Home Life by Bev and Phil Haas
Our family ministry team at church has been grappling with this same concern. According to Rainer Research 70 percent of youth leave church by the time they are 22 years old. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those brought up in the church will be disengaged by the time they are 29 years old. When they leave the church, many leave the faith as well. For the first time in their ongoing studies of church life, they are finding that many of these kids are not returning to a church after they marry and have kids.
So what can we do to help our kids develop a faith that lasts? Before we get specific with parents, let us say that we believe there are steps the church needs to take too. One of those steps is alluded to by Mark Devries in his book, Family-Based Youth Ministry (InterVarsity Press, 2004). Mark reminds churches that there is no such thing as successful youth ministry that isolates kids from the community of faith. Mark is not advocating that we abandon children and student ministries in the church. What we would strongly suggest is that churches shift more and more of their attention and resources away from improving programming to better supporting parents in discipling their own children.
With all of the impressive children and youth programs within churches today, many parents allow the church to take over their kids’ spiritual development while they take a more passive role. Parents can easily be led to believe it’s the church’s job to help our kids grow spiritually. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. God places the responsibility for nurturing a child’s spiritual development on parents, not the church. Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 states, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” While our churches should partner with parents in this tremendous task, God has given parents both the responsibility and the opportunity to pass our faith on to our kids.
Many parents find it difficult to talk to their kids about God and take the lead in spiritual matters. So here are some practical suggestions about how to get started.
Be real. You don’t need a degree from a Christian university to talk to your kids about God. Simply be yourself. Share your understanding of who God is and why God matters to you in a way that reflects your everyday faith.
Don’t limit your faith talk to Sundays. Let your kids know your faith is important in your life all of the time. Look for opportunities to insert God into your conversation when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. In other words, talk with your kids about God anytime, anywhere, and anyhow. God wants our faith to be part of an ongoing conversation beginning at home with our families.
Let your kids catch you in the act of doing something spiritual. Do you have a regular time with God where you read the Bible and pray? Do your kids know it? Have they ever caught you in the act of reading the Bible and praying? Bible reading (along with reflection) and prayer are two practices that are proven to be most effective in helping our kids develop a faith that lasts. Our example teaches our kids a lot more about faith than our words. And our example will help determine whether or not our kids accept our faith.
Get involved in serving together as a family. Being a Christian means being a servant. You can communicate a lot about faith by your willingness to serve. For years, successful student ministries have known that getting kids involved in service results in spiritual growth and in bonding together as a group. The same benefits will occur within families when they serve together.
Making lifelong followers of Jesus is not only the mission of the church (Matthew 28:18-20); it’s the mission of every Christian parent (Deuteronomy 6).
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children, and they have one grandson.