Center to Strengthen Families through Church

Nov. 9, 1998

Families in Biblical times knew how to pass their faith from one generation to the next¡¡they relied on the oral tradition.

Today's families, however, despite sophisticated communication tools, have a more difficult time doing the same. Helping churches develop family ministries to address this need is one of the most critical issues that faces churches today, said Dr. Diana R. Garland, professor of social work and newly named director of Baylor's Center for Family and Community Ministries.

"People perceive that families have lost the sense of community they need," Dr. Garland said. "The mission of the Baylor center will be to strengthen families and their communities and to increase their capacity for nurturing faith, through the ministry of congregations." Sponsored jointly by George W. Truett Theological Seminary and the social work program in the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology and in partnership with Louisville Presbyterian Seminary's Center for Congregations and Family Ministries, the Baylor center will provide services, research, model development and continuing education opportunities for church leaders and church agencies involved in family and community ministries. The center will hire an associate director and a projects manager in the near future. It also will serve as the editorial office for the quarterly journal Family Ministry, a professional publication for congregations and church agencies that serve families.

Additionally, the Baylor center will sponsor an annual conference that explores various issues of family ministry. The inaugural conference, "Hand in Hand: Family, Church, Community," is scheduled for May 1999 and will focus on leadership for family and community ministries. In addition to presentations by five keynote speakers, the conference will feature 16 workshops on topics such as congregations as community centers, marriage enrichment, the spiritual development of children and elder care. Cost for the two¡day conference, which will be held on the Baylor campus, will be $120. It is for church leaders and the staff of denominational agencies who work with congregations and families.

Churches and denominational agencies appear ready and able to develop congregational resources for family ministry, but they need resources, continuing education opportunities and access to research to develop effective family ministries, Dr. Garland said.

"Academic institutions whose mission is to support education and research in a Christian context and to provide support for the ministry of congregations need to step forward to address this need themselves and to partner with denominational agencies," she said.

A grant of $450,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc., an Indianapolis¡based, private philanthropic foundation, will help support the center. The Lilly Endowment helps support the causes of religion, education and community development. It is the nation's wealthiest foundation with $12.7 billion in assets.

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