Ron and Karen Flowers
Directors

You can zoom in today on a portrait of the Adventist family anywhere in the world and find many family units with strong connections to God, one another, and the church. Any close-up of the world church family is also bright with the enthusiastic faces of newcomers, happy to be part of God's family and eager to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus in every aspect of life, including relationships in the family circle.

The harder reality is that any collage of Adventist families also exposes troubled marriages, worried parents, strong-willed children, and disenchanted young adults struggling to transition from family faith to personal belief. Any congregational album also contains the cropped snapshots of families disrupted by marital breakdown, estrangement, and painful loss. The victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse and family violence are part of the Adventist family picture too, though pleasant expressions often mask the trauma of daily life experience.

Some faces, present in earlier photos, are now missing--perhaps because human kindness has been in short supply or because the religion offered has not met the deepest needs of the heart for love and belonging. The camera does not lie. In too many Adventist homes the joy and energy for quality life together, and for God and mission, are being drained away by family
concerns.

Jesus elevated the matter of relationships to a moral plane. Spirituality, He taught, is ultimately about loving relationships--with God and with each other. The purpose of Family Ministries (FM) is to foster an atmosphere of grace, encouragement, and hope that is conducive to healing and growth in family relationships. It exists to provide an ever-expanding knowledge base for practical family life education that helps families learn what it means to be a Christian Adventist family. It is charged with keeping abreast of the most effective ways to help families develop important relational skills, and enable them to live by the principles of God's kingdom--at home and in the church--as they grow together toward God's creation ideals.

Ultimately, FM exists to empower families for effective disciple making--for creating the best likelihood that each family member will make Christian values their own, relate warmly to their heavenly Father, and love others as He has loved us. Loving families create winsome witnesses in their neighborhoods, bearing living testimony to the power of the gospel to bring health and wholeness to the family--the basic building block of a strong church and society.

The thrust of Adventist Family Ministries for 2000-2005 took shape at the family ministries world advisory, convened by the General Conference Department of Family Ministries (GCFM) in March 2001. Division FM directors came together to sharpen their professional expertise and to chart the best course for using the resources of the church worldwide to grow healthy families in Adventist congregations. Five major initiatives became the focus of the work of the General Conference office, in support of the division directors.

Curriculum for Church-based Family Life Education
In the 30 years since this ministry was reestablished, FM has reached a high point of collective knowledge and expertise that FM leaders elected for this quinquennium believe must be preserved as a foundation upon which the next generation can build. Hence GCFM has set itself to the large task of facilitating the writing of a comprehensive, biblically based curriculum framework for church-based family life education. This work will articulate our best collective answers to the questions: What does God want believers to know about the divine plan for human relationships? What attitudes does He want His children to develop toward one another? How will this mind-set and understanding affect our treatment of one another in the church and in the family? What will empower families for effective disciple-making within the family circle, and for a winsome witness among neighbors and friends?

This monumental work cannot be done by any one division. To preserve the unity of the church, the answers to such questions must reflect the perspectives of the various cultures that make up the world church, and a careful process to arrive at consensus on the answers to these questions must be employed. An interdivision task force of family professionals, theologians, and educators of long experience have worked closely with GCFM. Drafts of their work have been shared with the global network of Adventist family professionals and church leaders worldwide for input and refinement. The first in this series of teaching resources--Human Sexuality: Sharing the Wonder of God's Good Gift With Your Children--was published in 2004, with more than 20,000 copies distributed worldwide. The next two releases, scheduled to be completed early in the next quinquennium, will deal with Christian marriage and parenting.

Certificate in Family Life Education
GCFM has prepared extensive curricular resources for an FM leadership orientation and development program consisting of a minimum of 110 classroom hours. GCFM has partnered with division FM directors to offer to all world divisions a departmental Certificate in Family Life Education for the development of union and conference FM leadership. The program is under way in 11 of the 13 divisions. GCFM has also collaborated with division colleagues to establish academically based graduate programs for the development of expertise in ministry to families through the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University and graduate programs at Loma Linda, Montemorelos, Sahmyook, and Pacific Adventist universities, as well as at Avondale and Fulton colleges.

Annual Family Ministries Planbook
GCFM continues to provide--by popular demand--a major annual resource for ministry to families in the local church. This resource is sent each year to the divisions in manuscript form for their contextualization. The 2005 plan book will take its place in a library of 15 such resources specifically designed to support the pastor and church leaders in the celebration of Christian Home and Marriage Week and Family Togetherness Week in the world church calendar. Each plan book of 100+ pages is an idea bank for sermons and seminars on marriage, parenting, making the church child- and family-friendly, and relating to one another in love in the family of God.

Family Evangelism
GCFM partnered with the GC Ministerial Association to produce a first-of-its-kind resource for evangelists and family professionals that overlays an understanding of the family unit and how it functions onto the process of evangelism. Such an approach has the potential to greatly increase the likelihood that we will be able to bring Jesus to entire family circles, where we now baptize only one or two. The GCFM resource Family Evangelism: Bringing Jesus to the Family Circle was distributed to more than 15,000 pastors and church leaders worldwide during the 2004 Year of Evangelism.

Adventist Family Research
GCFM continues to foster ongoing research on the Adventist family. GCFM is currently collaborating with the South Pacific Division and the Inter-American Division on studies to identify family factors that correlate with lower incidence of risky behavior among youth--behaviors such as premarital sexual activity, cohabitation, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and other risky decisions that put their well-being at high risk.

GCFM is also pleased to partner with Loma Linda University in a research initiative to identify the best possible ways to perpetuate Christian family values. The world FM leadership team and the collaborating researchers dare to dream that such an initiative might culminate in the establishment of a university-based family research center that could provide strategic planning and oversight for research on the Adventist family worldwide. The stronger our research base on the Adventist family, the more the church will have to share with the world about the unique strengths of the Adventist family, and the better informed church leaders will be in its decision-making and strategic planning for ministry to families.

On a personal note, we love this work. The responsibility placed on our shoulders to direct this ministry at the world headquarters has shaped our personal lives and professional ministry now for 25 years. Indeed, it has become our passion. We thank you for the many warm gestures of support you continue to give to our ministry in this department, and to us personally. The friendships of our colleagues around the world and of those with whom we have had the privilege of sharing the good news of God's grace to families are our most treasured rewards. The miracles God has worked in and through us all, as we have linked arms around the world to bless families, stand as monuments to God's grace and wonder-working power.

As we think to the future, imagine with us an Adventist family portrait in which the smiles reflect the sheer joy we might create, on earth and in heaven, if in the support we give to ministry to families we acted fully on inspired insight that family is the basic building block of the church, that disciple making begins at home, and that loving Adventist families are the best sermons ever preached!



 
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