Set aside by a United Nations resolution in 1994 as International Day of Families, May 15 is celebrated globally as a day to celebrate family and draw attention to issues that affect the family unit.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that today’s families face many challenges. For the past 99 years (the department celebrates its 100th anniversary next year), the Family Ministries department of the World Church has focused on people in relationships and provided tools for couples, parents and children, single adults, and all members of the wider family circle as they pass through life’s predictable stages and confront unexpected changes in their lives.
Willie and Elaine Oliver, directors for the Family Ministries department, share what they’ve identified as common family trouble areas: a lack of meaningful time together, ineffective parenting skills, lack of sound relationship skills resulting in divorce and marital distress, embracing alternative sexual practices, consuming pornographic materials (both men and women) that distorts the healthy view of sexuality that was ordained by God to bond husband and wife together, and the easy access, for all ages, to social media with its significant moral dangers.
In their travels, the Olivers haven’t been surprised to find that families all over the world experience similar types of family challenges. “While it is true that the levels of dysfunction may be higher or lower—depending on resources available and circumstances—families all over the world are in need of developing skills to communicate better and to manage conflict in much safer and healthier ways,” Willie Oliver says.
The General Conference Family Ministries (GCFM) department offers a host of resources for families and leaders of Family Ministries in the 13 divisions or regions of the World Church and it’s attached unions. Every year they publish a plan book for pastors and ministry leaders that includes sermons, children’s stories, family seminars, leadership resources, articles, book reviews, and materials to implement in the local church. The plan book includes free downloadable presentations of the seminars and handouts found in the resource. The plan book is available in several languages.
In addition, to support the initiative Mission to the Families in the Cities, GCFM has developed Family-to-Family, a year-long curriculum with guides for the local church and for individual families to share Jesus with their neighbors, relatives, and friends, which can be downloaded free in English or Spanish.
For leaders of Family Ministries at the local church, conference, and union conference level, GCFM has developed a Leadership Certification Program, a 50-hour training program designed to bring the needed skill-set to family educators throughout the world field. It is available in several languages, and is administered by two levels of training by the time one has gone through the 10 modules of the program.
For the growth of every family member, GCFM sponsors Real Family Talk (RFT) with Willie and Elaine Oliver, a 30-minute TV program on Hope Channel that gives a place to talk about family dynamics and share tools to strengthen couples and families. The discussions are family friendly, biblically rooted and designed to spiritually enrich peoples’ lives.
The Olivers also write relationship columns in Adventist World Online (monthly) called Real Family Talk; and in every issue of Message Magazine called RelationshipRx, dealing with many important family issues and processes to help families develop skills in order to have stronger and healthier families.
And, while GCFM is very interested in nurturing the relationships of family members in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Olivers assert “that it is primarily an outreach ministry that seeks to employ family processes and dynamics as tools to help non-members develop healthier family relationships, as well as getting to know the God who invented families and who desires our well-being not only on earth, but as we prepare for an eternity with Him.”