Enabling family ministry: An analysis of three Church of England congregations.

  • Gareth Crispin

Student thesis: Unknown


This thesis and thesis portfolio analyse factors that enable family ministry in three Church of England congregations. Literature suggests that working with youth and children (Y&C) in the context of the church family and the biological-legal home has beneficial effects on the faith retention of Y&C but there is a dearth of research around what might enable churches to work more closely and constructively with those two contexts. A review of the relevant literature reveals the way in which writers on Y&C ministry can be placed into two broad categories: those promoting a segmented ministry along age lines and those looking to integrate ministry to Y&C into the church and the home; this latter group can be sub-divided into those who focus on the church family and those who focus on the biological-legal family. Two articles follow, the first evaluates the sociological drivers to the segmenting approach, arguing that its roots lie deep in the emergence of modernity’s view of the self. The second article examines the way in which the doctrine of accommodation can be used as a resource for those wishing to integrate Y&C into the wider church. These articles provide general background to the research question and do suggest factors that might enable or work against family ministry, but they do not form an integral part of the thesis. Empirical data from the three congregations was gathered through a case study approach that placed significant emphasis on semi-structured interviews with a representative sample of people from each congregation; observations and documentation were used as supporting and validating methods. The focus of the methodology was to examine the ‘relationally positioned practices’ of the congregations and the causes and meaning of those practices with respect to the enabling of family ministry. Themes arising from the case studies were brought into conversation with literature to provide the theological reflection needed to draw conclusions around the way in which the themes arising enabled family ministry. This analysis suggests that theology associated with charismatic and open evangelicalism is likely to lend itself to a focus on the church as family rather than the biological-legal home as family, with theology underpinning conservative evangelicalism having the reverse focus. In addition to theology, the theology and person of the leader enables or disables family ministry. Leaders’ views of ministry are found to be a nuanced combination of theology, background experience, stage of life and personality. Without consideration of the impact of their background and stage of life, church leaders that have little experience of family ministry are unlikely to enable it in their churches. Additionally, those exhibiting the Myers-Briggs personality types of introversion, sensing, thinking and judging appear less likely to be comfortable with aspects specifically related to family ministry in the sense of intergenerational church (IG). Leaders whose personality and background do not suit IG can still foster IG via delegation to others better suited to the task. This thesis invites churches to consider enabling family ministry within the contexts and constraints of their own theological commitments and the leadership that they have, including the theology of the leaders but also their personality, background and stage of life.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSteven Emery-Wright (Supervisor)


  • Family Ministry
  • Intergenerational church

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