Family Ministry

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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You know that Stephanas and his household were the first of the harvest of believers in Greece, and they are spending their lives in service to God’s people. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to submit to them and others like them who serve with such devotion.

1 Corinthians 16:15

In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul mentioned that he had baptized "the household of Stephanas" (1:16). In the closing section of the letter, Paul brings up this household once again, referring to "Stephanas and his household" as "the first of the harvest of believers in Greece" (16:15). The words translated as "household" (oikos in 1:16; oikia in 16:15) refer to all who lived in the home of Stephanas, including natural relatives, servants, and slaves.

Notice that the household of Stephanas did not sit back and revel in their status as some of the earliest converts in Greece. Rather, Paul notes that "they are spending their lives in service to God's people" (16:15). The word translated here as "service" is diakonia in Greek. In the New Testament, it is often translated as "ministry" (for example, 2 Cor. 6:3). Thus, in Stephanas and his household, we have a striking example of what we call the ministry of the laity. The converts understood, no doubt because Paul taught them, that all Christians are to share in the work of Christ. The household of Stephanas did this with particular commitment and zeal.

First Corinthians 16:15 paints a picture, not only of lay ministry, but of family ministry in a new way. Most churches I know think of family ministry in terms of how the church can serve families, helping them to be healthy and flourishing. This is a worthy effort, and I wish more churches cared for whole families and not just individuals from families. But the extended family of Stephanas exemplifies family ministry in which families are the ministers, not the primary recipients of ministry. Though we don't know the details, the language of 1 Corinthians 16:15 suggests that Stephanas and his household were involved together in "spending their lives in service to God's people."

As Senior Director of Laity Lodge, I work for Foundations for Laity Renewal. This organization comprises several ministries in addition to the Laity Lodge retreat center, including: Laity Lodge Youth Camp, the Foundation Free Camps, the Laity Leadership Institute, and One of our newest and most fruitful ministries is Laity Lodge Family Camp. Through this ministry, we seek to serve families and help them to be renewed, and to grow into relational and spiritual wholeness. We are moving forward with exciting plans to build a dedicated family camp in the Frio Canyon near Laity Lodge. Our goal is to be able to minister to families with greater hospitality and effectiveness. But we are also eager to help families be like the household of Stephanas as they become active in ministry together. In fact, next summer we are sponsoring a family-oriented mission trip to Haiti. We believe that as families serve together, they will grow in love for others, for God, and for each other. Shared family ministry to others can transform families in profound ways.

As we emphasize family ministry, and as we learn to see families as agents as well as recipients of ministry, we must always remember that the church is the family of God. All people, no matter whether they live with their families or not, are welcome as brothers and sisters in the family of faith. All are encouraged to receive ministry as well as to join with the people of God in serving him by serving others.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever shared in ministry with members of your own family? When? How did your shared ministry impact your relationships in your family? Are there ways you might be able, even today, to follow the example of the household of Stephanas?

PRAYER: Thank you, gracious Heavenly Father, for the example of the household of Stephanas. We know little about these people. But we do know that they invested their lives in ministry. They understood that all Christians are called into your ministry, and they served with devotion.

Help your church, Lord, to envision the potential for family ministry, where families are both the recipients and the agents. Help our families to be healthy and strong as we serve others for your sake.

As we see afresh the possibilities for families, help us not to neglect those who live apart from families. May your church always be an inclusive, loving family, a place for all sisters and brothers to grow, to love and be loved, and to join with others in ministry.

I pray in the name of Jesus, my Savior and my brother. Amen.