Abuse in the Church 教會裏的肆虐

教會裏的肆虐 Abuse in the church — 以福音作基礎及神所指引的回應
格雷格·斯特蘭德 (Greg Strand) 美國播道會神學和牧師/傳道認證執⾏主任
引言:
在過去一兩年中, 牧者和教會領袖犯性虐待的報告令人内心有無以言諭的慘重。這情況追溯於天主教教會已經很多年, 但更多此類的肆虐仍不斷的被揭發。最近, 若干報告揭露Bill Hybels 與Willow Creek 之猥褻行為。之外, 更有美南浸信會 (SBC)性虐待的報導。這些只包括我們聽聞的, 試想有多少肆虐的過案是未經揭發的, 有多少是我們未有所聞的, 有多少受害者正在默然地忍受。雖然我們未曾察覺有關事件發生於Evangelical Free Churches of America (EFCA) 美國播道會, 但這不等如沒有發生或不會發生。雖然我們的規模不如美南浸信會, 很有可能我們當中EFCA教會亦有受類似百分比的肆虐狀況所影響。
被虐待受害者的數目令人震驚, 其實就算只有一個也是太多。肆虐背叛了我們所確認及宣揚的福音, 亦羞辱了我們所愛的恩主。肆虐破壞了無辜受害者的安康及尊嚴。雖然被虐的女性比男性多, 男性也未能完全免疫, 統計數字現實地反影每四個女性有一位, 及每六個男性中有一位, 一生中會體驗性虐待, 而十個女性中有八位, 及十個男性中有四位, 一生中曾經歷過不同程度的性騷擾。其中不少是曾經發生/或正在發生於童年時代。對於這些受害者, 我們應該于關顧作回應, 盡量聆聽和愛護。我們更需有預防性的關懷計劃, 即是要在架構上有提供, 要求領袖及教會成為愛護, 關懷, 保護人的地方, 好使他們能興盛成長。
讓我們酌量這些統計數字對每間教會的影響, 要切記這些不單是數字, 數字本身是代表一班人, 那些親身體驗過性虐待或性騷擾的人。透過基督的愛, 聖靈的同在, 與福音的能力, 我們渴望能夠愛護和關懷那些被虐者, 又與他們在基督裏尋找所需的支援和治療並肩同行。
以福音作基礎與依照神的指引:
我們相信基於對耶穌基督福音之承諾, 及達到愛神愛人的意願 (太22:37-39), 促使我們透過訊息及培育來正視這些問題。我們關注到確定和活出耶穌基督的福音, 是為了受虐者及代表他們, 意思是我們會探悉如何愛護及關懷他們, 亦即是要追究虚待者去承擔嚴重侵害他人的責任。本著勇氣和謙卑, 我們刻意地報導及培育, 去愛護受虐者和向虐待者追究責任, 這不是現今的普通操作模式, 這模式是無知, 維持現狀, 和充滿傲慢。在Evangelical Free Churches of America (EFCA) 美國播道會, 我們對受虐者有两方面的承諾:
第一: 我們已將 “成為愛護受虐者的教會” 一書分發于所有關鍵的領導人, 及所有EFCA教會主任牧師。我們可以這樣做是由於EFCA Network 互聯網絡的慷慨支持, 連同這書有十二集的視頻系列, 可以在Church Cares網站收看。這些資源均由美南浸信會去年牧者與領袖性虐待事件泄露後所製作。其中有以下注釋: “經此培訓以後, 你應該可以如此確定, ‘如果在我的事工範圍有肆虐的報告, 我知道該怎樣做, 為什麼如此做, 及怎樣實行這做法。’
第二: 提供“教會裏的肆虐– 以福音作基礎及神所指引的回應” 培訓課程, 此領導力培訓是由GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environment) 維護證明書主任, Mike Sloan 主講。關於此培訓, 他們表示:
教會中之肆虐乃系統性問題, 領袖們須有積極的回應, 無論有何意圖, 領袖若採取被動方式就是助長教會中的肆虐。面對肆虐所涉及的問題極其複雜, 領袖須要謙卑地謀取更好工具去面對教會中肆虐此廣泛及陰暗的現實。領袖須支取所有成人協助扭轉肆虐文化, 從事預防及追究責任的措施。領袖必須拒絕對肆虐保持沉默, 帶領教會脫離否定肆虐問題, 為了主耶穌及神國度中脆弱一羣的原故, 實行在這方面的教育工作。在此培訓中, 我們會將一曙亮光射向肆虐的現實, 及裝備領袖採取有果效之積極步驟來避免及回應教會肆虐情況。
回應: 教導/培訓
對於肆虐的問題, 有三方面須要特別留意:
第一: 面對教會中肆虐問題的領袖
〈 肆虐是一個系統性的問題
o 研究數字指出女性中四位有一位, 而男性中六位有一位曾遭遇性虐待, 兒童遭遇肉體虐待是四位中有一位。
