe Leonard. Ministry with Families in Flux: The Church and Changing Patterns of Life. Louisville: Wesminister/John Knox, 1990.

Small, Gerald. “The Relation of the Christian Family to the Local Church.” Dallas Theological Seminary Thesis, 1958.

Family Ministry: Pre-Marital Counseling

Eyrich, Howard. Three To Get Ready. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.
This revised edition is the best book available for the counselor who is serious about preparing couples for marriage. The author puts it all together, including the purposes for pre-marital counseling, how to prepare for the sessions, homework assignments, seven sessions, use of the T-JTA, and details on the ceremony itself. The appendices provide material to help the counselor in gathering data before beginning the sessions, plus biblical background to use with the T-JTA. Eyrich gives us a very complete approach to the whole process, plus solid content to help the counselor in preparing to lead the sessions.

Fryling, Alice and Robert. A Handbook For Engaged Couples. Downer’s Grove, IL.: InterVarsity, 1977.
A small booklet that puts many of the themes in one place for the couple to work on together. It can be used by the couple without the orientation of a counselor, but would not provide a complete treatment of pre-marriage issues. One of its benefits is that it asks many good questions that will provoke thinking and stimulate needed discussion.

Mack, Wayne. Preparing For Marriage God’s Way. Tulsa: Virgil Hensley, 1986.
This book, published in 1986 as a loose-leaf binder, but now available in a bound volume, is an excellent resource for pre-marital counseling. Mack covers all the important themes and combines Scriptural principles with solid practical content, all in a format that stimulates self-evaluation and analysis. Preparing could be used by couples alone, but perhaps is best employed under the direction of a “counselor,” perhaps even in a small group setting. This is the kind of resource that makes the leader’s task much more pleasant!

Muzzy, Ruth and R. Kent Hughes. The Christian Wedding Planner. Wheaton: Tyndale House.
A good resource for the counselor to recommend for many of the practical facets of preparation. It includes many areas for the couple to consider, from the finest details that can easily be overlooked, to the wedding service itself.

Petersen, J. Allan. Before You Marry. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1974.
An excellent book for the pre-marriage counseling process. Very complete in its treatment of essential themes, yet concise and easy-to-read. It is written primarily for the couples themselves, but can also be used for a small group study.

Roberts, Wes and H. Norman Wright. Before You Say “I Do”. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1978.
This manual covers all the essential elements for marriage preparation. It provides basic principles with short explanations, Scripture references, and a fill-in-the-blank format. This kind of resource is excellent for the couple to work through on their own, and can make the counselor’s task easier since the information and homework are together in 12 sessions. Not nearly as complete as Mack’s work, but a lot of good material is condensed here. Hopefully a revision will be printed soon. Highly recommended!

Thompson, David A. A Premarital Guide For Couple and Their Counselors. Minneapolis: Bethany, 1979.
This is a workbook approach that provides very little “information,” but is very comprehensive in the sense that the questions treat a wide range of pre-marriage issues. The questions stimulate the couples with considerations that are not addressed in some of the other books. It is designed primarily for use by the couples themselves, and can function well as the resource for the pre-marital course at the church or by the counselor as part of the homework assigned.

Wright, H. Norman. The Premarital Counseling Handbook. Chicago: Moody, 1992.
A very complete guide for the counselor! Wright presents different kinds of programs, clarifies the goals, suggests numerous resources, and lays out six sessions. The advantage of this book over Eyrich is in the presentation and application of the T-JTA and PREPARE instruments. The Handbook is written for the prospective counselor and provides an excellent orientation from the beginning to the end of the process.

Other Helpful Books:

Florio, Anthony. Two to Get Ready. (Revell, 1973)

Parrot, Les. Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts. (Zondervan, 1995)


 
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