A few weeks back I reviewed Gospel-Centred Church, a workbook by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. I found it very helpful and I'm using it with some guys at Doxa Fellowship. I have two more reviews of similar resources on the way. In the next week or so I hope to review Gospel-Centred Life by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Today it's Gospel-Centred Family by Ed Moll and Tim Chester. All of these books came to me for review from the good folks at The Good Book Company. FYI, I review and promote resources that I like and don't just give everyone a shout-out. If I don't like stuff I won't review it.
Onto my review of Gospel-Centred Family (GCF). The book, running just over 90 pages, is broken up into twelve lessons/chapters in four main sections.
- Part 1: A Gospel-Centred Family
- Part 2: A Grace-Centred Family
- Part 3: A Word-Centred Family
- Part 4: A Mission-Centred Family
Like Gospel-Centred Church, each lesson is roughly 5-6 pages long and moves through six segments. The first is a principle--the core of the lesson. A scenario is introduced to raise a dilemma in gospel ministry. Then we consider Scripture (only a reference given so you can use your own Bible) with questions, a section discussing the theology and application of the principle, discussion questions, and actionable items are finally suggested (see the lesson titles).
I enjoyed the workbook a lot and think it will be helpful for the church. Let me start with a few weaknesses in GCF.
I would have liked if the book dealt early on with God's created purpose for the family. Why do we have families in the first place? Why are we to "be fruitful and multiply"? In some ways this workbook drops in on parents in the middle of where they are and works out of it rather than laying a foundation in the biblical story and then building on it. That's still good, but one chapter on creation foundations would have been nice.
I occasionally disagreed with something, though nothing of great significance. One practical recommendation in GCF is to teach kids obedience by counting to five. The goal is to make it "clear that our children had to obey now" by teaching them to obey by the time we get to "five." But counting to five teaches your kids that they don't have to obey until you are almost done counting. Why not teach them to obey now by teaching them to obey now? Most of the advice is excellent and this one isn't a deal-breaker. But I still think it's odd advice.
Now for the strengths, and there are many more than I will list. I really like this workbook. GCF deals with several crucial issues of parenting with a bunch of helpful, practical advice. I particularly liked the "Grace for a Child's Heart" chapter. We can easily train our children to be legalists if we aren't careful by comparing them to other children, holding grudges against them, humiliating them in public, bribing them to obey, etc. The authors stay cross-focused...
Above all, bring your children to the cross. Teach them about the cross Extol the cross. Thank God with them for the cross. Sing about the cross.
The next chapter is about seeing children as a gift. This is so important right now in our culture. I know few people who truly act like children are a gift from the Lord we enjoy more than a burden to bear. College can't come soon enough for these folks! Sad. And GCF is helpful. Simple changes will change everything: time, conversation, meals, creating things together, games, etc. My favorite is the advice to tell stories. I have so many stories and songs in my head from grandparents and parents. My generation of parents isn't as good at telling stories. Good advice.
One piece of advice I've just done poorly for too long is to "include the people from the church family in your family time." We used to do that, especially when working with college students. Too infrequently now. Family isn't just about what we do together for ourselves, but on mission to others. How can we be hospitable together? Support single-parents together? Model good family life together? And then GCF encourages us to lead our children to be servants, givers. Simple & concise, yet continually helpful advice throughout this workbook.
I like what the authors said early on in the book, which expresses what we should want for our families...
We're not calling our children to a life of obligation and hardship that they must tough out. We're calling them to treasure! We're calling them to treasure Christ.
Let's do it.
I can see Doxa parents working through GCF together or on their own. I can see how hitting one chapter here and there in small groups might be helpful.
GCF sells for $9.99 with discounts in bulk. I highly encourage you to use it with families in your church.