o 如果教會中發生肆虐事故, 是系統上的失敗。
o 教會的工作人員要學習自我保護
▪ 完全介除成人與兒童一對一的機會, 家長須確知教會有這方面的措施。
o 地位與權力並存, 但領袖仍要服從執行措施。
〈 為何肆虐的罪特其惡劣?
o 肆虐是濫用權力, 壓迫最脆弱的及辜負他們的信任。(傳4:1)
o 將受虐者客觀化及非人性化。
o 在隱秘與隔離情況中, 充滿詭詐和操縱, 企圖恐嚇使受虐者沉默。
〈 肆虐的盛行與基本動力
o 多方面受害: 當孩童在一方面受虐, 多數會在別類情況受虐。
o 敬虔的婦女比較容易成為肆虐者的目標, 她們特別信任及尊敬牧者和屬靈領袖。
o 肆虐事件玷污事工名聲, 教會避免張揚。
〈 耶穌, 教會與肆虐
o 教會領袖有責任從聖經建立肆虐問題的重要性。
o 聖經的教導:
▪ 每一個人都是照神的形象所造 (創1:27), 值得尊重及具尊嚴, 肆虐者絕無辯護之處。
▪ 基督清楚指出傷害孩童的必有禍 (太18:6) 。
▪ 基督重視牧者的品行, 性虐待, 貪污與濫權必受審判 (可12:38-40) 。
▪ 神特別愛護脆弱和邊緣化的人 (出22:21-24) 。
▪ 掌權的應該用權力來祝福和保護 (詩9) 。
o 耶穌基督是世界的光, 祂的國度是公義的, 是受虐者的避難所和福音。
o 主耶穌的福音能改造認罪之肆虐者。
o 神會審判教會中對肆虐視若無睹的人。
第二: 在肆虐問題上改變教會文化的領袖
〈 改建教會的權力體系:
o 適當權力運作 (箴31:8-9) 。
o 將權力放在訓練門徒認識神, 了解認識神的意義 (耶22:16-17) 。
o 培育領袖明白基督是主, 所有的權柄都服從於祂之下。
o 教導教會中的孩童, 應該尊敬及服從長輩, 不過權力不是絕對的, 年輕的可以不同意或否定長輩不合理的行動。
o 問責制要從屬靈領袖開始。
〈 面對否認與指控受虐者虚構事實:
o 否認加燃肆虐 – “肆虐會在別的地方發生, 絕對不會發生在這裏”。
o 肆虐者皆男性, 都是陌生人。
o 虛構報告舉目可見。
o 受虐者以後會變為肆虐者。
o 受虐者只企圖引人注意及敲詐金錢。
o 領袖須要面對否認, 文化信仰及虚構等問題。
〈 當教會動力與預防相違, 須要克服之處:
o 針對權威。
o 父權制的觀點。
o 針對清纯多於尊重與允許。
o 對閒話有敏銳感。
o 接受肆虐者之卸責與寬恕及恩典大有分別。
o 在肆虐問題缺乏培育。
o 將問題極端化。
〈 實行政策中的缺口:
o 以保護孩童為首要, 第一時間與預防肆虐的專業人士磋商, 而非保險公司或律師。
o 將注意力擴至事工架構, 教會物業以外, 關注每一個人, 非單只牧者與義務工作人員。
o 政策要關注到每一方面的肆虐。
o 所有成人要清楚了解政策存在的原因。
o 領袖不在政策之上。
o 對於何人可以參與兒童工作及迅速處罰違反政策者須有明智的決定。
第三: 對肆虐預防及反應有良好表現的領袖
〈 預防肆虐的實際運作方式:
o 所有成年人必須奉行一個促使與孩童及彼此交往有清楚界限的政策。
o 預防工作包括一班記錄肆虐問題的隊伍。
〈 報告肆虐事件:
o 美國不少州法律指令報告肆虐事件。
o 教會須立刻呈上報告, 而非於自行調查之後。
o 成人肆虐報告: 電911, 連接受害者與護理機構。
〈 為受虐者的創傷提供知情護理:
o 連接受害者與創傷護理之專業人士。
▪ 做好撒瑪利亞人 (路10:30-37) 。
o 協助牧者, 向受虐者表示同理心。
o 切莫怪責受害者, 就算傷害發生於很久以前, 帶來的恐懼感可以持續極久。例如噩夢, 閃回, 驚恐發作, 情緒低落, 自殘及對性行為表現不正常態度。
o 將年幼受害者帶到本地的保護兒童中心或創傷護理中心。
〈 向肆虐者追究責任
o 任何情況下都不可包容肆虐者。
結論
作為Evangelical Free Churches of America (EFCA) 美國播道會的領袖, 此培訓是為了愛護及關懷受虐者, 亦為了鞏固教會及預防肆虐, 特別是為了耶穌基督的福音, 及加尊貴榮耀給我們的主。當我們如此活出福音, 是讓他人察覺EFCA對肆虐是何等重視。我們的禱告是這工作的結果會歸榮耀於我們天上的父 (太5:13-16) 。
親愛的姊妹, 如果你是四人中之一個, 親愛的弟兄, 如杲你是六人中之一個, 請與我們的關護隊或一個你信任的人聯絡, 開始你從耶穌基督的福音可得到的醫治與健全。

