A Comprehensive Analysis and Plan to Stop Children From Leaving the Faith

Family ministry stick figures

Since the beginning of creation, God instituted the family as the primary place for parents to model, teach, and train children of His love, His nature, and His character. It is in this environment, a child should first experience the love of his or her earthly father, to gain but a glimpse of the Heavenly Father’s love. Unfortunately, due to the fall of man, sin entered into the world and as a result, Satan now wants nothing more than to attack the family because he knows if he can divide the family, the children will become isolated and defenseless. This strategy has proven very effective, spawning an entire generation of spiritual orphans, often referred to as the “fatherless generation,” many of which come from broken homes, facing deep-rooted abandonment issues, so the church is left with the dilemma of not only stopping children from leaving the faith, but also rescuing those who have. In order to reclaim families for God’s kingdom, the church must implement a comprehensive family discipleship strategy, which is rooted in the recovery of a biblical understanding of the pastor’s primary role being equipping the saints to do the ministry and refocuses on training parents to be the primary disciple makers in the home. Only by providing a biblically sound and safe environment, rooted in love, acceptance, and forgiveness will the church will be appropriately positioned to provide discipleship, restoration, and wholeness to this lost generation, which represents a vital component in the future of the church.

CURRENT STATE OF FAMILY DISCIPLESHIP

There is no denying the future of the church will largely depend on the success of family ministry. Roland Martinson offers the best picture of the current state of family discipleship, “Today’s 18- to 30-year-olds grew up in a time in which children were devalued. Forty percent raised themselves and grew up alone and very often they were lost in a complex web of changing human identity, relationships, and lifestyles. Disconnected from the church, this young adult generation’s religious drift is more expansive and has continued longer.”[1] This trend has only continued to get worse as Martinson further explains, “On almost any Sunday, these young adults are absent, invisible in our churches and as their faith experience shifts, more young adults go away and stay away. The chasm between language, symbols, and music of the church and the realities of their world has become great, making them feel like strangers in their churches.”[2] While there are multiple approaches to family ministry and discipleship, Randy Stinson could not be more correct in his assertion that: “Family ministry is necessary and significant because families are under siege, because husbands and fathers have been marginalized, because what we have been doing is ineffective, because the church is a family, and because families are wanting to be led.”[3] God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). Timothy Paul Jones further demonstrates, “When evangelism, worship, and discipleship for children and youth occur in isolation from, and, at times, with disdain for, their counterparts, it is difficult to see how the hearts of parents and children can consistently be turned toward one another.”[4] For many churches, Sunday school and services geared towards children and youth have become more about entertaining the kids and keeping them happy while mom and dad enjoy feel-good services. Churches and pastors are not babysitters and parents, as well as the children should be challenged each service, in the lessons being taught, to live a life pleasing to the Lord and one in which brings honor and glory to His name. For this to happen, families need to remain united in each other’s spiritual growth, because it is impossible to spiritually disciple someone further than the individual himself or herself has personally developed. No longer can parents delegate the spiritual upbringing of his or her children to teachers or pastors. No longer can parents just say, “Because I said so,” or, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

The most important lessons in life are witnessed in the home and it is in this environment and context that children determine what is normal and acceptable in friendships and intimate relationships. For real change to occur, parents must consciously devote time to teach children, and the children must equally be open to instruction and discipleship. Parents must realize before correction can be given, instruction must first be provided and for many parents, this is not a high priority in the scope of parental responsibilities. Many parents feel this way because it was the same dynamic he or she experienced growing up and this cycle has continued to reproduce an entire generation who do not know the first thing about being a parent nor what God has called mothers and fathers to be and do. Thomas Frederick explains how spirituality is an important aspect of being human, but he takes this truth one step further by advocating, “Discipleship is the core of Christian spirituality, and is vital for fostering one’s relationship to the transcendent.”[5] The crisis of faith in the lives of young adults is happening earlier in life and David Wells illustrates how, “The issues of what we know, how we know, whether we can know with any certitude is now being made far more complex by the fact that our cognitive horizons have been unavoidably expanded. Now, our inward crisis is being framed by our globalized consciousness and that puts a slightly different edge on what it means to be postmodern.”[6] In an age where knowledge is relevant and perception is reality, reaching a generation that feels abandoned requires bridging a wide gap of affluence and lifestyles. However, Jesus, the King of kings, regularly did this during His earthly ministry as He dined and met with individuals who society deemed as outcasts. Christians too are called to be Christlike, so just as Christ came to set the captives free, the church must begin looking outside the four walls for areas of ministry in the local community.

Choices have consequences and many people, especially younger ones, learn life-lessons the hard way. Just as parents must devote time to teaching, children must also learn about the effects of sin. Tyndale shows, “Many parents want to make all the choices for their child, but this hurts him or her in the long run. When parents teach a child how to make decisions, they don’t have to watch every step he or she takes. They know their children will remain on the right path because they have made the choice themselves. Train your children to choose the right way.”[7] One of the biggest problems facing many parents today is a desire to be the child’s friend instead of being a parent, because being a parent requires doing things that might upset the child. This mentality is backwards and has caused many children to never be trained properly from a young age, resulting in a life full of bad decisions and regret.

