Pastors and church members have reported dynamics that have been unhealthy or divisive within congregations where materials from GFI have been used. One pastor observed that in his church, the programs bred dependency, "It was now "What does Gary say?" about all child-rearing stuff." Another pastor agreed, "When I unleashed GKGW on our church in Florida, we got our own set of "zombies" as well." Numerous prominent Christian leaders have voiced concerns.
Another common complaint is that Ezzo's fervent presentation blurs the line between what is optional and what is biblically commanded. When missionaries take the teachings abroad with the intention of imparting parenting skills along with Christianity, they may confuse, offend or alienate the very people they hope to introduce to Christianity. The material makes Western ethnocentric assumptions, from general concepts about relationships and time management to particulars about cribs and playpens.
Parents who decide the classes aren't a good fit or find themselves in disagreement are sometimes viewed negatively. The material itself contains negative cues about how to view families who are not following Ezzo's ideas, for example suggesting they are less committed to glorifying God in their family life or that their children's behavior will not win neighbors to Christ.
Philip Johnson, who was an elder at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California when Ezzo was on staff summarizes,
"On this [divisiveness] and other, even more serious matters of personal integrity, Gary has been confronted repeatedly by people to whom he should be accountable, and his consistent response has been to move out from under the accountability of anyone who challenges him—then treat all his critics as enemies. This is a long-standing pattern which in my view disqualifies him from the kind of public ministry he is doing."
Questions of authenticity arise since the Ezzos have portrayed friendship with one's adult children as the goal and result of following their methods, but their own adult children cut off contact with them several years ago.
Other concerns that surround parenting programs from Growing Families International are catalogued elsewhere on this site: substandard medical information in the baby materials, ignorance of basic child development issues throughout all the baby and child materials, a manipulative and divisive style of teaching, biblical & theological concerns, and character concerns about the authors.
There are many other parenting books and programs available to churches which don't come front-loaded with such controversy and problems.
For Further Reading:
One Church's Review Process
a church reevaluated sponsering GFI classes
Christian Leaders and Organizations
that have voiced concerns
Growing Kids the Ezzo Way
Dr. Philip Ryken, 10th Presbyterian Church, cautions his congregation
Another Church's Elder Statement on GFI
Berean Calvary Chapel's statement
An Open Letter to Pastors
Frank York, past editorial director at GFI, presents concerns to pastors
Information about Growing Kids God's Way Movement
Northwest Bible Church of OKC publishes a concise summary of concerns
Growing Kids God's Way -- Not Ezzo's
Thoughtful commentary from a Baptist pastor