Future Corporate Gathering of the Church Family 未來教會聚會形式—幾項原則和實行的深思

未來教會聚會形式—幾項原則和實行的深思 格雷格·斯特蘭德 (Greg Strand) 美國播道會神學和牧師/傳道認證執⾏主任
翻譯:方育真

當居家隔離的初期, 我們很難想象如何來度過這個時期, 現在經歷過了數星期的隔離日子, 經過了許多生活形式的改變, 度過了高峰, 我們開始可以想想當政府放鬆了居家隔離的政策時, 我們應該如果恢複日常生活, 和恢複教會的實體聚會。 

這個過程不會那麽容易快速, 我們不可能馬上回到疫情發生前的生活。  我們可以期待地禱告, 祈求神, 相信神讓一切好轉, 但我們都知道這個過程會是漸進的。  

白宮在四月16號州長會議時, 發布 ”美國重啟指南“ , 作為未來啟動的藍圖。  我們應該服從各地方政府, 或是州長, 或是市長的指令,因為他們的本意原是關心社區居民, 爭取居民的福利。 經由遵循, 我們表達了對周遭民眾的愛心。  

當社會隔離政策漸漸放鬆時, 教會勢必終將恢復實體聚會。意義是什麼?教會的計劃和建議是什麽?

當你和你的教會討論恢復的過程, 首先, 先看看目前的線上聚會, 這個形式有哪些優點, 有哪些缺點, 什麽應該保留, 什麽可以廢除? 我們應該如何把握這個神給我們的經驗和機會, 去闊展神的事工?  增加新的生活小組,增加網上傳道的方式。 從這次經驗我們學習到什麽?

牧師和長執必須明智地和會眾分享部分有關的訊息 和部分估計未來可能的計劃。比如讓會友知道教會有在考慮恢復實體聚會,是限制人數的聚會。 根據 “重啟指南”, 第一階段估計只允許少於50人,  加上許多其他的限制,  所以漸進式的重啟的方式, 也許是一部分會眾到教堂聚會, 而一部分仍然在線上聚會。  或是基於根據 “重啟指南”的有限人數的數堂崇拜.  

這樣的溝通可以讓會眾感受到牧師長執的關心和愛心, 理解到牧師長執關心當下的情勢, 為著整個教會大家庭的利益著想。
以下幾點是采用參考Alejandro Mandes所整合的思考方向, 包括當下, 長程, 特殊, 或一般性的問題。(作者有採用,修訂和増加)

1。 從新回到教堂聚會前, 教堂必須全面清潔消毒。 正如以弗所書 5:2 “要以愛心待人”, 清潔消毒是愛心的表現, 也移開了會眾的疑慮擔心。  正如新約多處“互相接待” 的教導 (羅12:13; 希 13:2; 彼前 4:9), 教會表現了親切, 好客,熱誠的特性。  教堂在聚會之後, 你也必須思考如何全面清潔消毒。 你的計劃如何?
 
2.還未開始教堂聚會前, 給予會眾了解聆聽階段(, 一方面歡迎大家回來教堂, 一方面解釋教會將有的應變措施, 例如椅子的擺設,必須保持社交距離, 以至於必須增加崇拜次數。  例如教堂會有提醒保持社交距離的標誌等等。

  1. 供應: 還未開始教堂聚會前, 教會必須購買足夠的抗疫設備, 整個社會重啟之後, 肯定口罩和消毒洗手液會短缺,所以必須提早準備。  可以考慮在教堂設置個人消毒用品的供給站。
  2. 召集和培訓屬靈輔導員和導師。 因為新冠疫情, 有的人痛失親人朋友 (可能性大, 經歷哀傷, 既是不是身體死亡, 有的人經歷不同的變動,夢想的消失, 失去工作, 失去機會, 這些損失是非常真實的。  心靈的傷痛也是非常深的。  傷痛終究不會致勝, 此時基督的真理和神的話可以帶給許多人盼望 (帖前 4:13, 18), 幫助人走過復原的過程。