The only way to break this cycle is for parents to take an active role in the discipleship process. Andrew Burggraff defines discipleship as the process of learning the Scripture, internalizing them to shape one’s belief system, and then applying them to change one’s life. Based upon this definition, it should then be the church’s role to be actively involved in training the parents to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Burggraff further explains, “Today, more than ever, it is essential that the church develop curriculum that accurately and systematically teaches believers how to be a true disciple of Christ. Contemporary research has revealed several concerns that the church must acknowledge as it seeks to disciple believers:

There appears to be a decline in biblical literacy among believers today; there appears to be an exodus of believers from evangelical churches today; there appears to be an acceptance of inactivity among current evangelical Christians; and there appears to be a de-emphasis in discipleship training within the church. When taken collectively, these four areas present a dark picture of the current state of discipleship within American evangelical churches[8]

Biblical illiteracy is widespread and a huge dilemma facing the majority of churches. To effectively reproduce mature disciples of Christ, churches must begin to either use or develop curriculum, which will accurately and systematically teach believers how to fulfill his or her God-given purpose. Biblical literacy is the foundation to stopping evangelical Christians from leaving the church or accepting the notion that inactivity is acceptable. These notions can be directly correlated with the de-emphasis in the need for discipleship within the church. The mindset of doing just enough to get to heaven is totally missing the mark, so it is the job of leaders in the church to initiate a paradigm shift in the vision and mission, by casting light and truth on the deceptive lie that doing just enough is good enough for God.

FAMILY-EQUIPPING MINISTRY

Just as there is a time and season for all things, there is also a place. In the case of discipleship, this is the home. Tedd Tripp and Margy Tripp understand the complexity of instructing and shepherding children and have identified the importance of the heart in these roles. Tripp and Tripp explain, “The heart is the seat of motivation, so the when of behavior is the circumstance for the behavior. The what of behavior are things that one does or says and the why of behavior is the motive.”[9] The heart is essentially what makes the person who he or she is and the actions of the heart produce worship and emotions. Tripp and Tripp then illuminate, all children are born to worship; the only question is what he or she will choose to worship: the created things or the Creator?[10] Satan has built his kingdom upon two pillars: ignorance and error, so the job as parents, educators, and leaders of the church is to remove ignorance and to correct error. Tripp and Tripp further clarify, “Our central objective in instruction, discipline, and correction is heart change, not behavior change. This profoundly shapes how we view consequences… Children, then, must understand consequences as God designed them, not as the world teaches them.”[11] With this new mindset established, parents and leaders will begin to treat the problem instead of just the symptoms. By reaching the heart and imparting biblical truth as the foundation in the discipleship process, the first stage in this model will be complete.

Lynn Wray emphasizes, “the most important task the Lord has assigned parents is to make disciples of our children and our own hopes and dreams come second. We do not make them disciples; that is the Lord’s and the Holy Spirit’s job to do the transformative work, but we are tasked with being a strong influence and impacting their lives.”[12] Wray identifies just how critical discipleship is and then demonstrates its ability to happen in formal and informal settings. Wray explains, “Formal times include instances, which are set aside to engage in devotions, family altar, and faith talks.”[13] Wray then explains the importance of these times when children are young because a child’s mind is like a sponge soaking up all the information and influences it is immersed in. Michael Abel’s research shows, “Past involvement in family discussions about religious or spiritual matters significantly increases the likelihood that teenagers will develop strong belief in: praying with family, parental encouragement to participate in a youth group, and church attendance.”[14] Time invested in the spiritual discipleship and equipping of others in the only investment that will pay dividends in heaven, but so many things compete for time, making this sphere of discipleship a major need in most households. Abel also found, “Respondents who reported having witnessed a miracle, receiving an answer to prayer, and having powerful spiritual experiences also displayed greater religious confidence.”[15] As children get older, Wray stresses, “Informal times are crucial because children are being bombarded with social influences and the relationship between parent and child is also strained.”[16] The Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a great example of the discipleship model and is also a great illustration of the immense amount of time involved in forming an intimate relationship with children. Kathleen Beagles’ analysis pertaining to the relationship between interactions with youth shows, “The discipling attitude and behavior of family, Christian teachers, and the local congregation are significant in explaining adolescents’ responses to indicators of personal discipleship, so an increase in adolescents’ reporting of the discipling behavior correlates with increased self-reported scores by adolescents in personal processes involved in discipleship.”[17] Wray also stresses the importance of having one-on-one time with children and doing things each child enjoys, making them feel important and demonstrating one’s care for their interests. Tyndale further explains:

In the process of helping our children choose the right path, we must discern differing paths for each child. It is natural to want to bring up all our children alike or train them the same way. This verse implies that parents should discern the individuality and special strengths that God has given each one. While we should not condone or excuse self-will, each child has natural inclinations that parents can develop. By talking to teachers, other parents, and grandparents, we can better discern and develop the individual capabilities of each child.[18]

