I’m often asked to help a church implement a family-equipping strategy. Pastors often ask how to present the vision to church leadership. A number of years ago I presented a family-equipping vision to my church and I am providing that for you to utilize with your church.
Biblical Foundation: The family is one of two great commission institutions that God created for evangelism and discipleship.
- What is: “The promise is for you…and for all who are far off.” What’s missing from this Gospel progression?
- What should be: “The promise is for you and for your household and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39). God’s pattern for discipleship begins at home, moves across the street, and then around the world.
Psalm 78 is an entire chapter devoted to family discipleship and captures God’s vision for parenting and grandparenting: “so that they should set their hope in God (evangelism) and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (discipleship); and they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation.”
Problem: 168 hours in a week. For kids, media gets 28+. Education gets 30+. The church gets 1-2. Combine that with parents and grandparents doing little and we get Judges 2:10.
- No family worship, intentional plan, or training by church. “A majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children…parents typically have no plan for the spiritual development of their children; do not consider it a priority, have little or no training in how to nurture a child’s faith.”
- Infrequent church attendance. “The average child attends an evangelical megachurch less than two times per month.”
- Strong media and educational influence. The average young person logs 4 hours of TV, video, internet per day and 16,000 educational hours between K-12. “Children will be in school 60 times as much as in church.”
Our parents are relying on this pattern for the spiritual training of their children and the results are not good.
Four primary spiritual influences of young people: (1) parents, (2) grandparents, (3) teachers and coaches, and (4) religious leaders.
- What is: Church-based with home support.
- What should be: Home-based with church support.
Problem: Philosophically, for the past 50 years, the evangelical church has operated as if #4 was #1, done little to equip parents, and ignored #2 and #3.
- “Many of the church leaders talk about the importance of the family, but in practice they have written off the family as an agency of spiritual influence. Their assumption is that if the family is going to be influenced, it is the organized church that will do the influencing, primarily through its events–worship services, classes, special events, etc. This philosophy causes the impetus behind youth (and children’s) ministry to be fixing what is broken–that is, to substitute the efforts of the church for those of parents since most of the latter do not provide the spiritual direction and accountability that their children need. But there is a procedural problem here: kids take their cues from their family, not from their youth ministers. God’s plan was for the church to support the family, and for the family to be the front-line of ministry within the home.”
- Churches have said to families, “Bring your children to us. Let us teach them about Christ and we will include you in the process. Help us develop Sunday school, small groups, retreats, and vacation bible school. The message we are communicating to families is that the church should be the focal point for nurturing faith in their children.”
Biblical Pattern: Timothy provides an example of discipleship in Scripture combining the influences of parent (Lois), grandparent (Eunice), and spiritual mentor (Paul). When a child has all three spiritual influences there is a greater chance for lifelong faith.
- Write a philosophy of family ministry that will determine how we equip families.
- Discuss how we can utilize the pulpit, resources, and equipping opportunities (small groups, classes, conferences) to train parents and grandparents. Create a scope and sequence of topics and resources.
- Update mission statement to align with Scripture. We exist to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ at home, across the street, and around the world.
- Begin campaign: Every Family Worshipping Together. The goal is to equip every family to lead worship at home (read and discuss Bible, prayer, praise) and families worshipping together one hour on Sunday morning.
George, Barna, “Parents Accept Responsibility for their Child’s Spiritual Development but Struggle with Effectiveness,” accessed October 11, 2016, https://www.barna.com/research/parents-accept-responsibility-for-their-childs-spiritual-development-but-struggle-with-effectiveness/.
Larry Fowler, The Question Nobody Asks About our Children (Steamwood, IL: Awana, 2014), 11.
George Barna, “Teen Role Models: Who They Are, Why They Matter,” accessed October 11, 2016, https://www.barna.com/research/teen-role-models-who-they-are-why-they-matter/#.V_K9ZrTKPFI.
George Barna, Third Millennium Teens: Research on the Minds, Hearts, and Souls of American’s Teenagers (Ventura, CA: Barna Research Group, 1999), 66-67.
Ben Freudenberg, The Family Friendly Church (Loveland, CO: Group Publisher, 1988), 28.