The church has been losing the battle of making disciples of young people. The statistics are startling and unacceptable. According to Barna's research, 70% of kids who grow up in the church will walk away from their faith once they are old enough to be on their own.
What's the problem? Why is this happening? While kids are learning Bible stories and Bible history, they are not learning to live out their faith. They are growing up in the church but not learning how to be the church.
A Dysfunctional Partnership
As a pastor, I would say that we as a church were partnering with the parents for their kid's spiritual success. But rather than truly partnering with Parents to help them disciple their kids, we often unwittingly did the opposite.
Parents were disconnected from what their kids were learning, and it brought back the age-old discussion at the dinner table: “what did you learn today” “I don’t know.” And when the kids or students did remember what they had learned, it was often something that the parents themselves were clueless about.
For example, I would be doing a series on "How To Have Healthy Biblical Relationships", a worthy and much-needed topic. In the kid's area, they may have been teaching the story of Jonah and the whale, a topic that points to Jesus and we should teach and understand. At the same time in the youth department, the Youth Pastor is walking the students through biblical principles for dealing with peer pressure and temptation. All are very worthy Biblical teachings, in fact, necessary and applicable and will point to Jesus. But creates no unity in the church or the family.
Rather than working with parents, we were simply asking them to trust us to turn their children or students into a disciple. This may be appropriate except that the ones who are chosen to disciple kids, the ones God has given this duty to are first and foremost the parents. But we as a church were choosing to assume this role for them and in so doing, we undermined the vital and critical requirement and responsibility and calling of parents.
Time For A Change
It was time for a change in our church! We thought we should be teaching in unity with what the Bible says, but at different levels. So we teach with One Voice, which is the same thing as all ages but age-appropriate. This allows our people to continue their spiritual journey together for the other 167 hours of the week. Our children are now learning the same Biblical teachings that our teenagers and parents do, which ensures there is cohesion in what is being taught both at church and at home. So now if we're discussing "How to Have Healthy Biblical Relationships," we're all learning it but at an age-appropriate level of comprehension. We're all drawing on the same biblical narrative to back up, strengthen, unpack, and apply Jesus' teaching.
Now when the question is posed at the dinner table or during a car ride home, "what did you learn today," parents are prepared and equipped to assist their children in remembering and discussing how to apply what they've learned to their daily lives. Not just for their kids' sake, but also to allow them to see how biblical truth is put into action.
The result has been extremely encouraging! Kids are growing up with a Christian worldview, understanding their own spiritual life journey and how to live out their faith rather than walk away from it later when they get older. Parents truly feel that we are partnering with them in their journey of making disciples of their kids and are equipped and empowered to answer questions and take their kids further. Families are truly on a spiritual journey together. Our Church family is truly on a spiritual journey together and experiencing unity like never before.