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Family to Family
Pipes, Jerry & Victor Lee. (1999). Family to family. Alpharetta: North American Mission Board,
The Christian-focused psychology text Family to family offers family counseling with a spiritual orientation. The book is designed to address the difficulties many modern families face, including competing schedules, generational clashes, and having a sense of strong moral values in a secular society. Spending time together in a spiritual fashion can give families an oasis of stability in a fast-paced, increasingly impersonal world (Pipes & Lee 1999: 11). Creating a sense of community within the church and creating a community between members of the family are the essential building-blocks of the author's stated goal to save the modern family.
Family members must learn to establish more meaningful relationships with one another and with God -- rather than just focusing on themselves or blaming others. The authors wrote their book to address a common concern of both secular as well as religious families, namely the loss of a sense of community and togetherness. Only 34% of America's families eat together everyday and only 12% pray together (Pipes & Lee 1999:6). These two figures, they believe, are interlinked: faith makes the family central, and the family must make faith central.
The book is divided into six sections. The first section, entitled Healthy Families asks what constitutes a healthy as opposed to a dysfunctional family. While many of the pursuits of healthy families, such as sports for children, extracurricular activities, and even demanding jobs can bring great benefits to the family, they must not become so all-consuming that relationships are lost and the true purpose of the family is forgotten. This is why section two of the book, Developing a Mission Statement is so critical. Every family can benefit from developing a 'mission statement' of purpose, according to the authors. The mission statement should be formulated using input by all family members, young and old. Creating a mission statement is a great way for a family to discuss Christ's mission, and to place the family's mission in the context of Christ's teaching (Pipes & Lee 1999: 32).
Each family's personal mission must be understood as a reflection of the general teachings of Christ. The children of the family must feel included in the formation of the statement, and this can be a critical juncture in making them to commit to a Christian lifestyle in their hearts, rather than simply because their parents tell them to do so. "A family mission statement will serve as a centerline and guardrails for your family on the road through life" (Pipes & Lee 199: 25).
One of the strengths of the book on this particular subject is that Pipes and Lee do not denigrate the importance of children's input into the mission statement. The authors do not endorse an entirely patriarchal system of running the family -- a Christian family can accept input from all members in shaping its ideals. What unifies the family is the shared responsibility of bringing all members to Christ. Sometimes that may fall into the hands of a child rather than a parent. The 'little child' may be the parent's reminder of his responsibility to values that are bigger than material ones.
The difficulty to strike a balance between work and family can be one of the greatest challenges of Christian parents. Many parents are overworked, and rationalize spending less time away from their families as a way of providing more things for their children. However, quality time is almost always more valuable for children than additional 'stuff.' Putting the focus on faith returns the focus of the family to a people-centered, rather than a thing-centered culture. Sometimes cutting back on work hours is necessary as well as cutting back on children's extracurricular activities. Saying 'yes' to Christ often means saying 'no' to requests to participate in more and more secular commitments.
Family time must still be enjoyable. Children should delight in the additional time they spend with their families, rather than see it as a burden or as something for which they have to sacrifice other activities. The interactive component is what keeps family time enjoyable. Also, specific family time meetings should not preclude family time from taking place in the car, during a game, or at dinner. Teachable moments can exist anywhere. However, the authors do believe setting aside quality family time is necessary, for the sense of togetherness this brings.
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