As more and more parents experience a revival in their parenting skills by implementing biblical teaching and living in their families, their views of ministry in the church are beginning to change as well.
Evangelical homeschooling parents are often a very determined group to develop a new approach to ministry in which the family worships together, learns together and ministers together to model kingdom living for their children. Some examples of the more family-integrated approach can be seen in some newer, smaller churches formed often by many homeschool families.
One such church is Teravista Fellowship Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas. Teravista began meeting in January 2003 as a church plant of Great Hills Baptist in Austin. Although the membership is mainly homeschool families, Pastor Clay Harris has a spiritual conviction not to become an enclave.
“Our burden is to evangelize the lost first. The second component is the area of discipleship, or equipping families to be effective in their family relationships,” said Harris. “So many people need to see families that work,” he said. The third stage of their maturity will be to plant more churches.
During the week, a women’s Bible Study and men’s discipleship group is offered. Outreach efforts include a prison ministry, a tutoring ministry in one of the local schools and Saturday morning visitation to homes in the community.
“On Saturdays we have about 32 people go out visiting,” said Harris. During June and July, members knocked on 1,200 doors, spoke with more than 500 people, shared the gospel more than 100 times, and saw about 14 professions of faith.
Teravista’s Saturday morning visitation is a weekly family event, and children as young as 3-years-old participate. Their job is to ring the doorbell and befriend the pets. Harris’ 3-year-old son Mitchell was instrumental in one of their visits. The team approached a house with a “no solicitation” sign on the door. They were about to pass it by, when Mitchell rang the doorbell. Before the visit was over, the woman inside prayed to receive Christ.
At this time, Teravista does not have a Sunday School, but they hope to begin one soon, according to church member Kelley Westenhover. “If we do we’ll probably have something for all the children together, or a family class.” Westenhover participated in a family class at a former church. Parents and school-aged children met together during the Sunday School hour for Bible study. After a time of singing together, the teacher taught everyone. “He would have the kids read the Scripture, and often he would have a drama that the kids could read,” she said.
Faith Community Baptist of Fort Worth also seeks to involve children in ministry with their parents to model committed faith. The membership of the four-year-old congregation is about 60 to 65 percent homeschool families and 30 percent public school families. Currently the church is comprised primarily of young families, but they have outlined a youth ministry philosophy they hope to implement in the future.
Jason Montgomery, pastor of Faith Community stated, “Youth ministry is a great thing, but it needs to be done well . . .and not necessarily be done by taking youth away from their families. The youth minister in a lot of churches becomes a surrogate parent, and that is a shame. He ought to be there to help and encourage the family.
“We want to do some projects where boys can get together with their dads and go work on somebody’s house. Why do you have to take a 13-year-old boy away from his dad to go do ministry? Why not get him to go do ministry with his dad? And if his dad’s not doing what he needs to be doing, then this might encourage his dad. If dad is doing what he needs to be doing, why does the youth minister need to be a model for the boy?”
Wesley Black, professor of youth and student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes that Southern Baptists have developed one of the strongest youth ministry models in the world. However, he stated, “One area that today’s youth ministries need to work on is the area of family ministry. We have neglected the emphasis on parents in the lives of their teenagers. We have assumed that parents are strong Christians and can guide their teens at home. But that is not the case today.”