5.  征召和裝備代禱勇士, 讓他們以充滿生命力的禱告事奉来參加所有的聚會預備, 實行, 和後續的過程.  禱告操練信仰, 代禱更能表達我對他人的愛。  (如耶穌為祂神國的子民代求, 見羅8:34, 希7:25, 約 壹2:1)

  1. 兒童事工方面, 是否應該暫停兒童主日學?  嬰兒事工呢?  家長會如何反應?
  2. 是否繼續供應點心, 飲料? 停止嗎?  以後會漸漸開始嗎? 
  3. 崇拜順序方面, 有幾點要思考
    *很多教會有“問安時段”, 現在會眾已經不能以握手或擁抱來彼此問安了, 教會必須先解釋一下, 請會眾以手肘對碰代替
    *收奉獻的方式將要改變, 還傳奉獻袋(盤)嗎?
    *聖餐仍然使用一個面麺包一個杯嗎?  杯和餅仍然由會眾傳遞嗎?  
    *洗禮的方式需要改變嗎?
  4. 成人團契 或成人主日學何時開始?  以什麽方式?  如何和兒童主日學和嬰兒事工配合?
  5. 教會領袖對在教堂或在家庭聚會的生活小組有何建議?
  6. 對夏季的活動, 如兒童夏令營, 後院俱樂部有何政策?  或是必須到外州參加的活動, 如聖經營, 青少年的 “挑戰“ 年會 ?
  7. 不論如何,愛神, 愛人(太22:37-39, 路10:27), 分擔彼此的重擔 ( 加6:2), 愛可以遮蓋許多罪 (彼前4:8), 藉著神的恩典, 我們作為神國子民, 活出登山寶訓的教導 (太5:3-12),順從聖靈的引導 (加5: 16,18, 25) 結出聖靈的果子 (加5:22-23), 散發那因認識基督而有的香氣 (林前2:14-17)。

介紹幾篇好的文章:
 ”教會回到實體聚會前應該回答的24 個問題“ 是篇很好的文章。

Vanderbloemen 和數位大教會的牧師的討論: ”新肺疫情之後如何重啟教會“。  之後他會和數位小教會牧師一起討論。

我相信更多新的文章會出現, 正如疫情初期有許多篇文章曾幫助教會應變, 建立網上崇拜。 不管你有沒有讀每一篇文章, 重要的是你能分辨更新, 因你的教會的地點, 大小, 哪個問題該解決。 經過這個思考的過程, 在禱告中尋求從神而來的智慧 (雅1:5; 3:17), 服從聯邦, 州, 市政府的指令, 配合公共衛生部門 和流行病學家的建議, 全心信靠耶和華 (詩20:7; 箴 3:5-6)

也許這疫情將會展開靈命的更新和復興。  願神成就。 

What’s a Covenant in the Bible?

The Doctrine of Covenant by Michael L. Aiken


Covenant is the way God relates to people. When God speaks he binds us, his image bearers, to
do what he requires of us. The study of covenants is complex, but this paper will seek to summarize
the issues and offer resources for further study.
There are basically three covenants in the Bible.

  1. The covenant of works
  2. The covenant of redemption
  3. The covenant of grace
  4. The covenant of works is between God and Adam and includes Adam’s posterity because he is our
    representative. In Genesis 2:16, 17 God tells Adam to eat from every tree in the garden except for
    the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that in the day he eats from that tree he will surely
    die. Though the word covenant is not found in this passage, the elements of a covenant are there:
    a. the parties are clearly defined,
    b. the requirements clearly stated,
    c. and the promise and punishment if obeyed or disobeyed given.
    Hosea 6:7 and Romans 7:10 add further proof to this original command by God being a covenant
    (cf. Rom. 5:12-19). God explicitly states Adam will die if he partakes of the forbidden fruit.
    Implicit in this command is a promise of life if Adam continued to obey (cf. Rom. 7:10). In his
    original state of innocence Adam had the ability to obey and disobey God. The blessing of a
    confirmation in righteousness, i.e. glorification, would have occurred if Adam didn’t disobey (cf.
    Gen. 2:9; 3:22 where the tree of life is a symbol of what could have been given if Adam was
    obedient).
    The fall of Adam was no surprise to God and so God from all eternity made a pact within himself
    among the Persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This inter-trinitarian pact is
    called the covenant of redemption (or Latin the pactum salutis). In the one inseparable will of God,
    the Son, the second person of the Trinity, agrees to be the Redeemer of those whom the Father will
    give him (John 6:37-40; 17:1-5). All of God’s works in time are based on his eternal decree and
    this covenant of redemption occurred in eternity past and is expressed in the last covenant which
    will be discussed next (Eph. 1:11; Acts 2:23).
    Since Adam sinned there is another covenant given which is the covenant of grace. This is first
    found in Genesis 3:15 and called the first mention of the gospel (Latin protevangelium). The good
    news God promised is that there will be a seed of the woman (Eve) who will crush the head of the
    serpent. This covenant of grace continues throughout Scripture and is expressed in God’s covenant
    to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3,7; 15:1-21; 17:1-14) and to other key figures (Isaac, Jacob, Moses,
    David, Jeremiah, Ezekiel). The promise reiterated throughout the Old Testament is that God will

