Family life ministry that works! (Part 2)

In the first article in this two-part series (MINISTRY, June, 1 984), Monte Sahlin indicated how to define the needs and do the kind of planning that careful development of a family life ministry requires. In this article he discusses how to communicate well with the target audience, points out the skills the program personnel need, and shows how family life programs may be made to contribute to the total church program.

Monte Sahlin, a pastor and formerly the chairman of the Pennsylvania Conference's Family Ministries Committee, writes from Worthington, Ohio.

You have presented a document describing the needs, the target audience, the program design and curriculum, the specific objectives of the project, and its working team, budget, and schedule to the church board. After the board has voted approval, you have introduced the working team during a Sabbath morning worship and in prayer set them aside to their new ministry. Now they must begin to communicate with the target audience.

The team has many mediums of communication from which to select—they must choose carefully which to use. The situation in a specific local community, the kind of people they are trying to reach, and financial considerations all come into play. In any case they will have to pay for some of the publicity. They cannot rely on free advertising to produce results, although they should use free publicity in community newspapers and public-service announcements on radio and television stations to supplement the major advertising items.

The available mediums for communication can' be divided into three major categories: relational media, which feature person-to-person contact; formal media, such as direct mail; and public media, such as the newspapers and broadcasting facilities. Both small towns and communities with low levels of education can best be reached through relational communication. Suburban areas, especially white-collar communities, are best contacted through formal means. And the public media most effectively penetrate the highly urbanized areas. The level of education, lifestyle, and residential area of the target audience will indicate what choices must be made in designing the advertising campaign for a family ministry.

Relational media are simply organized ways of using word of mouth. Of course, word-of-mouth advertising is always helpful and not very costly. One can initiate an informal advertising effort simply by, during Sabbath worship, carefully informing the congregation's active members about the upcoming program and urging them to tell their friends, neighbors, arid working associates. Better organized and more effective means include setting up telephone committees, going door-to-door to dis tribute information in housing developments with high concentrations of the target audience, and arranging to make in-person announcements at community meetings of various kinds (civic clubs, FTA, et cetera). Relational media will be much more effective if one reinforces them with a well-done brochure of some kind—a handout to back up the word-of-mouth communication. 1 Relational media cost little in terms of money but much in volunteer hours. Boards some times too easily decide to "save money" by relying on relational media while taking no responsibility for providing the many volunteer hours necessary to implement their decision.

Formal media are probably the most cost-effective forms of advertising avail able to local churches. Of these, mass mailings—the kind of mailing addressed to "Resident" and usually done by a professional mail advertising company—are more costly and less effective than other types of mailing. However, they can be useful in starting public ministries in a community where the church has not developed much contact over the years, or when the target audience is a group that has been unreached in the past. Since the response rate is usually about 1 percent, one must mail many thousands of pieces; and this can be very costly.

Direct mail differs from mass mailing in that it is sent to specific addressees by name. These names may be obtained from an advertising agency according to specification (they will match your target audience), or from lists of people the church has contacted in one way or another over the years. For example, It Is Written, Faith for Today, and the Voice of Prophecy can supply the names and addresses of people in specified zip-code areas who have requested booklets on the family over the past three or four years. If the interest coordinator in a local church has been systematically keeping a file of interested persons, this becomes a gold mine for advertising new outreaches, such as a family ministry. Steve Dunkin has developed an effective, simple manual of procedures for local churches who want to do their own direct-mail advertising at low cost. 2

Public media are the most expensive forms of communication and the most difficult to utilize. When a program committee decides to purchase ads in a newspaper or spots on a radio station, they should also seek professional counsel from someone other than the sales people at the publishing or broadcasting company; otherwise they risk wasting large sums of money. Public advertising is so highly complex that even professionals fail more often than they succeed, especially in the marketing of services or entertainment. And few advertising professionals understand the unique factors involved in marketing church-related events.

