The changing face of family life dramatically affects each of our churches. Fewer and fewer of those within our congregations fit the “traditional” picture: mom, dad and kids living together. Increasing numbers of persons who are divorced, single, elderly, widowed, members of “blended” or step families, “latchkey” children of two- income households, and those impacted by drug or alcohol abuse have brought a new dynamic to the American family–and new challenges for ministry.Positioned as they are at the very forefront of outreach to families and their individual members, local churches and the denominational resources that support them are responding as Christ responded: meeting people where they are.
Many congregations have met the changing needs of their congregants and others in their community through specialized ministries. Singles groups, sex education programs, family and divorce counseling, and youth ministries that deal honestly with issues of contemporary society are among the ways we try to give guidance and biblical perspective for Christian living. In addition, increasing numbers of local church day care centers and other church-based programs supported by American Baptist regions and national boards have responded to family needs.
Resources identified by American Baptists are available to assist families in their efforts to live Christian lives in times of change. The denomination’s Commission on Human Sexuality Resources has worked diligently, carefully and prayerfully to provide churches with important information which they can use to address a critical area of concern within society.
No matter how the dynamics of the American and the international family change, children and youth will remain at the core of church ministries. One of the challenges local churches face is the preparation of children and youth for lifelong lay or professional Christian service. A motivating Christian education program is essential for any American Baptist church. To that end, American Baptist-oriented curriculum lifts up for persons in all age groups the vital tenets of biblical faith and the American Baptist heritage.
Youth groups are supported by regional and national resources. National and regional youth gatherings, which have brought together thousands of young people at a time to share fellowship and to mature in Christian understanding, have been cited by many as important moments in their Christian lives. Regions and national organizations have utilized the Youth Leader Core as a strategy for helping young people identify their gifts and deepen their faith so they can effectively become Christ’s servants.
More than 60 regional American Baptist camps across the United States have provided individuals and families with locales and experiences for Christian growth. Countless lay and clergy leaders can point to a Christian camping experience as a time when life-changing decisions or commitments were made. A major resource for American Baptists throughout the country and, indeed, the world, the American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake, Wis., has served families for more than a half century as a gathering place for fellowship, training and inspiration.
AB GIRLS, sponsored by American Baptist Women’s Ministries, offers support and direction to American Baptist girls and young women during their years of formative spiritual growth. Christian centers and Neighborhood Action programs also provide essential opportunities for teen recreation and counseling.