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be the God of his covenant people and they shall be his people. These promises are not only for
Abraham’s descendants but for all the nations (Gen. 12:3). Yes, land is promised to Abraham and
to his descendants, but Paul makes it clear that the promises were made to a singular seed which
is Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). All the physical promises given to Abraham and the patriarchs will give
way to greater realities fulfilled by the promised seed—Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:4; Heb. 9:1-14). The
land promised will give way to the new heavens and new earth (Matt. 5:5; 2 Pet. 3:13). The goal
God had in mind for the redemption of his people was glorification of the body (resurrection)
living in the land he promised which in its glorified state is imperishable and unable of being
defiled or destroyed—the new heavens and the new earth (Isa. 66:22-24; Ezek. 37; Rev. 21:1-4,
22-27; 22:1-5) The types, sacrifices, and festivals are shadows which when the substance to which
they point comes, which is Jesus Christ, they shall cease (Gal 3:25).
The Sinai covenant or the law of Moses is an important provision in God’s redemptive plan and
was given in redemptive history for the purpose of…

  1. revealing sin,
  2. constraining evil,
  3. and to reveal God’s will for his people to follow.
    The law of Moses was temporary and was characterized by obedience to the law. It was not given
    to bring eternal life because that is impossible since all people are sinners. If we could keep it
    perfectly, which we cannot, we could have eternal life (Lev 18:5; Gal 3:10-12, 21). One of the
    main purposes of the law was to be a guardian which would reveal sin and lead the person to Jesus
    Christ (Gal 3:23-26). Many theologians have called the law of Moses the covenant of works, others
    consider the law of Moses to fall under the covenant of grace, but that its “character” or “form” is
    that of a covenant of works.1 For those who designate it a covenant of works, it is not a covenant
    of works in the way it was for Adam because Adam in his state of innocence was able to obey it
    and would have been confirmed in righteousness if he didn’t disobey. Now, as sinners, we are
    already guilty in Adam, and have also inherited his corruption, and are unable to keep the law to
    receive the blessing of eternal life. The law is a covenant of works that all sinners in Adam are
    under which means they are condemned by it. The law is functioning in this way to drive the sinner
    to Jesus for salvation (Rom. 3:19, 20). The three uses of the law, as stated above, are still in use
    today in this New Covenant era (Rom. 13:8-10).

How is covenant theology different between paedobaptists and Baptists?
1 See Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 2, translated and edited by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Bellingham, WA:
Lexam Press, 2012), 36. Vos explains that “the covenant of grace is the implementation of the covenant of works in
the surety for us….[and that] one must bear in mind that the old dispensation of the covenant of grace bore a legal
character for Israel as a nation and, therefore, in its external form once more kept the covenant of works in view,
although the core of what God established with Israel was of course the continuation of the Abrahamic revelation
of the covenant of grace” (p. 36).

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The answer will be given generally because within each group there is not a consensus about the
nature of the covenants, etc. But historically and generally since the 17th century, when much of
covenant theology was developed, Baptists and paedobaptists had agreement and disagreements.
Both groups agreed to a covenant of works given to Adam. They further agreed there is one
covenant of grace first promised to Adam after the fall and subsequently to Abraham and to the
fathers of Israel with the nations also as recipients. They differed about who was under the
covenant of grace. They also differed in what constitutes the covenant of grace from Gen. 3:15
forward.
• Paedobaptists: See one covenant of grace which includes the Mosaic covenant also.
Further, paedobaptists saw this one covenant of grace having two administrations—one
in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.
• The Baptists see two covenants running simultaneously in the Old Testament period. For
the Baptists, the Sinai covenant, is not a covenant of grace, but a covenant of works as
described above.
Thus, the paedobaptists see the members of the covenant of grace as including not only the
regenerate (believers) but also the children of believers in both dispensations. While paedobaptists
include unbelieving children in the covenant of grace and administer infant baptism as a seal and
sign of God’s righteousness, they do not believe in baptismal regeneration (Rom. 4:11). These
covenant children are to be nurtured in the gospel and encouraged to make a profession of faith as
they mature. The Baptists concede that under the Old Testament dispensation that there was mixed
membership including believers and their children, plus other adults who were not true believers
(cf. Rom. 2:28, 29). This major point of difference of who are the members of the New Covenant
(Jer. 31:31-34) has ramifications for church membership. Here Baptists believe the members of
the New Covenant are believers only based on Jeremiah 31:34 which states that all under the New
Covenant know the Lord because they have circumcised hearts and God’s law written on their
hearts by the Holy Spirit. Paedobaptists see continuity between the old and new dispensations of
the one covenant of grace and that the promise is for the children of believers also (Gen. 17:11;
Acts 2:39).
The different views of baptism are primarily based on one’s view of covenant membership.
Consequently, our beliefs on covenant will frame our doctrine of the church (ecclesiology) which
in turn will affect our practice of either paedobaptism or credobaptism.