Where can local church members get good advice without spending money on consulting fees? First, try to set up an appointment with one of the best public relations firms in the area. These professionals often are willing to give one or two consultations at no charge for a volunteer, community service effort with a very small budget. Second, see if the United Way or a major local nonprofit institution has a professional public relations director. This individual would not charge a fee for some advice and is often extremely knowledgeable. Finally, perhaps the church can find and obtain the aid of an Adventist public relations professional. These people are often willing to assist local churches that want to do something creative in the public media.

Perhaps one of the greatest misunderstandings concerning advertising involves searching for "the best method." All communication experts agree that there is no one best method of advertising. Successful advertising always uses a mix of several media. When a local church is communicating with a target audience outside its congregation, it will need to put out a minimum of six different kinds of advertising. For example, the family-life committee at your church might choose to utilize: (1) word of mouth by the congregation; (2) a telephone commit tee to contact those the media ministries (Faith for Today, et cetera) indicate have requested booklets on the family; (3) door-to-door distribution of a printed flyer in several apartment complexes with high concentrations of the target audience; (4) a mailing to the names in the interest file; (5) a mailing to the pediatricians, PTA presidents, school principals, social-work agencies, pas tors, and family counselors in the area; and (6) posters in supermarkets and laundromats. Of course, the specific mix used in each local situation must be based on the nature of the target audience, the funds available, the volunteer manpower available, and local ways of doing things.

You have not completed the public relations task when the first public program has been held and a crowd has come out. You must utilize continuing, supportive advertising to keep those who have responded coming back. For instance, you might use a telephone committee to remind participants of each session in an ongoing class, or regular mailings encouraging those who responded to the initial advertising to keep coming and reminding them of the topics and benefits available at each session. Again, you must decide how you will do the continued advertising on the basis of the target audience and local conditions.

The most important dimension of public programs

You have a group of thirty-five enthusiastic people attending your Family Life Seminar each week. They regularly make appreciative comments during the question-and-answer period. You've been receiving phone calls from people who want to know if it is too late to join the class. In short, the new family ministry seems like a success. But is it? Not if close, personal relationships are not being built between the people attending and the ministry team.

Your family ministry may miss out on this most important dimension of its program even when the team includes outgoing, naturally friendly people who are enthusiastic and "bubbly." Exciting, entertaining public relationships and rewarding, meaningful personal relationships are two different things. In order to minister effectively to people, one must get beyond superficial, friendly contacts and hear their deep, inner concerns. Only at this intimate level can spiritual needs be identified and met. The relational skills necessary to reach people in this interior, spiritual sphere of their lives are the skills that give appropriate experiential reality to the intellectual content of a family ministry program.

If a family life program is going to be family ministry, then one or more individuals on the working team must have the depth listening skills to work with people at the level of their spiritual needs. Ideally the entire team should have this kind of training and awareness. The "Lab I in Parish Visitation Skills," developed by Dr. John Savage, is perhaps the best training experience currently available for the development of these skills. Many Seventh-day Adventists have been equipped to teach this forty-hour course, and Dr. Savage's office has a toll-free number from which the names of qualified Adventist trainers can be obtained (800-828-6556). Pas tors who want to enable their people to minister effectively but who cannot set up a "Lab I" can use one of the other curricula offering training in relational skills. 3

Creating pathways into church fellowship

Conducting family ministries simply as "bait" to lure people into church membership is manipulative and unChristlike. But it is equally irresponsible and sub-Christian to conduct family life education in such a way as to create barriers for participants who want to satisfy their spiritual needs by participating in the religious activities of the sponsoring church. The church should open clear pathways for those who wish to move from the family life event into closer fellowship with the congregation. Availability, accessibility, genuine caring, and an effective family outreach will lead to voluntary contacts by individuals and families interested in sampling the religious activities of the church.

Michael J. Coyner, a United Methodist researcher, has demonstrated that unchurched people decide to make a first visit to a church when motivated by such occurrences as a divorce, birth of a child, change of residence, marriage, or thirty-seven other similar "life events." 4 An effective family outreach touches many unchurched people who are experiencing these life events, and some of these people will think about visiting the church that has demonstrated its concern about their needs. If members of the outreach team are using depth listening skills, they will hear these spiritual needs being expressed and will be able to refer people to appropriate religious activities which the church offers.

