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Sarel Jacobus Schoeman

Submitted for the fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Doctor Philosophiae in the Department of

Practical Theology, University of the Free State.

(Promotor: Professor W.J. Schoeman)

October 2017

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No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

- John Donne

For the opportunity of enabling me to invest so much time and energy into this

project, I dedicate the outcome of my endeavours to each person who assisted and

supported me in the process:

Prof. Kobus Schoeman (not related) for promoting me through the intricacies of

academe and for enhancing the scholar in me.

Three congregations that opened their doors, exposing their vulnerabilities, so

that I could work with them on ministry to families.

John Howell, trusted friend and cheer-leader, for hours of recording interviews.

Andre Schoeman for many hours of proofing and enhancing my use of English.

Beatie, my wife, for her encouragement and unwavering belief that I would be

able to pull this off,

My parents, Pieter & Sarie Schoeman, for granting me a real working model of a

partnership between home and congregation to form lived faith.

The DRC congregation of Constantiakruin, granting me support, opportunity and

encouragement to develop in this particular field of study.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, for calling me to the ministry to families.

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Chapter 5: Stepping on Toes


The pastor comments: “It is still a big deal for parents that their children be

confirmed. But they only want the shortest route.” (3:04)

In terms of our interviews it was evident that the culture in this faith community

is such that Sunday mornings are reserved for church attendance. Sunday

afternoons are utilized by people for open-air enjoyment including driving

somewhere, visiting folks and preparing for the week. Thus, if you have children,

you need to reserve two hours for church attendance on a Sunday. If you are a child,

you are expected to sit through an hour during the main service where your

concentration ability was challenged to the utmost, followed by another hour of

Sunday school. One of the parental mothers aired her views as follows: “But I would

like to add Sunday school here. They do get good information there, but we need to

make it more exciting. Sometimes they complain that it is too long on a Sunday

morning, but if it is interesting, it wouldn’t feel as long.” (2:027) Many children

sitting through two long classes, back-to-back, regard this as being just too long, and

they therefore gradually lose interest.

To make things even worse, is that parents perceive this waiting for their children

at church for an additional hour, as a waste of time. We sense that particular

sentiment in the following quote: “And Sunday school. I want them to teach my

children well. We used to have tests and did Bible quizzes, but it isn’t like that

anymore. They talk a bit and then go home and they don’t learn stuff. We had like a

book and we had to go do some homework in it. So, I feel a bit let down by Sunday

school as it is now.” (1: 053) When parents perceive this commitment yielding no

tangible results, they will certainly give up on it.

Frustration is caused by the perception that the importance of Sunday school

during the formative years of a child, is not widely propagated or understood by the

congregation. The pastor verbalizes his observation by stating: “The kids came very

willy -nilly to Sunday school: if you want to come, fine, if you don’t want to come,

fine”. (3:16) Offered such option, the children would rather skip another hour of

schooling. Thus the blame is justifiably placed at the feet of the parents. The pastor

furthermore states: “So, for a lot of them, it’s only a show, and now they and their

parents are on the books, and when we look at our statistics we see a lot of them

who are not involved in anything.” (3:04)

Although the parents are pinpointed as instrumental in their children skipping

Sunday school, it appears that the congregation also has some measure of blame to

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Chapter 5: Stepping on Toes


bear. No serious thought or consideration or critical evaluation were given to the

study materials used at Sunday school. This situation has prevailed for a number of

years until the pastor investigated the status quo and found: “We have had some

Sunday school materials that was very funky and all that, but the content was poor.

And this lead to a situation where the grade 8 group of this year cannot even pray

the Our Father prayer from memory. They just don’t know their Bible.” (3:45)

The comments of the parents, suggest that they sense their toes have been stepped

on. They approached the dance floor and they gave the first gallant steps.

