If you have picked up a book on youth ministry or parenting in the last decade—and there are no small number of them—there is a good chance that you have been challenged with the idea that children raised in Christian homes are leaving the church in staggering numbers. Some sources start the percentage around 60% while others go as high as 80%. Think about that: as many as 8 out of 10 children eventually leave the church.
The discipleship of children takes place primarily in the home but that home should be under the authority and guidance of the church.
Now before we go too far, let me say this: I do not buy it. That’s right. I do not think the number of children who grow up to leave church after being raised in true, Christ-centered homes is anywhere near that number. Nor do I think that we should panic and refocus our mission on merely trying to keep children attending church as they grow up. That leads to nothing good.
However, these statistics have served to awaken a conversation regarding the intentional discipleship of children in their families that has had positive consequences. Over the last two decades the conversation has produced at least four resulting approaches by churches to reach and disciple children. Here they are:
Family-Programmatic Ministry: Every member of the family has specialized programs and appropriate level of teaching and care for their age. Discipleship of children happens primarily at church with highly trained leadership.
Family-Integrated Ministry: The church does away with age-segregated programs entirely. The father is emphasized as the shepherd of his family. The family is where the discipleship of children happens.
Family-Based Ministry: The church refocuses programs to be whole-family oriented. There is an emphasis on events and programs that create intergenerational interaction. Families use the programs of the church to aid in intergenerational discipleship.
Family-Equipping Ministry: The age-segregated programs are maintained but with an emphasis on calling parents to the discipleship of their children and the equipping of them to do so. Discipleship happens primarily in the context of family but under the guidance and authority of the church.
We would like to call parents to publicly commit themselves to the discipleship of their children before a church that is committing itself to the care and guidance of these families.
While there is something to be said for each approach, I believe Family-Equipping to be the healthiest. The discipleship of children takes place primarily in the home but that home should be under the authority and guidance of the church.
This is our vision for Family Ministry and serves as the motivation behind our upcoming Parent Dedication on June 18th. We would like to call parents to publicly commit themselves to the discipleship of their children before a church that is committing itself to the care and guidance of these families.
I would like to invite you to register for one of our preparatory meetings on either June 4th or June 11th to participate in our upcoming parent dedication.