Small Bible study and support groups afford one of the most effective pathways to church fellowship for unchurched people. Church development consultant Lyle Schaller says that in congregations of more than 350 members, almost all new members come into active fellow ship through small groups. 5 Any congregation that has a singles group, a parent-exchange group, a couples group, a women's group, and so forth, has potential to grow simply because it has "doors" through which new people can find entrance into its social fabric. Interested participants in a family out reach can be referred to these groups for further growth and spiritual nurture. 6

Some personalities do not feel comfortable in groups, preferring the same kind of ongoing fellowship and nurturing in the form of one-to-one contact. Every congregation has members who are gifted in maintaining these kinds of relationships. In order to effectively follow through, these members will need some orientation to the family outreach activities with which these individuals have been involved. Depth listening skills will, of course, enhance their ministry. Members of the family ministry team should set up these kinds of contacts through introductions and gentle steering.

A congregation can enhance the urge to visit their worship services on the part of unchurched participants in their family life programs by having periodic special events during Sabbath worship. One church held a "Rededication to Fathering," which thirty-two nonmember fathers attended. A Mother's Day event is a natural. Or a "Singles Weekend" might be cosponsored with Adventist Singles Ministries. The church could invite qualified guest speakers for the worship hour and then conduct a two- or three-hour seminar after lunch. By mailing an appropriate invitation to all previous participants in family outreaches, and putting a telephone committee to work, the church can ensure a significant number of visitors on special Sabbaths.

The same principle applies to public evangelistic meetings. If some sessions are devoted to family-related topics and the church invites family outreach participants, some unchurched people will attend. The skill of the evangelist in relating family needs to Bible doctrines will determine whether or not these people come back to hear more of the doctrinal presentations.

Unfortunately, churches can be very effective at screening out people they do not want as part of their fellowship. Unchurched people who visit church because of a family outreach are likely to be turned away on their first visit unless the congregation has made specific preparations to prevent this. Is your church "user friendly" to the target audience? For example, if your church is offering a parent education class to the public, do parents who visit find easily accessible child-care facilities? Does the congregation accept noisy, untrained preschoolers? If the church is conducting a singles ministry, do single adults who visit find a couple-oriented set of announcements in the bulletin? The church board needs carefully to think through what a target-audience person would find during a first visit to the church, and clear the "mine field" in advance.

The ministry of hospitality as exercised by the greeters, ushers, and other lay leaders helps determine whether or not first-time visitors come a second time. Other key considerations include these: Is the building accessible? Is ample parking available close to the entrance? Are the people warm and open? Does the style of worship fit the cognitive style of the visitor? (For example, will highly kinesthetic people find opportunity to shake hands during the worship service and interact with the pastor? Will highly visual people find visual aids used in worship?) Is there a comfortable visitors' class for the first-time attender at Sabbath school? Do parents find the kind of children's program they want in Sabbath school? Are people invited to dinner, either in a home or at the church? New people should not get a visit or telephone call until they have attended worship two or three times. Making contact sooner will usually be seen as being too aggressive, unless the person is a former Adventist or an Adventist who has recently moved into the area.

One of its basic contributions to the church's growth lies in what family ministries are doing for the families already in the church. Are they being sustained, strengthened, enriched, and nurtured by their church membership? People who come into contact with the church because of family crisis will leave the church if family crises are not being adequately dealt with in members' households. Every church will experience some family conflict and breakups, and churches that reach out to families in need may even experience a larger number than congregations that ignore family needs. The "bottom line" is not the divorce rate in a particular congregation as compared to others but the climate for healing.

Do the pastor's sermons speak to the needs of couples, parents, and singles? Do the Sabbath school and the Bible study program teach people how to apply Biblical principles to everyday problems and questions? Are there opportunities to discuss openly frustrations, concerns, and decisions in confidential, supportive groups? Will church friends stick with the potential member through crisis and misconduct, through pain and joy? Is the possibility of God's being present, loving, and meaningful in his life apparent because of the way He is shared, pictured, and spoken of by church friends? Is faith sustained through the struggles of life; does this "family of faith" help its people cope with life? These critical questions make the difference between a church that ministers to families and a church that does not.