ACTION PLAN

Les Blank and J. M. Ballard illustrate, “The revival of hope to a lost culture is not just about winning converts but is the proclamation of the good news irrespective of results. Many of the youth and young adults in Generation X and the Digital Generation are not resistant to the concept of spirituality or the concept of God. They are resistant to the Christian church.”[19] The same mindset when engaging in foreign missions must be used in reaching young adults who feel estranged from the church. Only by meeting individuals where he or she are at in life and according to his or her customs and traditions will the church have an opportunity to reclaim a lost generation. It is hard to fathom, but there are entire urban centers considered as being un-churched and while America used to be the nation sending missionaries all over the world, she has become the destination for many foreign missionaries in his or her calling. Blank and Ballard explain, many estranged youth and even people raised in some form of Christian upbringing now view the church as being, “Separatist, segregated, institutional, irrelevant, judgmental, holier than thou and authoritarian. And to some degree, they are right. If this is the perception of the community of God, and if that perception is even somewhat accurate, there is no wonder why the impact of the Christian message is not penetrating the young generations.”[20] Perception is reality, and while this pill may be a little hard to swallow, the quicker it is done, the sooner the church can begin to address the problem. After establishing the biblical foundation, the second piece of the model is establishing mentors in the church who can impart wisdom on those considered less spiritually mature. The lack of any discipleship model in most churches is what has led to an entire generation of servant leaders passing on with no one to take his or her place. The United States Army instructs soldiers to teach his or her job to the person below him or her in rank. This is done, so if the person is promoted or killed, someone will know exactly what to do in his or her absence. The church could borrow this page out of the Army’s training procedures.

The battle over our souls is waged within us, (James 4:1) and all around us, (Ephesians 6:12) so, as Tripp and Tripp suggest, “First, we must identify the enemy and acknowledge his troop strength [and strategy.] Second, we must become skilled at using biblical formative instruction as an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy of our children’s souls (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Peter 5:8).”[21] Times have changed, as Alejandra Cancino shows, “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, up 7 percent from 2009. Experts say the trend is likely to continue as the nation responds to the opiate epidemic. Military deployment and a growth in the number of women incarcerated are other factors forcing grandparents to step into parental roles.”[22] This is a dynamic, which churches must be prepared to address and are currently missing the mark in. The concept of it taking a village to raise a child is long since past and many people are left alone, trying to figure things out as they present themselves. Because of this, Tedd Tripp explains the importance of, “Understanding your child’s inner struggles and the need to look at the world through his or her eyes. This will enable you to know what aspects of the life-giving message of the gospel are appropriate for conversation.”[23] Every child grows up to be the culmination of his or her own life experiences, so the past plays a huge role in training a child in the ways he or she should go. Some children feel as though their past defines them, while others are able to rise above it, but without Christ, there is still a feeling of void left inside. Poverty is an ever-increasing reality, which can impede a child’s upbringing, so telling people about how amazing God is when he or she is starving and does not have a roof over their heads is backwards. One’s most immediate and core needs must be addressed before earning the right and privilege to speak into his or her life or begin the discipling process.

The family is the model God designed and implemented for His Word and instructions to be passed onto future generations and for children, some of the most important lessons in life are caught and not taught, simply because children imitate what they see. Jason Lanker illustrates, “Previous research shows an important resource in adolescent development is the presence of natural mentors and the Christian community of faith has always been most fruitful in the accomplishment of this missional mandate when space is provided for all of God’s people to use their gifts in engagement with the world in which they have been placed.”[24] As parents and teachers, Michel Mitchell emphasizes, “we are always: being watched, being followed, and being imitated, so Mitchell encourages parents and teachers to be someone worth watching (I Thess. 1:5; I Cor. 11:1), to do something worth following (Acts 5:12; Matt. 20:34; Mark 10:52; Acts 8:11-13), and to saying something worth imitating (I Thess. 2:8; Luke 6:40).[25] Tripp then explains the importance of cultivating a child’s heart towards God because, “There is no such thing as a place of childhood neutrality; your children either worship God or idols. These idols are not small wooden or stone statuary; they are the subtle idols of the heart: fear of man, evil desires, lusts, and pride. These idols include conformity to the world, embracing earthly mindsets, and affections on things below.”[26] To have any chance of thwarting Satan’s strategy and desire to destroy the traditional family, children must be immersed with a biblical foundation, there must be mentors present, in order to teach, instruct, and emulate behavior. The third and final component of this proposed model entails children being taught how to develop and refine his or her spiritual giftings through serving. This final piece is crucial in the spiritual develop and discipleship process and is also vital in reproducing spiritually mature disciples.

Steven Frye illustrates, the earlier in life children are taught, the more equipped he or she will be to transition from youth to young-adulthood. Frye demonstrates, “During this time of transition, burgeoning young adults test the spiritual concepts and commitments of adolescence. External belief structures develop to inner beliefs, and these beliefs are sifted and self-tested.”[27] As Frye suggests, the transition from youth to young adulthood is one filled with uncertainty, so the more the parents can instill at a young age, the better off the child will be in developing into a spiritually mature follower of Christ. Sharon Parks uses James Fowler’s stages of faith as a starting point and then works to diagram the spiritual development process from youth through young adulthood:

  1. Adolescent/conventional—authority bound (accepts the conventions of the group and social norms) and counter-dependent (pushing against yet still authority bound).
  2. Young adult—probing commitment. A time of fragile inner-dependence (like a young plant): “healthy, vital, full of promise, yet vulnerable.”
  3. Tested adult—confident inner-dependence. The tested adult is “able self-consciously to include self within the arena of authority.” Inner-dialogue is vital as the adult begins to listen within. Mentors become peers and authority becomes “fully equilibrated within.”
  4. Mature adult—interdependent faith. A dialectic faith where dialogue is not only merely “expedient but essential.” The mature adult “can depend upon others without fear of losing the self.”[28]

