THIS book seeks to shape the approach of churches of all sorts towards families of all sorts, and Gail Adcock draws on wide experience as the Family Ministries Development Officer of the Methodist Church.
At the outset, she underlines the sheer diversity of contemporary family life, and then insists on the need to establish some theological perspectives. Here she looks at the home as the primary place of Christian nurture; the Trinity as paradigm of distinct persons dwelling in unity; and the challenge of Jesus’s inclusiveness.
Adcock points out the wide range of approaches to families inside and outside the congregation which can shelter under the umbrella of family ministry, and is emphatic that each church needs to clarify just what it is aiming to achieve before it starts setting up any initiatives.
Much of the book then consists in introducing what she calls Seven Habits for Highly Effective Family Ministry: to be strategic, supportive, collaborative, intergenerational, missional, holy at home, and reflective.
These chapters are full of sound advice, necessarily of a fairly generalised kind, offered in an easy-going style for the general reader. This is not a how-to-do-it book full of bright ideas and recommended activities. It aims, rather, to shape the basic attitudes and values that motivate ministry to families.
The author is keen “to get away from the silo mentality of seeing family ministry as an isolated speciality”. It is refreshing that she recognises that single people and same-sex couples are part of the picture, though this is not developed. And she notes as a particular current trend “the rise of grandparents”. She is clear that being an intergenerational church is more about mind-set than programme, and will, no doubt, raise a weary cheer for her reserve about all-age services, “which in reality have become painful for everyone involved”.
Adcock does not claim originality, is generous in introducing the influential work of others, and offers a particularly helpful list of further resources.
The Essential Guide to Family Ministry is not just a book for those who work with young families. It will also be of value to clergy and PCC members at the outset of any review of their church’s ministry in relation to the pluriform reality of contemporary family life.
The Revd Philip Welsh is a retired priest in the diocese of London.
The Essential Guide to Family Ministry
Church Times Bookshop £8.10