Thousands of local churches of all denominations are discovering that a ministry to families means growth. Mil lions of "Sunday School dropouts" are now parents and beginning to think about spiritual things in a serious way for the first time in their lives. Millions of their generational cohorts have chosen a single lifestyle and are grappling with loneliness. Millions of others are facing the pain of divorce or worrying about how to make marriage a long-term commitment. Will your congregation reach out to these people, and make a spiritual home for them within its fellowship? Choosing to do it is important; choosing to do it right is crucial.

Reference Notes:


1 Two Seventh-day Adventist firms that can help you are Media, Inc. (402 Edwardia Dr., Greensboro, North Carolina 27409) and Nash Printing Company (670 Andrews Dr., Harleysville, Pennsylvania 19438).

2 Steve Dunkin, Church Advertising: A Practical Guide (Abingdon, Nashville, 1982).

3 H. Norman Wright, Training Christians to Counsel: A Resource and Training Manual (Christian Marriage Enrichment, Denver, 1977); Gary R. Collins, How to Be a People Helper (Vision House, Santa Ana, California, 1976); Paul Welter, How to Help a Friend (Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois, 1978); Charles A. VerStraten, How to Start  Lay-Shepherding Ministries (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1983).

4 Lab Manual for Lab I in Parish Visitation Skills, p. 65 (LEAD Consultants, Pittsford, New York); cf. Flavil Yeakley, "A Profile of the New Convert: Change in Life Situation" in Church Growth: America, November-December, 1980;
Win Am, The Pastor's Church Growth Handbook (Church Growth Press, Pasadena, California, 1979) pp. 142-144.

5 Lyle E. Schaller, Growing Plans (Abingdon, Nashville, 1983) pp. 94, 95.

6 For materials that have been developed for small groups that focus on family life topics, see Monte Sahlin, Clarence Schilt, Patricia Habada and Kevin Howse, Evenings for Families (Seventh-day Adventist Urban Ministry Resources Center, Box 287, Worthington, Ohio 43085).

Curriculum resources for family ministeries:

Now that you have read the article by Monte Sahlin, you will want to ensure that your own family life ministry program will be a success. Take the time to look through the list of resources and to order the ones most helpful to you.

Adventist Life Seminars, Route 1, Box 248, Crystal Springs, Mississippi 39059. Phone: (601) 892-5559. (Communicate with them about textbook, facilitator's guide, and advertising packet, which are apparently also available with each of their video seminars.)

Grief Recovery Seminar. A five-week (225-minute) video seminar by Larry Yeagley aimed at helping people who have experienced major loss by death or divorce. Purchase price: $179.50. 

Understanding Children. A weekend, or five-week (240-minute), video seminar by Dr. Kay Kuzma, Loma Linda University, discussing children's basic needs and emotions, successful methods of discipline, and how to build selfworth. Purchase price: $199.50.

Adventist Life Seminars also hopes to make available in 1984 video seminars on stress control and marriage. Curriculum Resources for Family Ministries (cont.)


American Guidance Services, Inc., Publishers' Building, Circle Pines, Minnesota 55014- Phone: (800) 328-2560; in Minnesota, call collect (612) 786-4343. This company offers low-cost sample packets of each of their programs. A catalog is available.

STEP—Systematic Training/or Effective Parenting. This group discussion program covers how to encourage children, be an effective listener, get them to assume responsibility, identify the goals of their misbehavior and redirect them toward positive ends, and discipline with natural and logical consequences. Complete kit: $89.50 (includes parent handbook, leader's manual, five audiocassettes, ten charts, nine posters, discussion-guide cards, publicity aids, and more); parents' handbooks: 1, $7.95; 2-4, $6.95; 5 or more, $5.50. This program is also available in Spanish (as PECES Padres Eficaces con Entrenamiento Sistematico).

STEP/Teen. A similar program to the one above, but aimed at junior- and senior-high-age youth. The materials offered and the prices are also comparable to those above.

TIME—Training in Marriage Enrichment. A ten-part marriage enrichment program using group discussion to help a couple achieve a more intimate, honest, cooperative relationship while experiencing greater joy and love. The materials offered and the prices are comparable to those of the STEP program above.

This company also offers the following programs: Responsive Parenting, based on the book Parent Awareness, by Saf Lerman; and Aging: A New Look.


Better Living Programs, 366 North Lind Ave., Fresno, California 93727. Phone: (209) 251-9790. The materials available were prepared for use in seminars conducted by the author, Nancy Van Pelt, and no directions are offered for those who conduct their own. But the author suggests that a person could put a seminar together with the aid of the cassette recordings of her seminars available through Better Living Programs. The textbooks and workbooks are generally available at Adventist Book Centers. (The author and her husband are available to conduct seminars for those who would prefer their services.)

The Compleat Marriage Seminar. Love, appreciation, acceptance, communication, understanding, roles, sexual fulfillment, and having fun with your mate. Textbooks: $6.00; workbooks: $5.00.

The Compleat Parent Workshop. Self-respect, communication, discipline, character and responsibility, parent-teen ager relationships, sibling rivalry, and sex education. Textbooks: $6.00; workbooks: $5.00.

The Compleat Courtship Seminar. For single adults who wish to relate to the other sex more effectively. Textbooks: $6.00; workbooks: $5.00.

The Fulfilled Womanhood Seminar. Designed for women (married or single) only. Self-acceptance, love, acceptance of husband, appreciation, understanding men, roles, and sexual fulfillment. (Uses portions of Compleat Marriage text and workbooks.)


Concerned Communications, Box 700 Arroyo Grande, California 93420. Phone: (805) 489-4848. Concerned Communications has designed their seminars as bridges to lead the participant from a physical or emotional felt need to an awareness of his need of a Saviour.

Eight Days to Resolving Stress. A newly prepared, carefully researched, professional and reliable stress-control seminar. Instructor's kit (includes 110 overhead transparencies, publicity material, pastor's guide, complete set of word-forword lectures, and one set of participant's materials): $147.50. Participant's materials: $6.95 per person.

Time and Priority Management: A ten-session program sharing principles and techniques of managing time and
making correct decisions. Instructor's kit (includes instructor's materials, one set of participant's materials, publicity material, and pastor's guide on seminar methods): $47.50.
Participant's materials: $6.95 per person.

This company also offers seminar materials for cooking schools, weight-control classes, study of Daniel and Revelation, and more.


David C. Cook Publishing Co., 850 North Grove Ave., Elgin, Illinois 60120. Phone: (312) 741-2400. A catalog is available.

How to Discipline and Build Self-esteem in Your Child. Presents models of obedience and adequacy, positive methods for child discipline, and building the child's self-esteem. Designed for thirteen weekly one-hour sessions, or seven weekly two-hour sessions. Kit containing teacher's guide, 16 duplicator masters for handouts, and 16 overhead transparencies: $19.95.

Home and Family Service, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 6840 Eastern Ave., NW., Washington, D.C. 20012. Phone: (202) 722-6357.

Children/Parenting, Adventist Life Series, Volume IV Seminar materials (ten sessions, two hours each) to strengthen the parent-child relationship. Such concepts as self-worth, family management, and correction are taught while skills in communication, problem-solving, and relationship building are developed. Instructor's materials (including one copy of participant's materials): $10.50. Participant's handbook: $3.75 each.

You Are Not Alone. A resource for family life ministry to singles and single parents. Includes three seminar formats with program outlines, camera-ready handouts, background material, cassettes, and twenty reprinted articles on such topics as self-concept, sexuality, intimacy, grief, forgiveness, and ministry to families of divorce. $25.00.

The Home and Family Service also is developing a marriage enrichment program and hopes to have it available late in 1984. Nonseminar type materials available through them include Marriage Education, a kit of materials for use by pastors/counselors preparing couples for marriage. Includes articles, exercises, cassettes, and testing materials, and may be used as a structured program or as resource material. $25.25. (Also available in Spanish as Education Para el Matrimonio.) Other group discussion or program materials on the family: What Is a Family? ($3.00 per packet); When God Says Remember -focuses on the tie between the Sabbath and the family ($4-50 per set); and Bible Families--parenting principles from Bible families ($4.25 per packet).