Frye, then explains, each of these stages are vital in the development of children and for each stage missed, more is often required in the realm of discipleship on the part of parents and/or mentors/leaders in the church. Perry Shaw and Corneliu Constantineanu offer considerable advice when interacting with adolescents and young adults and identify how, “Space within community can be provided to children and youth such that they can be better understood, engaged, and empowered in using their gifts in service of the mission of God. The provision of hospitable space is a tangible expression of reconciliation, as well as being a practical necessity for emerging generations.”[29] However, this space Shaw and Constantineanu call for in community is unlikely to develop in churches and families without proactive intentionality on the part of parents and the church. Churches, which employ the family-equipping model, will be best poised to provide training for the parents, while also creating ways for multiple generations to serve together. Just as there is much knowledge and information the older/wiser generation can impart on the younger generations, there is also much the younger/learning generations can reveal to his or her counterparts. Malan Nel asserts, “Discipling youth is one of the key ‘missing links’ in developing missional thinking and missional local churches and this is even more so where churches suffer from a very obvious estrangement among generations.”[30] The segregation of ages in churches is a huge stumbling block to providing any good discipleship model. Many children and youth have a dedicated building and rarely come in contact with any other generations. This is a tragedy and just another reason adolescents have a hard time integrating into a normal adult service and why the crisis of faith is having such a huge success earlier in the lives of young adults.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, as George Barna emphasizes, “The primary formation of a child’s faith is not a job for specialists; it is a job for parents.”[31] This means the primary role of the church needs to focus on training parents to embrace their God-given primary responsibility for instructing children about God, in order for them to grow spiritually mature. David Bennett explains Jesus is more interested in counting disciples, rather than attendance on Sundays. Upon this statement Bennett poses the most important question regarding developing and stopping children from leaving the faith: “Are we producing people who have made a wholehearted commitment to Jesus Christ and are we equipping the next generation to take over leadership of the church?”[32] Only by reaching the heart and imparting biblical truth as the foundation in the discipleship process, will the next generation be equipped for the challenges and temptations of life. After establishing the biblical foundation, the next most important piece is establishing mentors in the life of children and parents, who can then impart wisdom on those considered less spiritually mature. The lack of any discipleship model in many churches is what has led to an entire generation of servant leaders passing on with no one to take his or her place. Lastly, children must be taught how to develop and refine his or her spiritual giftings through the act of serving. This final piece is crucial, not only in the spiritual develop and discipleship process, but also in reproducing spiritually mature disciples.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abel, Michael K. “Sources of Adolescent Faith: Examining the Origins of Religious Confidence.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 7 (2011): 3-26, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1346931964?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007.

Beagles, Kathleen. “Growing disciples in community.” Christian Education Journal 9, no. 1 (2012): 148-164. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA289360002&sid=summon&asid=d9660eeb3a748cecdc1d81a509f47cec (accessed April 30, 2017).

Bennett, David. “The Leader as … Disciple.” Transformation 12, no. 4 (Fall 1995): 13-15. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43070175 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Blank, Les and J. M. Ballard. “Revival of Hope: A Critical Generation for the Church.” Christian Education Journal 6, no. 2 (Fall, 2002): 7-24. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/205418022?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Burggraff, Andrew. “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397+. Academic OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA429498261&sid=summon&asid=ade420579921909ec161d6995fadd701 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Cancino, Alejandra. “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” www.pbs.org February 16, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/more-grandparents-raising-their-grandchildren/ (accessed April 30, 2017).

Estes, Daniel J. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1 – 9. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Frederick, Thomas V. “Discipleship and Spirituality from a Christian Perspective.” Pastoral Psychology 56, no. 6 (07, 2008): 553-60, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/199312601?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Frye, Steven B. 2014. “Becoming an adult in a community of faith.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 51-61. (accessed April 30, 2017).

Lanker, Jason. “The family of faith: the place of natural mentoring in the church’s Christian formation of adolescents.” Christian Education Journal 7, no. 2 (2010): 267+. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA239092337&sid=summon&asid=1db8938b3a6e6af818ab86ed42759ff7 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Martinson, Roland. “Spiritual but not religious: reaching an invisible generation.” Currents in Theology and Mission 29, no. 5 (2002): 326-340. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA93610956&sid=summon&asid=f753d5982c72999332bd6e19dccf9072 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Mitchell, Michael. “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

Mohler, Albert. “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem.” AlbertMohler.com. October 14, 2005. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/10/14/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem/ (accessed April 30, 2017).

Nel, Malan. “Imagine-Making Disciples in Youth Ministry … that Will make Disciples.” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 71, no. 3 (2015): 1-11, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1738751534?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Parks, Sharon Daloz. Big Questions Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Study Guide Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Renfro, Paul et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009.

Shaw, Perry WH and Corneliu Constantineanu. “Space and Community, Engagement and Empowerment: The Missional Equipping of Children.” Transformation 33 no. 3 (February 2016): 208-217. doi: 10.1177/0265378816633611 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Thompson, Tad. Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2011.

