Tending the Flock: Congregations and Family Ministry

Lyon, K. Brynolf, and Archie Smith, Jr., eds. Tending the Flock: Congregations and Family Ministry. The Family, Religion, and Culture Series. Don S. Browning and Ian S. Evison, eds. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.

In Tending the Flock, K. Brynolf Lyon and Archie Smith, Jr. assemble nine case studies or “compelling pictures” of specific American religious congregations struggling to “understand and enact the meaning of faith” in response to the challenges which society’s most complex issues—such as individualism vs. community, sexual preference, urban problems, and cultural diversity, among others—present to today’s family situations. Two questions—one descriptive and the other reflective—guide the direction of the essays: What is the congregation’s “family theology?”, and How might this theology be evaluated in terms of adequacy and appropriateness as it relates to families? Mainline, evangelical, conservative, liberal, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and African-American congregations are all represented. The editors interpret the essays to reveal four broad “markers” which characterize these congregations’ family ministries: (1) the congregations assist families as families to locate themselves within the larger moral and religious community; (2) they provide resources for sustaining intimate relationships and for restoring the self when the relationships fail; (3) they offer services for the socialization of children and adolescents; and (4) they help families mediate between contemporary life and their historic faith traditions.