Life Video Gospel Association, P.O. Box 395, College Place, Washington 99324. Representative: Don M. Vories. Phone: (509) 522-0784. The materials listed here are videocassette programs (five 30-minute videocassettes per program) prepared and offered under the auspices of the Youth Ministries Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Making Choices About Relationships. JullietteM. VanPutten, a health education specialist, discusses dating. Especially targeted for ethnic youth.

Marriage Anyone? Features Betty and Delmer Holbrook, of the Home and Family Service.

Sexuality. Features Alberta Mazat, Loma Linda University.


Marriage and Family Commitment, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan 49104. Phone: (616) 471-3477.

Marriage Commitment: Curriculum Resources for Marriage Enrichment Seminars. Christ-centered, audience-ready, how-to manual for a preventive rather than a remedial approach. Contains 44 lecturettes, 97 group exercises, 121 masters for handouts, 60 masters for overhead transparencies, and planning and instructor's guides. Here is enough material for a weekend, six to twenty weekly sessions, or even a group that meets weekly all year. The suggested program combines experimental sharing, dyad dynamics, group dynamics, and dialogue, and it has been found to be readily acceptable in different cultures. Instructor's manual: $15.00; Participant's manual: 1-9, $2.75; 10 or more, $2.25 (Also available in Spanish.)


North American Division, Health Temperance Ministries. Order from: Central Departmental Services, 7112
Willow Ave., TakomaPark, Maryland20912. Phone: (202)

Handling Stress Creatively. Lecture notes, handout masters, and overhead transparency masters for a single-session (90-minute) workshop on stress management. Suggestions for four additional sessions. Booklet: $1.50.



The Parent Scene, Box 2222 Redlands, California 92373. Phone: (714) 792-2412. Dr. Kay Kuzma, of Loma Linda
University, developed these seminars. A catalog is available, as are cassette recordings of her conducting the

Filling Your Love Cup Seminar. Deals with love and discipline through caring, respect, acceptance, forgiveness, and trust. Textbook: $5.95; 110 visual masters: $29.95; both: $32.95.

Understanding Children Seminar. Their needs, individual characteristics, emotions, discipline, self-worth. Designed for ten weekly sessions. Textbook: $4.95; study guide: $2.95; 280 visual masters: $32.95; instructor's manual (includes written text, illustrations, and resource material available):
$24.95, (Discounts are available when various combinations
are ordered.)

Working Mothers Seminar. Discusses finding time, sharing child-care responsibilities, guilt, illness and fatigue, meeting personal and family needs. Textbook: $14.95; workbook: $7.95; 254 visual masters: $49.95; complete set (text, workbook, and visuals): $69.95.


Standard Publishing, 8121 Hamilton Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45231. Phone: (513) 931-4050.

Christian Ways to Date, Go Steady, and Break Up. Aimed at teenagers; designed for five weekly sessions. Textbook: $1.95; instructor's guide: $2.50.


Victor Books, SP Publications, Inc., 1825 College Ave,, Wheaton, Illinois 60187. A catalog is available. (The reader may be interested in the many other courses made available here, including some based on the fine books by Dr. Ross Campbell: How to Really Love Your Child, and How to Really Love Your Teenager.) Note that the leader's guides in all the courses listed here include masters for visual aids.

A Christian's Guide to Family Finances. Deals with money management, borrowing, credit, record keeping, insurance, et cetera. Textbook: $6.95; leader's guide: $3.95.

Conquering Family Stress. How to deal with the common crises of the family--from problems of early marriage to old age and death. Textbook: $4.50; leader's guide: $3.95.

One Is a Whole Number. How to deal with problems of the single lifestyle. Textbook: $4-50; leader's guide: $3.95.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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Monte Sahlin, a pastor and formerly the chairman of the Pennsylvania Conference's Family Ministries Committee, writes from Worthington, Ohio.

August 1984

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