The Family Business: A Broader View
When you think of family, who do you picture? For many, “family” is comprised of the people who live in their home: the nuclear family. Many of us think of a family as a small, safe unit where we convey our values as we prepare our children and launch them into successful lives. But as we contemplate why God created family, we see that through Adam and Eve, through Noah and his family, and through Abraham and his family, God took a broader view than many of us tend to. God used family to advance His plan.
Family in the Old Testament
In Genesis 1:26-28, God gave Adam a mandate: be fruitful and multiply and fill and subdue the earth. In this mandate, God established the idea that family is central to “filling” the earth and that mission is glorifying God through His created order.
Throughout the Old Testament, God used families to build and strengthen His chosen nation. Consider Abraham’s family: Abraham could not fulfill the covenant apart from his family! Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. From these 12 sons, Levi’s family was used for generations to spiritually lead God’s people. King David’s family was used for generations to politically lead God’s people.
One family story we especially like is that of the Rechabites in Jeremiah 35. Jeremiah used this family’s story of commitment to challenge the Israelites to be faithful to God. Rechab’s son, Jonadab, defined how his family would live, using simple instructions designed to remind them that they were temporary residents of Israel. Scripture tells us that for 240 years they lived simply– in Israel, but separate and distinct from it. Jeremiah used this family’s example to call the people of Israel to repentance.
Family in the New Testament
In the New Testament, God chose to reveal Himself primarily through the Church: He gave the Great Commandments to His followers, and He gave the Great Commission to His church. The New Testament holds many examples of God continuing to use families to build and strengthen His church. There was the Zebedee family, including James, John, and their mother. There was Jesus’s own family: Jesus, James, Jude, and Mary. There was Timothy’s family, including Timothy, Eunice, and Lois. The Philippian jailer led his whole family to follow Christ. Husband and wife Aquila and Pricilla worked with Paul in Corinth, plus we read about the work of cousins Barnabas and John Mark.
Biblically, the family played a significant role in advancing God’s plan. We can reasonably assert that the same holds true today. After all, God has not changed: He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God’s mission has not changed: He is working to glorify His name through the advancement of His kingdom.
So what does this mean for families today? Just like Old and New Testament families did, our families can glorify God and advance His Kingdom. For owners of family businesses, this idea takes on a unique significance. Through our work at Ronald Blue Trust, we have the privilege of working with some amazing multi-generational families around the country as they steward the companies they have been entrusted with. We are currently working with a fourth-generation family business that is trying to pass the company down to the fifth generation. In 2023, this family will have been leading this company for 100 years! This is just one of the many examples of the amazing legacy we get to see families work together to achieve across generations.
As we work with these families, we have spent much time reflecting on what the Bible says about God’s greater purpose for family and how business owners can practically apply these principles.
Principle 1: Take a broad view of the business
God used families to serve and strengthen the church in the New Testament. Similarly, business owners can consider how the family business has the power to further God’s kingdom by serving others. Family businesses are uniquely positioned to act as extensions and expressions of the family. Many business owners want to express generosity, and a business often has the financial and relational capital to bless others. If a business owner takes a stewardship approach to running the family business, that can be a way of furthering God’s mission.
Principle 2: Take a broad view of the family
In our work with family businesses, we’ve observed a tendency for family members who are not active in the business to feel less of a sense of stewardship than those who are active in the business. We encourage all members of the families we work with to be involved in the business. There are many ways of supporting the mission of the businesses, whether a family member is on the payroll or not. One of the most powerful ways we’ve seen is through prayer. Any family member can pray for the company to have a Kingdom impact. Encouraging active members is another way to support the mission of the business, as is serving with the company in the community.
One thing we encourage clients to do is to break free from the “in the business” versus “not in the business” mentality: Every member of the family can play an instrumental role in the impact the company makes.
God’s word provides a historical record of the role families have played in carrying out His mission. Family businesses that take a broad view of both the business’s potential (by recognizing and embracing their position) and the family’s involvement (by engaging members both involved and not involved in the business) are uniquely positioned to further God’s kingdom.
Would you like personalized guidance as you think through the power your family has to bless others? Ronald Blue Trust’s Business Consulting division leverages biblical wisdom and practical expertise to advise business owners as they seek to faithfully steward the companies with which they have been entrusted. To learn more, visit our website.