FAMILY MINISTRY FIELD STUDY
By Sheneka Land
Jennifer Callahan is a busy mother of twenty-one-year-old twin daughters, Abby and Kelsey, who are full-time college students, and she is wife to their father Troy. She is an advanced director with The Pampered Chef company, while Troy serves as a customer service tech with a local telephone company. The Callahan family has been attending their current home church for ten years.
In our interview, Jennifer described her home church as being influential to her family in a number of ways. Jennifer credits the series-style sermons and teachings as having been most beneficial to her and her husband because of the spiritual accountability and protection this style of Christian instruction has provided. Within this environment, Jennifer says that she finds peace, joy, and comfort that would not exist in a secular community. She greatly appreciates the fact that the church leadership is committed to providing spiritual nurture not only through sermons but through small group Bible studies and fellowship meetings as well. In this way, members of the community commit to guard and protect each other.
The church governs most of its family programs through the work of volunteers. The entire Callahan family volunteers in various arms of ministry at their home church. While Troy volunteers to run computers in the worship arts department, Jennifer and the girls serve in the children’s ministries. Jennifer works at the sign-in desk in the children’s worship building and she loves the weekly interaction she has with the kids and their parents. Jennifer describes volunteer work as fulfilling because it gives her a sense of belonging and allows her to use her talents for God’s glory. Twins, Kelsey and Abby, appreciate the coordination that occurs before they ever arrive at church to volunteer. Each person is well-trained and informed of his or her specific responsibility weeks before beginning to serve.
Each family member described points of dis-equilibrium that occasionally become problematic for volunteers. For instance, present volunteers can become overcommitted while gifts and talents of others seeking to find a place to serve go unrecognized. Jennifer believes that a better plan to discover gifts and talents should be implemented by church leaders and then opportunities should be given to serve by personal one-on-one invitations. Jennifer believes this will generate a desire to volunteer in church ministry so that “the faithful few won’t be overworked and stressed.”
The family as a whole testified to the stress of overcrowded personal and family schedules as a result of a lack of volunteers within the church. Because of this lack, Jennifer speaks of times past in which she allowed a sense of guilt and obligation to overrule a sense of balance in regard to volunteer work.
Troy speaks of the financial burden that sometimes occurs if a family such as his own lives a distance from the church. During a time of unemployment, volunteer work became quite burdensome for his family due to lack of gas money. Preparation throughout the week required him and the girls to spend time at the church before Sunday worship. Troy also acknowledged a lack of quality family time because he spent evenings volunteering at church when he should have been home with his family instead.
Abby and Kelsey echo their mother’s concern that people are not serving because gifts and talents are going unnoticed. They believe that leadership becomes satisfied with “the faithful few” because they are getting the job done and the need to discover gifts and talents throughout the congregation goes unnoticed.
The noted bond among the family members warms the heart. Jennifer credits their family unity to the church community who has nurtured and strengthened their family through times of marital trials and parental stress. Though the girls are adult, they continue to worship with their parents as a family unit in the early service before volunteering in their various positions in the late service. Though Troy is busy running the computer, his wife and daughters sit close behind him in fold-up chairs. They share easy smiles with each other and their commitment to each other and the church community is clearly indisputable.
Outside the church setting, the Callahans are avid bikers and lovers of the outdoors. They are seen in an almost equal mix of acquaintances from within and outside the church community. While they are influenced by the church community, they do not allow their church relationships to dictate outside relationships and activities. The Callahans seem to have grasped how to allow the family to influence the church and to allow the church to influence the family. Family and church equilibrium is practiced.
The Callahans are the type of family who influences others for Christ’s sake because they are aware of the importance of balanced family ministry within and without the church walls.