Unfortunately, a very clumsy partner frustrated their attempt for faith formation in

their children’s lives via Sunday school. One parent had this to say: “I want there to

be better structure. There must be structures that assist me in teaching the right

stuff to my kids. I grew up with Sunday school outings, and had to memorize

scripture. The structure of Sunday school is gone. There is no structure to assist in

the formation of the faith of the children.” (1:025)

“The thing I miss,” says yet another parent, “is, when I was young we used to have

Sunday school handbooks, and you had some homework to do, on Monday,

Tuesday, and so. You had to fill in stuff, write out a verse and it was good to do that.

But our children don’t have any of that. I think at one time we had no Sunday school

books, so you came to church, but you had nothing to work on in the week.” (2:063)

Here then appears to be the irony: We have very willing dance partners available.

The congregation yearns for a dynamic Sunday school structure culminating in a

vibrant confirm ation class. The parents are wishing for a structured, well thought-

out curriculum for Sunday school teaching in order to enhance the growth of faith

in their offspring, but presently very litt le joy is forthcoming from this part of the


5.2.5 Pillar no 3. Youth events.

When a congregation works in terms of a communal ecclesiology, such as

congregation A does, the task, programme, or ministry becomes a means to a

greater end. In their relationships, members of the congregation experience the love

of God revealed, experience aspects of the faith which is to be modelled, and

appropriate sanctification discussions within their community to build their faith is

evidenced. Harper and Metzger state: “We must give foundational consideration to

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c. From the interviews it was obvious that the members of congregation C are

struggling with the realities of city-life: time constraints, working long

hours and having precious little time at home. As most of the members did

not grow up in Christian homes, they need the guidance of the congregation

how to develop good faith habits and practices. The congregation needs to

teach parents how to do devotions at home, how to have meals around a

table, how to develop rhythms of faith in the home. Communicate the

expectations that the congregation has of its parents on a regular basis

during the sermons. Often remind the families to spend time together / have

meals together / look at your conduct / commit to spiritual practices,

because vision leaks, people get busy and forget. The congregation needs to

help parents form these habits.

d. A budding strategy for families, that may be a blessing to many, is the

concept of forming home cell groups with families. This strengthens the

message of this congregation that “we are all one big family.” When

members develop the habit of regularly meeting at each other’s homes, they

become extended family to each other. They create a support system within

the congregation. Their needs are met on different levels: they don’t feel so

isolated anymore, they develop trust, they can discuss the issues of

parenting, they can share resources, and they can even do some studies on

parenting in their meetings.

e. Take hands with the Afrikaans congregation on various levels. One asset

that this congregation can utilize more is the partnership with the Afrikaans

congregation. This may help on different levels, but let me highlight two: A.

Ministry to teenagers. As the English congregation has few teenagers, you

cannot effectively build a ministry to teens yet. This is already in place in

the Afrikaans church, so use it. In order for this to happen, a meeting must

be set up so that the youth worker can go visit with the teens from the

English congregation, get to know them and welcome them into whatever

activities they are doing. B. The Afrikaans congregation has some family

activities planned on their calendar. Communicate these to the families in

the English congregation and motivate them to be part of those events.

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f. Equipping the parents. The congregation needs to create events from time

to time that will assist the parents in their role (maybe twice a year).

Examples of such events may be to get known speakers like Hettie Brits,

Vibrant Faith, Cassie Caarstens, and Deon Kitching. Take time to listen to the

needs of parents. Parents may even be invited to write down their needs

anonymously beforehand so that the speaker may prepare to answer their

issues. Parents must walk away from such an event feeling: my

congregation really helps me with my God-given task as being parent.

5. Conclusion

One parent in the study said: “If I could turn back the clock, and my child was one

year old again, I would go in search of a congregation that will help me to live out

my baptismal vows.” Parents eagerly desire to have a partner who will assist them

in this great endeavour in life.

I do believe that these guidelines I shared in this document will assist the

congregation in forming an agenda that will realize the dream of family ministry

and faith formation at home. During the research I was struck by the teachable spirit

of your leaders and members, this is key to handling the challenges that may come

as a result. May our Lord bless you with the task at hand.

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