PASTORS agree that one of the greatest challenges in the pastoral ministry is to effect successful solutions to the problems involving marriage relationships and parent-child misunderstandings. In some large churches a major portion of the pastoral staff's time is spent counseling in these areas.
The complexity of today's society, with its permissiveness and lowering of morals, is tearing away at the foundations of far too many Adventist homes. Marriages are breaking up. Youth are disobedient to parents. Often there is a real generation gap. Unfortunately, this situation also exists between some church leaders and their youth constituency.
To counteract this dissolvement of familial relationships within Seventh-day Adventist homes, 1973 has been designated by Annual Council action as Youth/Family Life Year, a time when special emphasis is to be given to enriching our family life and saving our youth. Conferences will be sponsoring youth/family institutes, programs, and camps, but it will be largely up to the local pastors to see that Youth/Family Life Year receives yearlong attention.
Every pastor recognizes the need for excellence in the art of marriage counseling, yet how many times counseling seems in vain! In most cases only the power of God as manifest in complete conversion will bring a lasting solution.
A Great Experience
Recently a pastor told me of the miraculous working of the Spirit in his church in solving marital problems. This church seemed to have more than its share of unfaithful marriage partners and sticky family situations. Counseling seemed ineffective. But this pastor, a former overseas worker, remembered having seen devils cast out of possessed men and women, and became impressed that perhaps some devils needed to be cast out in his flock.
A revival week was scheduled, including an all-night prayer session. There followed repentance, confession, and restoration of many marriages that had either broken up or were in the process of being destroyed. A wonderful peace and tranquillity came to his church as the homes were stabilized and re established in the fear of the Lord. How many of our Adventist churches need such an experience! Why not pray for this to happen in your church during Youth/Family Life Year?
Some churches have organized prayer groups to pray for divided families and problem children. Others hold noontime prayer bands one day each week, when wives of the brothers-in-law of the church get together to pray for their mates. Husbands of nonbelieving wives could also plan such get-togethers to pray for the Holy Spirit's power in their wives' conversion.
One of our large churches follows the plan of occasionally having husbands and wives wash one another's feet during the ordinance of humility. This experience has brought a beautiful closeness to many young couples. In fair weather the foot-washing service is sometimes conducted in a nearby stream. After the service, prayer groups meet on the bank. An occasional change in the routine, format, or setting of the church ordinances may cause people to think more seriously.
What You Can Do
To assist the pastor in his plans for Youth/Family Life Year, each conference has appointed a Youth/Family Life Year committee to prepare materials and direct the over all program throughout 1973. The pastor should contact his conference for these materials and re quest resource personnel. To acquaint the readership of The Ministry with some of the plans and suggestions we list the following:
1. Secure a Youth/Family Life Year packet with materials and guidelines from your local conference office. These are free.
2. Plan a weekend Youth/Family Life forum or conference in your church. Every union has a list of resource personnel who will assist in presenting topics and directing discussion. Guidelines for these forums have been prepared by Dr. John Cannon and a group of marriage counselors.
The forums might begin on Friday evening with a film on mixed marriages followed by a panel discussion. At this first meeting invite questions to be turned in that will be considered at the Sabbath after noon meeting. During Sabbath school have each member of the forum team teach a Sabbath school class, this plan having been prearranged. To continue the spirit of togetherness the congregation should have Sabbath dinner together, after which another film can be shown perhaps one on the family altar. An open forum should follow, at which time written and oral questions would be welcomed and comments and observations solicited.
For the most effective results the congregation should then separate into small groups, giving special attention to specific areas of interest such as parents of preschool children, parents of elementary students, and people who wish to dis cuss marital enrichment.
3. Organize study groups or seminars to study God's plan for the Adventist home. Happiness Home made is a good textbook, and it can be used in conjunction with the study guides of the same name. This subject also makes a fine prayer meeting series, especially for young people contemplating marriage or young married couples.
4. Ask your various church departments Sabbath school, MV Society, lay activities, home and school, and so on, to encourage each Adventist family to maintain a family altar. If one parent is not an Adventist, let the Adventist parent do all within his power to keep up the family altar. Appeal to the children of such homes to stand by the believing parent.
One of the MV programs or group discussions could be on the subject of family worship. Children, youth, and parents could interchange ideas on making it more meaningful. The films Worship, a Family's Heritage and Faith of Our Families are two recommended films for beginning a discussion. (See January-February, 1973, issue of MV Kit for details on films.)
5. Encourage family soul-winning projects. An Adventist family could adopt a needy family, with each member making a contribution to the project. The sharing of toys, work, and ideas brings togetherness. MISSION '73 affords opportunities for family teamwork in literature distribution, friend ship-team visitation, and bringing people to meetings.
6. Schedule a family campout for the weekend. Plan a Friday night MV service around a campfire, with emphasis on youth/family life, then after the Sabbath services go on a nature treasure hunt. Organize recreation on Saturday night for family participation.
7. In inclement weather family days or weekends in a retreat center will bring rich dividends. Include time for study and discussion of youth/family life themes along with relaxation and recreation. Resource personnel may be invited to lead out in discussion periods. A special retreat could be planned for engaged couples or those considering marriage, where sentimentalism is laid aside and serious study of high and holy principles is enjoyed. Discussion can be triggered by films such as Should I Marry Outside My Faith? and Is Love Enough? (See January-February, 1973, issue of MV Kit for details on films.)
8. Plan a father-son or mother-daughter banquet prepared by teenagers, Pathfinders, or the youth Sabbath school class.
9. Plan a family field trip such as a mountain climb, photography expedition, sea-shell or rock hunt, or visit to areas of historical or natural interest.
10. Encourage families to take up hobbies. Many American families spend no more than fifteen minutes out of each day together, and this at mealtime. To encourage family hobbies, schedule a hobby fair at your school or gymnasium. Organizing a Master Guide Club among the adults will spark an interest in MV Honors and hobbies.
11. February 17 to 24, 1973, is Youth/Family Life Week. A sermon series prepared by Dr. John Cannon and Archa O. Dart entitled "The Family A Circle of Strength" is available in the Youth/Family Life Year packet or from your conference MV secretary. Work with your MV Society in making this a meaningful week of revival. What better prelude to MISSION '73?
12. Study with your church board on how to implement the 1971 Autumn Council action that calls for churches to elect young people to places of responsible leadership. Youth in their twenties and thirties should shoulder responsibility, and when they team up with experienced older men and women in shared leadership as local elders, deacons, deaconesses, Sabbath school officers, and the like, they are trained to become effective workers for the Lord.
13. Make 1973 a year of youth involvement, with youth evangelistic projects such as Voice of Youth evangelistic series, Voice of Junior Youth series in connection with MISSION '73 meetings, group study or work, fair exhibits, street witnessing, and a youth witnessing team with both musical and speaking talent. The establishment of a youth outreach center in an empty building or church annex will bring new life to your youth program. Another suggestion is the adoption of an overseas mission project by the youth of your church.
With careful planning and prayerful dedication, 1973 can be a great year for our youth and families. Could it not be the beginning of a new relationship, bringing into fulfillment the precious promise of Malachi 4:5, 6? God grant that it may be so.