Bibliography for further study (listed from easiest to more complex):
Grudem ,Wayne. “The Covenants Between God and Man.” In Systematic Theology, 515-22.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

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Sproul, R.C.. “Nicknamed Covenant Theology.” In Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed
Theology, 99-114. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997.
——— “Covenant” and “Covenant of Works.” In Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, 71-4.
Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992.
Pascal Denault, The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between
Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism Revised Edition.
Birmingham, Alabama: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2016.
Bavinck, Herman. “The Covenant of Grace.” In Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ.
Volume 3, 193-232. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.

Children’s and Family Ministry Resources

Every church needs to prioritize security and training in their children’s ministry. As a Family Pastor for four years at Church at Charlotte, and having overseen children’s ministry at two other churches, here are some resources I have assembled over the years. Please share the documents, links and tools you have found most helpful!

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  1. Philosophy of Family Ministry – a brief history and explanation of the basic views on how churches should support parents from entirely church driven drop off programming to totally family-integrated approaches, with family-based and family-equipping models in the middle.
  2. Family Ministry Handbook – a complete training manual for parents and volunteers in a church of 150 or so.
  3. Children’s Ministry Overview – an introduction to our church’s strategy of partnering with parents to raise kids to know, love and follow Jesus.
  4. Children’s Ministry Team – a small church model for volunteer leadership.
  5. Youth Protection Policy – key procedures for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our children.
  6. Childcare Policy – a large church (2000+) document on requesting and implementing programs involving paid (or volunteer) childcare.
  7. 7 Milestones – a small church adaptation of Brian Hayne’s Shift that proposed key milestones in which churches should support parents in the development of their children. 

Here are some excellent books to consider for church leadership with kids and families:

Here are some book recommendations for Biblical parenting:

And here are some excellent resources available on Right Now Media:

Covid and Aslan – C.S. Lewis Wisdom for our current time

Don’t leave the Lion of Judah out of your Covid calculus. He is the equation. He is the sum. He is moving; He has plans; He is arranging things for your good; He is preparing to come; He is using Covid for His purposes, Ephesians 1:11. The Lion works everything after the counsel of His will.

“They say Aslan is on the move – perhaps has already landed.
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning – either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”


C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)

A Subtle Radical Shift: Home Group

Several years ago, our Life Group/Bible Study group happened upon a helpful and heartening new way to do “Bible Study.” We are not sure how it developed but we have all benefitted greatly from this new way of meeting. We meet once a week on Tuesday evenings. This type of meeting works for a wide range of personalities, from quiet and shy to the socially outgoing. We don’t attract and cater to a certain type of person. This group would not exist in the secular world and if it did would not have a nearly unanimous excitement about it. God has blessed us.

There was nothing terrible about our group at the beginning. It mostly consisted of a few of us asking questions based on some scripture we had been reading and a few others sharing what they had read that week. A few of us were on the same annual reading plan, so there started to be some excitement when someone else brought up scripture I had just read. I remember wanting to interrupt them and say, “hey I made a change in my life this week because of that verse”. I was so encouraged that I was experiencing spiritual growth in the same area of scripture they were, maybe even on the same day and I’m getting to hear about it. But more importantly they were sharing a verse I had read only days ago, not needing to recall something I had read months or years ago.

Soon I started to really look forward to meeting with everyone. I didn’t fret all week about having to muscle through an hour of small talk or feel like I was going to have to participate in a group discussion about some topic I knew nothing about. All I had to do was remember what I read that week. We were talking about the scripture I had just read, prayed over, and by God’s grace, lived it in some way.