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005.

Tyndale. Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988.

Wells, David F. “CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP IN A POSTMODERN WORLD.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (03, 2008): 19-33, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/211233719?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Wray, Lynn and Dan Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 12:23. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588847_1 (accessed April 30, 2017).

Wright, Steve and Chris Graves. ApParent Privilege: That the Next Generation Might Know… Royal Palm Beach, FL: InQuest Ministries, 2008.

[1] Roland Martinson, “Spiritual but not religious: reaching an invisible generation,” Currents in Theology and Mission 29, no. 5 (2002): 326-328. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA93610956&sid=summon&asid=f753d5982c72999332bd6e19dccf9072 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[2] Ibid., 328.

[3] Paul Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009), 1-3.

[4] Ibid., 19.

[5] Thomas V. Frederick, “Discipleship and Spirituality from a Christian Perspective,” Pastoral Psychology 56, no. 6 (07, 2008): 553, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/199312601?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[6] David F. Wells, “CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP IN A POSTMODERN WORLD,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (03, 2008): 19-21, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/211233719?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[7] Tyndale, Life Application Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), 1041.

[8] Andrew Burggraff, “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397. Academic OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA429498261&sid=summon&asid=ade420579921909ec161d6995fadd701. (accessed April 28, 2017).

[9] Tedd Tripp and Margy Tripp, Instructing a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008), 57.

[10] Ibid., 93.

[11] Ibid., 63.

[12] Lynn Wray and Dan Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Three Video Presentation, 12:23. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588847_1 (accessed April 28, 2017).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Michael K. Abel, “Sources of Adolescent Faith: Examining the Origins of Religious Confidence,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 7 (2011): 3-5, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1346931964?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[15] Ibid., 5.

[16] Wray and Burrell, “Parents as Disciple Makers.”

[17] Kathleen Beagles, “Growing disciples in community.” Christian Education Journal 9, no. 1 (2012): 148-149. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA289360002&sid=summon&asid=d9660eeb3a748cecdc1d81a509f47cec (accessed April 30, 2017).

[18] Tyndale, 1041.

[19] Les Blank and J. M. Ballard, “Revival of Hope: A Critical Generation for the Church,” Christian Education Journal 6, no. 2 (Fall, 2002): 7-8. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/205418022?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[20] Blank and J. M. Ballard, “Revival of Hope: A Critical Generation for the Church,” 8.

[21] Tripp and Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart, 15-16.

[22] Alejandra Cancino, “More grandparents raising their grandchildren,” www.pbs.org February 16, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/more-grandparents-raising-their-grandchildren/ (accessed April 28, 2017).

[23] Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition (Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005), 76.

[24] Jason Lanker, “The family of faith: the place of natural mentoring in the church’s Christian formation of adolescents.” Christian Education Journal 7, no. 2 (2010): 267, General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA239092337&sid=summon&asid=1db8938b3a6e6af818ab86ed42759ff7 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[25] Michael Mitchell, “The Pillars of Personal Ministry,” HOMI: 601 The Ministry of Teaching, 2013, 1-9.

[26] Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 21.

[27] Steven Frye, “Becoming an adult in a community of faith,” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 53. (accessed April 30, 2017).

[28] Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 77-87.

[29] Perry Shaw WH and Corneliu Constantineanu, “Space and Community, Engagement and Empowerment: The Missional Equipping of Children.” Transformation 33 no. 3 (February 2016): 209. doi: 10.1177/0265378816633611 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[30] Malan Nel, “Imagine-Making Disciples in Youth Ministry … that Will make Disciples,” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 71, no. 3 (2015): 2-3, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1738751534?accountid=12085 (accessed April 30, 2017).

[31] George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), 12.

[32] David Bennett, “The Leader as … Disciple.” Transformation 12, no. 4 (Fall 1995): 13, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43070175 (accessed April 30, 2017).

 

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Church Discipleship Assessment

Discipleship Model

The future of the church will largely depend on the success of family ministry and how discipleship is conducted within the four walls of the church and inside the home. While there are multiple approaches to family ministry and discipleship, Randy Stinson could not be more correct in his assertion that: “Family ministry is necessary and significant because families are under siege.”[1] Timothy Paul Jones further emphasizes: “Every church is called to some form of family ministry… and each generation needs one another.”[2] Unfortunately, healthy and biblical family ministry and discipleship is not the norm in most churches or families. Society has become dependent upon the church, essentially outsourcing the spiritual formation of children to ministry leaders, much like society has become dependent upon teachers for all means of learning and education. This is the reality most churches face today because previous leaders in the church have allowed it. Dan Burrell demonstrates, “The current greatest conflict in churches is usually found between youth ministry and family discipleship.”[3] This is where kids’ wills and priorities attempt to supersede the parents’ role in becoming the disciple makers in the home, ultimately preventing the church to focus on equipping and training the parents to fulfill his or her God-given duties. The church must now answer, “What legacy will be left for future generations and how will they respond to the epidemic of moral therapeutic deism?”

MODELS AND STRATEGIES

            Timothy Paul Jones exhibits four models of modern/contemporary family ministry: (1) Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, (2) Family-Based Ministry Model, (3) Family-Equipping Ministry Model, and (4) Family-Integrated Ministry Model. Of these four models, the Family-Equipping Ministry Model is closest to what Generations United Church (GenU) strives to emulate and seems most biblical and relevant because as Jones illustrates, “Although age-organized programs and events still exist, the church is completely restructured to draw the generations together, equipping parents, championing their role as primary disciple-makers, and holding them accountable to fulfill this role.”[4] The vision and mission of GenU is rooted in an environment where there is no age-segregation, allowing multiple generations to engage in worship, teachings, and life together. Since, GenU is made up of Abrahams, Isaacs, and Jacobs, for the mutual health of the church; it is vital to reconnect these segregated age groups to one another. Burrell strengthens this view by explaining, “Spiritual authority in the home is crucial, so application can be derived… [Furthermore,] the church could never and should never replace the role of parents who God placed as the primary disciple makers in the home.”[5] Jones further demonstrates, “When evangelism, worship, and discipleship for children and youth occur in isolation from, and, at times, with disdain for, their counterparts, it is difficult to see how the hearts of parents and children can consistently be turned toward one another.”[6]

In the past, GenU has used both the Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, which forms various silos of ministry, rarely touching one another and the Family-Based Model, which takes a step in the right direction, by intentionally drawing generations together and encouraging parents to take a more active role in the lives of children, but falls short in still segregating the various generations. The Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model focused more on the convenience for the family’s schedules and needs than the spiritual formation of the next generation. GenU became five miles wide, with a multiplicity of programs and activities, but was only one inch deep, relating to discipleship and transformation. While using the Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, GenU learned when a ministry was created that did not point back to the core vision and mission, silos were created and walls were put up. Jones further explains, “Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational events and activities within current structures, family-equipping ministry reworks the church’s entire structure to call parents to disciple their children at every level of the church’s work.”[7]

Adapting to a new model has taken time, planning, training, communication, promotion, and congregational buy-in and it is still a work in progress. The initiative GenU used is called First Generation and it was birthed out of a response to the crisis of faith youth are facing at an alarmingly early age. Steven Frye demonstrates the most widely used models encourage, “Religious organizations to emphasize work with adolescents, assisting them through the troublesome years of middle and high school with paid professional youth workers, organized youth groups, focused service and ministry opportunities, and a variety of offerings to build community.”[8] However, despite these targeted efforts, the Barna Group has still consistently found that Millennials are still leaving the church and that the crisis of faith, which used to occur in the college years is now being faced predominately in high school, but in some cases as early as middle school. “Nearly six in ten young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away, and the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade from 44% to 52%, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing in America. When asked what has helped their faith grow, ‘church’ does not make even the top 10 factors.”[9] These statistics indicate a change needs to occur in how the gospel message is being communicated to the younger generations, leading to GenU’s First Generation initiative. Barna further stresses:

The fact that Millennials continue to leave the church—in larger numbers than ever before—when they reach adulthood, suggests a need to either revise current approaches or double-down on efforts to equip and prepare today’s youth. The fact that teens lack commitment due to general busyness, and the broad scarcity of student leaders, suggests that relationships and engagement in church are not reaching sufficient depth. Youth leaders are right to prioritize discipleship and relationship building.[10]

IMPLEMENTING FAMILY-EQUIPPING MINISTRY

            The findings of the Barna Group were consistent with what was being experienced at GenU. Hearing and seeing firsthand what was happening after children went off to college was disturbing, but when it started happening during earlier years of development, the leadership of GenU knew a change was needed in the way discipleship was being acted out and taught. Andrew Burggraff defines discipleship as the process of learning Scriptures, internalizing them to shape one’s belief system, and then applying them to change one’s life. Burggraff proposes:

It is the church’s role to be actively involved in following the command given in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20), but contemporary research related to discipleship has revealed several concerns that the 21st-century church must acknowledge as it seeks to disciple believers. Today, more than ever, it is essential that the church develop curriculum that accurately and systematically teaches believers how to be a true disciple of Christ. To do so, church leaders must understand the process to develop and accurately design discipleship curriculum for the church.[11]

As GenU began this process of developing a new curriculum and model of discipleship, strategic planning was used, making sure every area of ministry began to focus on training and empowering parents/grandparents to view themselves as the primary disciple-maker. Jay Strother explains the importance of this model because, “The home has the greatest impact on young lives; with few exceptions, and if we fail to impact the home, we will never make a lasting impact on students.”[12] This paradigm shift of the parents/grandparents leading and teaching is still in process, much like learning is a life-long endeavor, but the fruits of this new approach are already being seen and areas of multi-generational discipleship are continuing to grow. The basis of this model and core ethos is making sure the church and families are working in tandem towards a common goal. The primary focus is no longer keeping children happy and entertained; it is now focused on getting the parents/grandparents involved and integrated. The catalyst behind this initiative is based on Scripture and God’s command for parents to disciple children.

Initially, there was some backlash, but the sad reality is most parents choose a church based on whether or not the children are happy and this is completely backwards. Parents should seek out a church where sound biblical preaching is evident and the litmus test is simply the transformation of disciples. Upon analyzing data and surveys pertaining to biblical illiteracy, Albert Mohler, concludes:

Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse the course. Recovery starts at home and parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.[13]

Reggie Joiner explains, “Research shows that even active students [in youth ministry] receive only forty hours or so of biblical instruction each year from their churches. Parents, on the other hand, have more than three thousand hours a year in which they are constantly ‘teaching’ their children in some way.”[14] Identifying the key issue was the first step, but implementing a solution required forming a partnership with parents. This was a delicate phase where the development and overall goal being conveyed was an initiative to bring the church and home together to form a biblical partnership. Without a plan in place, the younger generations would simply continue to fall away from a relationship with Jesus Christ. However, now children and parents alike are committed to loving God and fulfilling the Great Commission.

Since implementing the First Generation concept, which closely resembles the Family-Equipping Model, there has been considerable change that can be seen and felt. With a common goal defined, GenU is continually making sure all ministry efforts are centered on the partnership between the home and church. Training and communication are vital because if expectations are not clearly defined, there is no way to measure success. Some of the strategies GenU has implemented are teaching classes targeted to parents of teens and plans are underway to have a class for parents of middle school children. On a weekly basis, an emphasis is attached to the sermon on ways to apply the application of the message in a home or community setting. In the future, one of the best ways GenU hopes to grow the Family-Equipping Model is to embark on local/foreign family mission trips. Doing ministry together strengthens the bond within the family and brings immense glory to God. The ultimate goal is developing parents who become disciple makers, and with this goal in mind, GenU is extremely sensitive to the reality there are many young attenders who are spiritual orphans, meaning there is no biological parent to assume the role of disciple-maker. In these cases, a mentoring program has been created to help younger people navigate some of life’s hard decisions and harsh realities.

CONCLUSION

            Jones concludes, “Although there is widespread agreement that churches ought to do family ministry, there is little agreement regarding what family ministry looks like. And there is even less agreement when it comes to the question of how to implement a family ministry.”[15] Ultimately, as George Barna emphasizes, “The primary formation of a child’s faith is not a job for specialists; it is a job for parents.”[16] This means the primary role of the church needs to focus on training parents to embrace their God-given primary responsibility for instructing children about God, in order for them to grow spiritually mature and reproduce disciples. Strother sums it up best: “Every ministry context should ground family members in worship, grow them in discipleship, and equip them to go on missions wherever God leads them. However, reversing the current trend will require a generation of convicted ministry leaders who see family-equipping as part of who they are – not as one more ministry that they do.”[17]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007.

________. “The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna.com. April 6, 2016. https://www.barna.com/research/the-priorities-challenges-and-trends-in-youth-ministry/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

Burggraff, Andrew. “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397+. Academic OneFile (accessed March 29, 2017). http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA429498261&sid=summon&asid=ade420579921909ec161d6995fadd701.

Burrell, Dan. “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important.” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588837_1 (accessed March 21, 2017).

Estes, Daniel J. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1 – 9. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Frye, Steven B. 2014. “Becoming an adult in a community of faith.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 51-61. (accessed March 29, 2017).

Mohler, Albert. “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem.” AlbertMohler.com. October 14, 2005. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/10/14/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Study Guide Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Renfro, Paul et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009.

Thompson, Tad. Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2011.

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005.

Wright, Steve and Chris Graves. ApParent Privilege: That the Next Generation Might Know… Royal Palm Beach, FL: InQuest Ministries, 2008.

[1] Paul Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009), 1-3.

[2] Ibid., 45-47.

[3] Dan Burrell, “Analyzing the Strategic Family Discipleship Efforts of the Church,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week Two Video Presentation, 14:38. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588842_1 (accessed March 28, 2017).

[4] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 52.

[5] Dan Burrell, “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588837_1 (accessed March 21, 2017).

[6] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 19.

[7] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 44.

[8] Steven B. Frye, “Becoming an adult in a community of faith” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2014 (143): 52. (accessed March 29, 2017).

[9] George Barna, “The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna.com. April 6, 2016. https://www.barna.com/research/the-priorities-challenges-and-trends-in-youth-ministry/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Andrew Burggraff, “Developing discipleship curriculum: applying the systems approach model for designing instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey to the construction of church discipleship courses.” Christian Education Journal 12, no. 2 (2015): 397. Academic OneFile (accessed March 29, 2017).

[12] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 143.

[13] Albert Mohler, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” AlbertMohler.com. October 14, 2005. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/10/14/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem/ (accessed March 29, 2017).

[14] Reggie Joiner, “Clearing Up Family Ministry Confusion,” www.orangleaders.com (accessed March 29, 2017).

[15] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 24.

[16] George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), 12.

[17] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 156 & 160.

 

Modern & Contemporary Approaches to Family Ministry & Discipleship

     family ministry

The future of the church will largely depend on the success of family ministry. While there are multiple approaches to family ministry and discipleship, Randy Stinson could not be more correct in his assertion that: “Family ministry is necessary and significant because families are under siege, because husbands and fathers have been marginalized, because what we have been doing is ineffective, because the church is a family, and because families are wanting to be led.”[1] Timothy Paul Jones demonstrates the following four models of modern/contemporary family ministry: (1) Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model, (2) Family-Based Ministry Model, (3) Family-Equipping Ministry Model, and (4) Family-Integrated Ministry Model. However, before analyzing the strengths and weaknesses behind each approach, it is important to note Jones openly admits, “None of these models is absolutely exclusive of the others… [and his] goal is not to convince readers that one of these models is better than the others.”[2] Given this disclaimer, Jones make several things clear: “Every church is called to some form of family ministry, Scripture is the supreme and sufficient source for how to do ministry, God has called parents – and especially fathers – to take personal responsibility for the Christian formation of their children, and each generation needs one another.”[3]

Of these four models, the Family-Equipping Ministry Model seems most biblical and relevant because as Jones illustrates, “Although age-organized programs and events still exist, the church is completely restructured to draw the generations together, equipping parents, championing their role as primary disciple-makers, and holding them accountable to fulfill this role.”[4] Most churches are made up of Abrahams, Isaacs, and Jacobs and for the mutual health of the church; it is vital to reconnect these segregated age groups to one another. Dan Burrell strengthens this view by explaining, “Spiritual authority in the home is crucial, so application can be derived… [Furthermore,] the church could never and should never replace the role of parents who God placed as the primary disciple makers in the home.”[5] God calls every believing parent to train his or her children in the Christian faith and this model can be traced back to Abraham (Genesis 18:19), Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:1-12; Exodus 12:25-28), and any Jewish home as the primary place for spiritual training (Proverbs 1:8). Jones further demonstrates, “When evangelism, worship, and discipleship for children and youth occur in isolation from, and, at times, with disdain for, their counterparts, it is difficult to see how the hearts of parents and children can consistently be turned toward one another.”[6]

The Educational-Programmatic Ministry Model forms various silos of ministry, which rarely touch one another. This model cares more about convenience for the family’s schedules and needs than the spiritual formation of the next generation. Burrell explains, the parent’s responsibility is to disciple his or her children, in order for the Holy Spirit to cultivate the soil and seeds that have been planted. However, if the needs and convenience of the parents are put first, this model fails. The Family-Based Model takes a step in the right direction by intentionally drawing generations together and encouraging parents to take a more active role in the lives of children, but it falls short in still segregating the various generations. There is a central vision and mission, but when a ministry is created that does not point back to that vision and mission, silos are created and walls are put up. Jones explains, “Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational events and activities within current structures, family-equipping ministry reworks the church’s entire structure to call parents to disciple their children at every level of the church’s work.”[7] Lastly, the Family-Integrated Model is by far the most radical way to do family ministry. This model completely does away with all age-graded classes and events, which means there are no youth groups, no children’s church, and no grade-segmented Sunday school classes.[8] Paul Renfro adheres to this position and views each scripturally ordered household as a building block, which when put together forms the local church. While the notion of parents bearing more responsibility for the evangelism and discipleship of their children is biblically sound, completely doing away with all age-related ministries seems counterproductive to the overall goal of producing spiritually mature followers of Christ. Jones concludes, “Although there is widespread agreement that churches ought to do family ministry, there is little agreement regarding what family ministry looks like. And there is even less agreement when it comes to the question of how to implement a family ministry.”[9]

Ultimately, as George Barna emphasizes, “The primary formation of a child’s faith is not a job for specialists; it is a job for parents.”[10] This means the primary role of the church needs to focus on training parents to embrace their God-given primary responsibility for instructing children about God, in order for them to grow spiritually mature. As Burrell emphasizes, “Training up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) is a proverb and not a promise. Bruce K. Waltke demonstrates how, “The relatively rare imperative dedicate ḥănōk (train) means, to start the youth off with a strong and perhaps even religious commitment to a certain course of action.”[11] Burrell furthers this statement by stressing the importance of direction. It does not matter how fast or how far one goes, if he or she is headed in the wrong direction. Ultimately, the training up of a child essentially takes a village, but it must begin in the home, with the parents. This, of course, is in an ideal setting where both parents are present and are also followers of Christ. However, the unique challenge the church faces today is how to adapt a family ministry model, which ministers to what researchers have defined as the fatherless generation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007.

Burrell, Dan. “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important.” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588837_1 (accessed March 21, 2017).

Estes, Daniel J. Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1 – 9. Edited by D.A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Study Guide Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005.

Renfro, Paul et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views. Edited by Timothy Paul Jones. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009.

Thompson, Tad. Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2011.

Tripp, Tedd and Margy Tripp. Instructing a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2008.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Revised and Updated 2nd Edition. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2005.

Waltke, Bruce K. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976, 203.

Wright, Steve and Chris Graves. ApParent Privilege: That the Next Generation Might Know… Royal Palm Beach, FL: InQuest Ministries, 2008.

[1] Paul Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry: 3 Views, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2009), 1-3.

[2] Ibid., 45.

[3] Ibid., 45-47.

[4] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 52.

[5] Dan Burrell, “Why the Topic of Family Discipleship is Important,” Filmed [2013], Liberty University Website, DSMN 610, Course Content, Week One Video Presentation, 11:17. https://learn.liberty.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_343442_1&content_id=_16588837_1 (accessed March 21, 2017).

[6] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 19.

[7] Renfro et al. Perspectives on Family Ministry, 44.

[8] Ibid., 42.

[9] Ibid., 24.

[10] George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), 12.

[11] Bruce K. Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Proverbs Chapters 15-31 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 203.