Impacting Christians and non-Christians
2000. “We exist so that God, working in and through us, will use us, to help people know, apply, experience, embrace and proclaim God’s truth on marriage and family. The result is godly families reaching others with God’s truth”, explains Andy Bray, Director of FamilyLife (in New Zealand), a ministry that encourages a variety of couples at various stages in life in their marriages and roles as mothers and fathers.
FamilyLife is an evangelical ministry determined to present the gospel simply, clearly, and boldly, yet in a way that is non-threatening, says Mr Bray. “While many Christians are inspired by the [Family Life] weekend conferences and motivated to have a marriage better than they had ever dreamed of many non-Christians attend our conferences too and enjoy hearing the truth of God’s word. It seems that the balance of God’s word with humorous real-life stories, told in a winsome and tangible way combines to make a tremendous impact on all who attend.”
This year FamilyLife weekend conferences will be held across the country at various locations. The first New Zealand conference in 1990 was held at Arjay House with “six discerning couples”. It was so endorsed that another was held within six months, says Mr Bray. From there a larger conference was organised and in 1992 forty couples attended the “superb” Waipuna Hotel. Almost sixty conferences occurred since then for more than 6800 people all around the country in eleven regions. Now there is a FamilyLife Conference somewhere in New Zealand every month, except over the summer break, Mr Bray enthuses.
The conference is presented as a set of building blocks, beginning with Threats to Oneness, then presenting God’s Plan and Purpose for Marriage, before entering the areas of Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Intimacy.
“On Sunday morning, the men are presented a powerful sermon on what it is to be a godly husband and a dad, while the women get a similar message aimed at them as the wife and mum.”
FamilyLife does not only exist for weekend conferences. While the FamilyLife conference is their flagship they offer other resources. The HomeBuilders Couples Series is a small group study series based around marriage and family and there are ten different studies for couples; Family Life has a comprehensive Resource Centre offering quality, practical advice and direction in books and audio tapes; Real FamilyLife Magazine is a bi-monthly periodical for supporters of FamilyLife packed full of practical advice and personal anecdotes from people who have been there, sharing tips on building a great marriage and family; and, among other resources, there are Relationship Seminars, based on biblical principles, for the community that offer one-day seminars to the local churches, schools, kindergartens, sports groups or corporates.
FamilyLife originated in 1976 in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. FamilyLife began as an internal ministry to the unmarried staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, to better equip them as a married couple in full-time ministry. A short while later, it was launched to the public with “phenomenal success and impact”. Over the last twenty years, FamilyLife have had a presence in more than seventy-two countries around the world, the largest and most effective ministry being in New Zealand.
Director Andy Bray initially volunteered his services to FamilyLife to produce brochures and help with marketing the weekend. After a year as a volunteer, he felt God calling him to join FamilyLife in full-time ministry and he and his wife. Nikki underwent the compulsory Campus Crusade for Christ nine-month Great Commission training and joined the team. They left behind their careers and a $100,000 income to eventually become the National Directors.
Mr Bray is emphatic that Family Life conferences in New Zealand can change someone’s marriage. He says, each of the full-time staff couples and over 250 volunteers could testify how the FamilyLife conferences impacted them, and they are “constantly blessed” with encouraging letters.
By Peter Veugelaers.
Published 2000, Challenge Weekly