Member Spotlight: Rob and Amy Rienow, Visionary Family Ministries
By Greg Feulner · Jan 20, 2023
Rob and Amy Rienow started Visionary Family Ministries (VFM) in 2011 because they were passionate about training families and equipping the Church.
Based on Biblical foundations, VFM wants to rebuild and strengthen strong and vibrant relationships between families and the Church.
It’s the parents
Scripture is clear. The primary people responsible for a child’s spiritual formation are parents and grandparents. When parents carry out this responsibility, both family and Church thrive. VFM was formed from such a conviction.
“The ministry came out of a chapter of brokenness and repentance in my life personally,” Rob says.
In summer 2004, Rob had reached a crisis. He and Amy had been married for 10 years at that point and had four children. Rob was a youth pastor.
“And as a youth pastor, the number one mission of my life was passing my faith to other people’s children,” Rob says. “So, I’m praying with other people’s kids. I’m reading the Bible with other people’s kids. I’m taking other people’s kids on retreats and mission trips, and it was a special season of our ministry life. But the problem was I was praying with other people’s kids and reading the Bible with other people’s kids, but not with mine. I was helping other families spiritually, and I was neglecting my own.”
The Lord turned Rob’s heart to the ministry responsibility he had in his own home in the spirit of Malachi 4:6 and Luke 1:16-17, to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”
“The Lord convicted me that I was putting my spiritual opportunities in front of my spiritual responsibilities at home,” Rob says. “So ever since then, we’ve been on this journey of what does it really mean to live for Christ first in our home?”
First, the home
“Our mission is to build the Church through a global reformation of family discipleship,” Rob says. “Our conviction is that God created two institutions to build His Kingdom and advance the Gospel: the Church and the home.”
These institutions are like two pedals on a bike. In modern Christianity in the West “we took our foot off of the family pedal and we began to peddle the Gospel—if you will—with only the church pedal.”
“And we’re pedaling with that pedal harder and faster, but we’re losing ground because we’re not really following the New Testament methodology of Gospel advance, which is a partnership between the church and the home.”
The aim of VFM is to help families live for Christ in their own homes, to pass on the faith through their children and their children’s children, and to equip churches to equip families.
“The task of the church leaders is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). And we believe that being a spouse, a sibling, a parent is a ministry. In fact, it’s the hardest ministry you’ve got, being a Christian in your family,” Rob says. “And so, if that is actually our first ministry, then the local church—by necessity—has to have an intentional plan to equip people for this ministry of being in family relationships.”
Many parents are completely delegating to the church their God-given responsibility to train their children in spiritual things.
“Maybe they have their kids in a Christian school. Maybe they drop them off at a Sunday school or youth group,” Rob says, “but they haven’t caught this vision to be the primary spiritual trainers of their own children in the home and that this ministry is their great calling from God. It begins with the souls of their children.”
There is help
Through video Bible studies, books, family devotions, conferences, and retreats, VFM offers a wealth of resources for parents who want to do better in the family ministry to which God has called them. VFM also offers help with reaching adult children, healing fractured relationships, functioning as a Christian single parent, and more. They publish family worship guides through different books of the Bible that encourage families to pray and read the Bible together while having fun. They also reach a lot of families through their weekly podcast, “Family Vision.”
“The Lord convicted me that I was putting my spiritual opportunities in front of my spiritual responsibilities at home."
“We come from the perspective that every family is needy, hurting, and in daily need of God’s grace and mercy and strength,” Rob says. “And so, the vision is not ‘Thou shalt be a perfect parent in order to have perfect kids.’ This is about needy people falling short, coming to God every day for His grace and His mercy.”
They don’t ever use the terms “broken” or “intact family” because “every family is a broken family.”
“Every family is struggling with sin and hurt and brokenness, and every family needs God’s grace and God’s mercy and the power of prayer and Scripture in the home,” Rob says.
One essential but sadly overlooked area is spiritual warfare.
“The enemy puts his firepower against the family because the family is the base that God created for all of human society. So, if you’re going to engage in family ministry, you better get ready to engage with spiritual warfare,” Rob says. “The Answers in Genesis ministry rightly identifies that most of the current cultural battles are Genesis 1, 2, and 3 battles: God created the world. ‘No, He didn’t,’ the enemy says. God created male and female. ‘No, He didn’t.’ God created marriage between one man and one woman. ‘No, He didn’t.’ God says children are a blessing. ‘No, you’re supposed to kill them.’”
A critical ministry
When a church leader falls, it’s more often than not because of issues in his own home.
“A pastor who is not praying and reading his Bible with his family at home is the norm statistically,” Rob says.
Unfortunately, it’s common for pastors to be hesitant to speak boldly on marriage and family issues because of issues in their own homes, Rob says.
“It’s critical for us to be helping our church leaders to prioritize their ministry at home,” he says.
Rob also says that churches need to develop a more robust understanding of the Bible’s teaching on church leadership and the family.
“In the New Testament,” he says, “if a man came to one of the elders and said, ‘I’d love to be considered for an elder,’ well, you would want to look for qualifications, right? And what are the qualifications? That he’s a faithful husband, that he already ministers to his wife, that he’s already a preacher of the Bible (1 Timothy 3:1-6 and Titus 1:6-9). In other words, if he has children, is he already teaching the Bible to his little congregation at home? Is he already shepherding the souls that God has entrusted to his care? And if the answer was ‘no,’ in the New Testament they would never give him more souls to take care of.”
With all that said, Rob is very optimistic.
“The Holy Spirit is doing something all over the world right now,” he says. “There is a global reformation of family discipleship happening. Parents and grandparents are waking up to their spiritual mission. Churches are waking up to this calling that they have to shepherd the home, and it’s happening all over the world.”
Taking time away
Rob encourages all married couples and families to go on a weekend retreat to grow and be refreshed. VFM offers retreats with “worship and teaching sessions that are intentionally designed for all ages to engage grandparents and the little ones,” Rob says.
“We found that most Christians have never experienced anything like this,” he says. “The reality is that most of what’s happening in a church worship service is for the adults, and the kids just happen to be there. Our ministry is focused on providing intentionally multigenerational, interactive Bible teaching with object lessons, Scripture teaching, and worship that is intentionally reaching the youngest to the oldest.”
VFM is also developing “Christian worldview trips” where they’ll be taking families from the Chicago area to the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky and back to Chicago to the Field Museum of Natural History. In this unique experience, Rob and Amy will compare and contrast the Christian worldview with the secular/evolutionary worldview, assessing how both sides look at the same world and at the same evidence but see things very differently.
“If God awakens the heart of the parent or the grandparent to their spiritual mission, then they’re off to the races,” Rob says. “Every parent is diligent to make sure that their child is clothed and physically fed. If that’s important, it’s even more important that they be spiritually clothed and spiritually fed.”
- For the Lord to protect the Rienows’ marriage and family spiritually so that their ministry is always an overflow from what the Lord is doing in their home.
- For people to be a part of the ministry and the movement so they can be encouraged and equipped.
- For people to share with others what VFM has done for them.
Greg Feulner is assistant editor of the Samaritan Ministries newsletter.