Somehow, we went from a few people sharing, to a self-organized circle moving clockwise from Dave (because he is always impatiently ready with his Bible on his knee.) Throughout the week when I read my Bible I would begin thinking about what I might share. It changed the way I read, it made it immediately actionable in simply my ability to share it. This is where convictions hit me. How can I share this without living it? I am accountable to my share. How do you share a verse about “Praising God” and not be convicted about how little you have done it?

From 6-7pm we eat dinner together. The host family, there are four of us with homes that can accommodate everyone, plans the meal and most of the Life Group participants brings something to help with the meal. Taco bar, lasagna, hamburgers, deli sandwiches, enchiladas, etc. The meal usually is excellent and the ladies, mostly, take the lead. The guys do the barbecuing when it’s the fare. Clean-up is usually a group project; paper plates are the general rule. We’ve learn to keep it simple for the most part.

At 7pm we are mostly in the living room sitting in a large circle ready to share.

We have all been following a read the Bible in a year reading plan. Most everyone adheres to this plan in some degree. However, it is not a necessity to follow the plan to be part of the Life Group.

We begin with one of our more gregarious and genial members, Dave, who always has something exciting to share from his Bible reading that week. We proceed from Dave to the next person, either on his right or left, depending on who is most ready to go with a share. Each one in turn shares for 2 or 3 minutes what they have read that impressed them from their Bible reading for the week. From time to time someone will ask a question, which I try to answer quickly and judiciously, or someone else will comment and answer also. We try to keep the discussion short so that others can share. We do not want the sharing to digress into a Bible study. That may sound strange, but sometimes in-depth kinds of querying can be counterproductive – everyone stating their opinion with nothing really accomplished. And the newer believers feel lost in what they think might be trivia. We try and not miss the trees and forest because we are uncovering and looking for bugs under the bark. I try and quell that kind of discussion. Not that there isn’t a place for it. Just not in Life Group. Sometimes those discussions follow the group meetings one-on-one.

After we have gone around the circle we pray. I ask for special prayer requests and usually receive a few, but we are careful that the sharing doesn’t go for more than a minute or two. We’ve all been in studies where the sharing takes up all the time for praying. Folks are encouraged to bring their requests to God for others to hear and pray about also. We also pray about some of the things that have been shared from the Bible reading. I particularly try and remember the biblical truths shared and pray accordingly. I am try to model praying the Bible.

One note: if someone doesn’t feel comfortable sharing, or hasn’t had a good week of Bible reading they just say “amen” and we move to the next person. Of course, if someone says amen two weeks in a row it is noted and they are encouraged that two is the limit! All in good humor, but with a touch of seriousness.

The meeting concludes at 8pm. Most of the time people stay and chat for quite a while, but others who need to go can.

Why we like this model:

People are held accountable to read their Bibles by group encouragement. You want to keep up on the reading because YOU want to be in sync with the group. It’s not the leader pulling you aside and asking why you are not participating. When they read during the week they are compelled to think about what they are reading that would be good to share with the group. Everyone in our group is now a regular Bible reader! Wow! I am fine with a Bible study leader prodding me to keep up on some book we are on, or asking everyone if they filled out their study guide questions. Nothing is explicitly wrong with that. What is different and amazing about our group is that even on days I am swamped with work, in a bad mood, or just tired; I want to show up and have something to share. I am disappointed when someone else in the group has nothing to share, and so I have made myself accountable to others simply because I have assumed some accountability over them. I want them to share, therefore I need to share. Looking forward to other peoples’ thoughts on a matter (unless they are an expert on the subject) is not a natural quality of mine and is counterintuitive to me, but clearly this is different. It’s not a “man on the street opinion poll”, it’s a supernatural connection to others that God has led me to care about, because they care about Him and express it through the sharing of His words and how they are active in their life.

The meal fellowship follows the example of Jesus and the early church. Much of our meal fellowship is driven by the Bible reading and what’s happening in our lives. I remember a time when “casual” conversation about God with others, even at Church, was not common. Most of my life, even at church people would rarely even want to engage conversations on the Bible unless it was a Bible study or Sunday School class. I think this is a big deal and it had reminded me to do it more! Meal fellowship is perfect for this kind of interaction.
Praying without sharing encourages more praying and less getting it off our chest in front of a group of people. If we have a personal struggle or sin, we can share that one on one in a more appropriate setting during the meal or after the large group meets. Funny thing is that my shares are almost always veiled confessions. I don’t need to confess as an explicit prayer request. I don’t know that the two must always be tied together. The scripture convicts me in my failures of faith and leads to some articulation of what I learned from it in my share.

Many folks shy away from Life Groups because of the intimacy with a group of people that they don’t really know that well. We do not demand or require intimacy with all the people in the group. We aren’t required to share our feelings with everybody, in fact, we might be accused of even discouraging it. Deep intimacy, unraveling of life-long issues, is not our intent in the group meeting and that makes the group disarming, there is no pressure to “fit in” by sharing every aspect of your life. There is a spiritual intimacy that has developed naturally. Through sharing I have a better understanding of where my fellow believers are in their understanding of God’s word and how it’s impacting them. My mother-in-law visits the group from time to time and she asked me once if we shared our feelings in the group. I told her most definitely no. She said that was very nice.


The Bible study leader isn’t the focus of attention. The Word of Christ in the Bible is the focal point. The Bible study leader isn’t the one preparing, everyone in the group prepares. However, central coordination and moderation add stability since everyone knows there is someone to get us back on track if we drift into a long discussion. It is also good to know that if someone really misinterpreted scripture that there is someone that can gently bring them clarity or table the discussion for a better time. That’s why an elder appointed leader is essential.

I usually try and not correct an improper interpretation, unless it is egregious. If someone has a detail wrong, that’s ok. We are not there primarily to correct but to encourage Bible reading for life, and life to the encouragement of the saints. I’m getting better at this-hopefully. Since the group has such a wide range of Biblical maturity it often self corrects without an open rebuke. Even if someone is bent on a fringe interpretation (outside of heresy) the group at large will hear the supported position from the leader. This protects the weaker brothers.

Everyone is encouraged by the faith and the life of Christ that everyone comes to share. We see the life of Christ in the others as the light of the Gospel of Christ in the Word is read and explained in their lives. This is the best part of the group meeting. It is sometimes easier to see Christ in others than in yourself. That’s why we come together: Encouragement / Fellowship in Spirit. I was going to meet people on a spiritual level, we were going to be not only talking about God’s word, but how it was impacting us. I was not going there to hear Dave’s answer to study guide questions, I was getting to hear what God lead Dave to in the Word and often it was the classics like John 3:16 or verses I know so well I have become deaf to their potency. Even if it was just Kim or Josh or one of the kids saying, “I read this passage and it was great”. It would convict me in my simple agreement. I know that whatever book we are in is Chris’s favorite, well, second favorite after Isaiah. I’m thinking about these guys and their walk with Christ. God has given me this group that encourages me even when I am at home alone reading thinking about what they would say about a passage. Even some of the questions about confusing scripture or controversial subjects seem to lead back into personal encouragement. For example, we may get tied up in the Law from time-to-time but we quickly take it back to the one who fulfilled it, and what that means to us, and how we live.

We have a great mix of ages and life stages in our group: older single saints, older married saints, young married saints with small children, singles, students, older mature saints, older new believers, younger believers excited about the Christian life. I think is very healthy for our growth in Christ and our tendencies to over-emphasize our own life stage issues. My kids and I benefit from Point #7 being expressed from a 25-year-old man to an 80-year-old woman. I get to show my daughter not only other women as inspiration to her but to see men of every age loving and obedient to Christ, a quality I pray she will have in a husband on day. My son gets to interact with Godly men of all types, construction, fireman, retired, and office worker. He has prototypes of all his areas of interest. Charles Drew’s comments are worth noting, “‘Church is not an event. It is people–people whom God calls us to love. What is more, it is in a very important sense an involuntary community of people: we don’t choose our brothers and sisters–God does. And sometimes (oftentimes) those people are not terribly compatible with us–not the people we would choose to hang out with. But it is this very incompatibility that is so important, for at least two reasons. First, learning to love the people I don’t like is by far the best way to learn how to love (it’s easy to love people I happen to like). Second, the church is supposed to be a sociological miracle–a demonstration that Jesus has died and risen to create a new humanity composed of all sorts of people.” A Journey Worth Taking by Charles Drew

Craig Johnston and Bob Burris

Great Books

From time to time, well maybe 3 times, someone has asked me what I’m currently reading. I’m usually working on several books at the same time, and sometimes, in a Mortimer Adler kind of way, if the book isn’t top notch, I don’t finish it. There is too much out there that is excellent to waste my time on something pedestrian. Adler’s book, entitled, How to Read a Book, was required reading in the past for college freshmen. It should still be required reading for everyone. One of his guidelines is that if the book starts well and drops off in quality, don’t finish it. If after a giving it a go, it isn’t that good, don’t waste your time.

Additionally, it is helpful to read books that are recommended by reliable sources. I seldom, if ever, read something that has not been highly recommended. There are many average and good and pretty good books out there. I want to read the great ones. This is a great one.

Here is the introduction to a 14 day devotional based on Dane Ortlund’s new book, Gentle and Lowly: the heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, followed by the link to buy the book on Amazon.