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A Family-Equipping Vision for Your Church

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.”[1]
  • Infrequent church attendance. “The average child attends an evangelical megachurch less than two times per month.”[2]
  • 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.”[3]

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.[4]

  • 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.”[5]
  • 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.”[6]

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.

Proposal:

  • 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.

[1]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/.

[2]Larry Fowler, The Question Nobody Asks About our Children (Steamwood, IL: Awana, 2014), 11.

[3]Ibid., 18.

[4]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.

[5]George Barna, Third Millennium Teens: Research on the Minds, Hearts, and Souls of American’s Teenagers (Ventura, CA: Barna Research Group, 1999), 66-67.

[6]Ben Freudenberg, The Family Friendly Church (Loveland, CO: Group Publisher, 1988), 28.

Five Reasons for Family Worship

  1. The scripture is clear that our delight is to be directed to God. He is to be worshipped in all places. If this is true, is He not to be worshipped in our home? Are parents not to assist children in their worship of God just as a pastor assists his congregation? It would be shocking to enter a church that did not have its primary purpose the worship of God. A church that does not express itself by worshipping God is a contradiction in terms. It should be just as outrageous to enter a home in which God is not honored and glorified as a family. A non-worshipping family is just as inconsistent as a non-worshipping church. The family is the smallest of all groups. If there is to be any worship of God in a group setting, then it is most natural that it occurs in the family.
  2. Family worship is the means to instruct and nurture our children in the Lord. The primary duty and delight of every parent is raising a child to know and love God. How can this happen if there is no worship of God in the home? Certainly there can be no spiritual instruction of children if they are not afforded the opportunity to worship with the family. Family worship is how we transmit the Gospel, sound doctrine, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord to our children. It provides children with the freedom to express thoughts, test ideas, and have questions answered.
  3. Family worship trains children how to worship God in larger settings. What is learned in the home is transferable to the sanctuary at church. Habits are best taught by practicing them. Limiting God to Sunday morning often makes worship at the church unnatural and difficult. When children worship God in the home, it becomes normal and routine. Francois Carr, in the book Lead Your Family in Worship, asks “Could it be that the decline of many churches is linked with the death of family worship and not cultivating an intimate relationship with God?” Bringing worship into the home communicates much about our priorities and passions.
  4. Worship in the home creates unity in the family. We cannot be an enemy with those we pray for. Meeting together, in light of the scripture, gives us the opportunity to restore relationships and not allow the sun to go down while we are still angry. This helps us realize the needs of other family members. Family worship has been known to bring about unselfishness, encourage communication, limit anger, and produce the fruits of the Spirit. Family worship will help to promote harmony in your family.
  5. Family worship leaves a legacy through the generations. We can make no greater contribution into our children and grandchildren’s life than to bless them with a time of gathering before the throne of grace on a daily basis. A family, with worship at the center, will produce great fruit for the generations to come.

Family worship is a means to help your child know and love God. I find that nearly every Christian parent deeply desires to see their child walking with God. Family worship is the best step towards achieving this desire. Joel R. Beeke, a pastor and professor, remarks how his brother was touched through a time of family worship, “Dad, the oldest memory I have is of tears streaming down your face as you taught us from Pilgrim’s Progress on Sunday evenings how the Holy Spirit leads believers. At the age of three God used you in family worship to convict me that Christianity was real. No matter how far I went astray in later years, I could never seriously question the reality of Christianity, and I want to thank you for that.” Children will be influenced by what they hear and see in family worship and may be spared from much sin as they recall the lessons of their childhood.

If you are not gathering as a family to focus on God you are either too busy or your priorities are out of order. Carl Henry, in his book Church in the Home, agrees, “The child you gave up to God to be dedicated to Him, and admitted a member of Christ’s visible church, was in God’s name given back to you, with the same charge that Pharoah’s daughter gave to Moses’s mother, Take this child, and nurse it for me.”

Through birth, children receive a sinful nature from parents. For this reason parents are highly responsible to arouse the work of God in a child’s life. Parents must urge children to repent and follow Christ, and when he does, our work does not stop there. The most important duty that God has placed on your shoulders is the salvation and discipleship of your children. It is my prayer that you spare no effort to this end. If your salvation and growth in Jesus is important, then you must rank that of your children to be equal in worth. What a painful source of grief it would be to see your children show no sign of affection for Jesus. How it would torment you to see your child live only for his own desires. Today, dedicate yourself to the worthy task of family worship.