Willie and Elaine Oliver are directors of Family Ministries for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters since June, 2010. This year marks the 100th anniversary of a specific focus of ministry to families by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Dr and Mrs Oliver talked about their passion for this ministry and the books they have written together.
What began your interest in specific ministry to families?
As I (Willie) began pastoral ministry in New York City, I realised that many of the issues in the Church were related to family and relationships. In addition to counselling people in their homes, I began to plan programs for the congregation that would enhance their relationships. The impact of healthy family relationships on the quality of church life has remained an interest of both of us, being a pastoral couple interested in team ministry. I (Elaine) also pursued graduate degrees in counselling, which has served us well in our work for the Church. As we reflect on our journey into Family Ministries, we can certainly see the hand of God preparing us and leading us down this path.
Why is it important for you to work together in this ministry?
While every person is different, men are inclined to view life from a male standpoint and women from a female viewpoint. Thus, the genius of having a husband-and-wife team leading Family Ministries for the Church. We believe that Family Ministries leadership at every level of the Church would be enhanced if led by a husband-and-wife team. While many of our families no longer look like a traditional mother, father, two kids, and a dog, having a husband-and-wife team in leadership represents God’s ideal for our families. We hope this model will inspire people to move toward this paradigm, which will provide a complimentary perspective that will be beneficial for all family types found in contemporary society and in our congregations as well.
Why is it valuable for the Church to be studying families in the current Sabbath school quarterly?
Families are the primary unit of every society. So, when we have strong families in the Church, we are more likely to have a strong Church. And when we say family, we are thinking beyond mere blood relations. Since this is the case, having the church family spend quality time studying the dynamics and processes that make for healthy relationships is of vital significance to the quality of life experienced by the members of the Church, as well as those we hope will become members of the family of God.
Why are families such extreme sources of pain or joy?
God created family to be the closest bond (see Genesis 2:23) on earth individuals could have and experience. Regrettably, with sin comes brokenness and brokenness creates hurt. Hence, what God created for our joy and contentment can becomes the locus of greatest pain, because of our brokenness. The closer we are to each other, the greater our capacity to hurt each other. And everything God created for our joy, Satan tries to destroy. Therefore, we must seek Jesus each day to give us the wherewithal to be all He wants us to be, so that our families might be true centres of discipleship to help those in need of a closer relationship with God.
Why are books a useful way to learn about the dynamics of relationships and families?
When it comes to learning, books provide pertinent information in a non-threatening environment. They give the reader the necessary time to process, argue and arrive at remarkable insights in the solitude of their thoughts. It also affords individuals the opportunity to employ skills and internalise values, on their own timetable, that can significantly alter the trajectory of their most important relationships without distraction. It is one of the reasons we recommend good books on relationships as a transformational tool for people interested in getting a bigger and better bite out of life.
Hope for Today’s Families and Real Family Talk by Willie and Elaine Oliver are available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand.