Jason and Kipi have been on me for some time to read Mark Holmen’s latest work, Building Faith at Home. The premise of the book is that what we as followers of Jesus do in our homes is much more important to passing on the Christian faith than what we do in our churches. And I believe that with all my heart. Amen. The focus and the attention and the emphasis we place on what we do together during our weekly assemblies is not just overshadowing what parents should be doing with their kids at home, it’s in some ways undermining it. And until we begin again to live our lives of faith in front of our children and with our children, what we’re doing in our churches isn’t really helping. We’re raising generations of kids now—I’d say even people my age and younger, maybe beginning with the first generation to be raised with a Youth Minister—who are sold on church programs and faithful to church activities but who have no real depth of commitment to our God in Christ Jesus.
I believe all that. I see the impact of it everyday. It’s evident in the things we talk about and argue about and the choices we make within our own congregation here at Legacy.
And as I cracked open Building Faith at Home for the first time Saturday night, I was struck by the statistics Holmen uses to back up what we’ve suspected all along.
*Since 1991, the population in the U.S. has grown by 15% but the number of adults who don’t attend church has increased 92%, from 39-million to 75-million.
*In 1990, 86.2% of Americans claimed to be Christian. Today that number is less than 75%. It’s going down by nearly a full percentage point per year. It that trend continues, non-Christians will outnumber Christians in this country by the year 2042.
*Search Institute conducted a survey of more than 11,000 young people from 561 congregations across six different Christian denominations. Keep in mind, these are all church kids! According to their responses: only 12% of youth have a regular dialogue with their mothers on faith issues; only 5% have a regular faith dialogue with their fathers; only 9% of youth experience regular reading of the Bible and devotions at home; and only 12% of youth have ever experienced a faith-based service event with a parent.
*In Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, George Barna claims “fewer than ten percent of parents who regularly attend church with their kids read the Bible together, pray together (other than at meal times), or participate in an act of service as a family unit. Even fewer families—1 out of every 20—have any type of worship experience together with their kids other than while they are at church.”
It seems that religious life in the home is just about nonexistent. It’s nearly extinct.
And the Church is called to teach our families how to share their faith, how to live their faith, how to exhibit their faith with each other.
I’m only halfway through Holmen’s book. And it’s pretty good. He gives very practical ideas for helping parents and kids grow and mature their faith at home. And I think we can very easily implement a lot of those things here at Legacy. It’s not so much overhauling what we do, it’s just looking at what we do through a different lens. It’ll require only some minor, yet critical, tweaking and adjusting as we encourage families to worship together and study together in their homes.
I especially appreciate Holmen’s emphasis throughout this first part of his book on involving all the different generations in our churches with each other in faith-building exercises. So much, if not most, of what we do as a congregation is segregated by age-group. Bible classes, retreats, fellowships, even our Small Groups are mostly divided along generational lines. And that’s not healthy for anybody. A truly healthy church will be intergenerational almost everywhere. Having young marrieds without children and parents of teenagers and empty-nesters and 85-year-old widows in the same classes and groups and pews and small groups should be the norm, not the exception. So when Holmen mentions baby blessings and involving much more of the whole church family in those ceremonies, I think we can apply baptisms along the same lines, much like what we did with the Dennis grandkids on Sunday. When new members come to the church I’m trying to involve the whole church family in vowing publicly to love them and take care of them and work with them as we follow Jesus. Weddings and funerals, high school and college graduations, anniversaries and other rites of passage should be celebrated by the whole church family together.
But everything we do should be geared toward getting our members to actually live out their faith in their homes with their spouses and kids and cousins and grandchildren.
Read a Bible story to your kids tonight. Pray with your spouse tonight. Plan to do something together as a family that will serve someone else.
Realizing that you just started the book, but does the author speak to why it happened – what is the root cause for this change? Does he go deep enough in asking why?
The author cites what he calls the “Drop Off” mentality. We have coaches who teach our kids soccer and baseball, teachers who teach our kids reading and math, instructors who teach our kids how to sing and play piano, and ministers and church staff and programs to teach our kids the Christian faith. Parents and families are depending on the Church to pass on the Christian faith to our children. Instead of an aid and a support to the process, the Church has become the main, and most of the time only, part of the process. Parents “drop off” their kids at church so the preacher/youth minister/children’s program can teach them the faith.
That, and our increased focus in the Church on bigger and better and louder and more exciting and more culturally-appealing programs and experiences, is not working. Our families are hooked on the programs and the experiences but not on God. Or they’re hungering and searching for the next loudest or next most exciting thing but not for a genuine relationship with God in Christ Jesus.
So when the program gets old, they’re out. Or when they get old enough to realize their faith is based only on what happens in the church building two or three times a week, they leave. If they’re not seeing and experiencing a Christian life with their families at home, it normally won’t take. Which is what the stats are telling us. And which is what I’m seeing all around me.
The “drop off” mentality is definitely part of it, and is becoming a literal part of the problem. Watch OUR Legacy parking lot for a few Wednesday nights, and see a few vehicles pull up, drop off a kid or two, and drive off, the parent(s) heading off to do their own thing. What message should the kids take from that?
Working with some of the kids, they are like windows into a home. It quickly becomes very clear which kids are being taught at home and which aren’t.
That’s not digging deep enough. Why is there a “drop off” mentality? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but if you don’t get to the true root cause you can’t really solve the problem. Keep asking why and don’t settle for the ancedotal evidence. It’s not that the ancedotal isn’t pointing in the right direction, but it’s hard work to really get to answer.
I apologize for the anonymous posting – i was multi-tasking and hit submit.
If you have an insight or an opinion, Chris, let’s hear it.
I’ve stated the true root cause as I see it and as the author of this book sees it: we’re not practicing in our homes what we preach in our churches. Church is the only place our kids and our spouses see us pray or read the Bible or talk about our faith in God through Christ Jesus. And they’re not stupid. If it’s not making a difference in our lives, what’s the point? I have a hard time blaming them.
Some of that (and this has nothing to do with your question regarding the “drop off” mentality, specifically) is that the Church hasn’t been very good about holding Christians accountable to the ways they live their lives outside the building. Or in showing them how.
And, lastly, if kids look at the incongruities of what their parents do at church compared to what they do or don’t do at home, it may be that parents, in the same way, see the obvious incongruities with what we read in Scripture compared to what we practice in church. It’s understandable why, in both cases, they would be turned off.
I completely agree that the “whole” church , should be a reflection of the “whole” church. That we all should gather together. It’s great for the kids to have their time together and adults to have their time together whether in worship, prayer, bible study. But I love to spend that time also with those older and younger than myself and I want my kids to experience that as well.
I must admit sadly that I was one a “dropper offer” (is that even a word??) I would send my kids to bible study or their time together, but not stay for myself. I am so thankful that my eldest daughter became on fire for God and wanted to be more involved in church and with the activities. I saw that, I wanted the revival she was experiencing. So thus began myself and husband becoming more and more involved and what a blessing for us all.
It is possible, I know not for the means of this discussion, but the children minister just as well to the parents.
Wow! What timing! David and I have been talking a lot about this. We heard a speaker last Sunday that addressed this problem. He gave 7 reasons why we are “losing” our kids – in a nutshell here they are:
1.Lack of Bible knowledge – studying
2.Lack of preparation for combat – defending their belief
3.Lack of protection for their hearts & mind – tv,music etc.
4.Lack of proper training in the Lord – view of God
5.Lack of proper teaching – what are they learning or not learning about God at school etc..
6.Lack of proper priorities
7.Apathy – parents know there needs to be a change but don’t do it!
He had some great points! We want to get him to speak at Legacy ASAP!
I was just talking to one of our elders yesterday about this and how it relates to Small Group. I did make some suggestions on how we can include our children more in Small Groups (Alan – we’ll talk more about that later) Our children need to see how important our relationship with God is to us – that is completely different that seeing us “go” to church – so personally I feel that is the “root” to the problem. It’s easy for them to see us going to church – that’s just a “habit” but we have to yearn for that relationship before we can teach our children to foster it! It’s hard being a parent! I’m sure God looks at us and says that same thing! LOL
As we’ve stated over and over again, there’s no better way to pass on the Christian faith to our children than to worship with them and study with them and pray with them in our homes. Small Groups Church works so well in that our children watch us and other adults actually practice what we preach. I know most of our groups are actively involving their children in everything that happens in their homes on Sunday nights. And I’m certain that’s going to make a world of difference in those kids’ lives, probably for generations to come! I pray none of our groups are segregating the kids from the singing and praying and studying and eating and application that’s happening in our homes. That’s missing the point.
I didn’t hear the sermon you heard Sunday, but I would add “in the home” to every single point you listed. Lack of Bible knowledge in the home. Lack of proper training, what they’re learning or not learning, in the home. Lack of proper priorities in the home. Forget school and forget church programs and forget preachers and ministers as far as targets of blame for any of these issues. They are in place only to equip and edify and aid in the process. It all begins and ends at the home.
I see more than a few flaws in this line of reasoning…
First, it’s assuming the parents are spiritually equipped and they are simply shirking their resposibility.
If this is the first generation of youth dependant upon “the church” for guidance it’s only because the previous generation failed to prepare their children to be the spiritual leaders called for in this rhetoric.
Too many congregations are being held hostage by the “blind faith” generation. That sort of mentality has run it’s course due to the lack of substance.
You ask the average adult Christian about the bread used in communion and the only answer you get is,”it represents the body of Christ.”
But how? What’s the significance of the absence of leaven? How was it prophesied in Isaiah? What’s a Matzoh or for that matter a Matzoh Tosh?
Second, just because the problem has been identified doesn’t mean you abandon the program. If the youth are to receive the benefit of the elder generation it will be from the top down and not the bottom up.
Forcing the youth into the previous generation’s preferred style of worship is stifling the very spirit within those youth.
Instead, the adults need to get off their high horse, kneel down and embrace the fact that it’s a growing, changing…living thing.
Finally, probably the largest most apparent flaw I see is it assumes the homes are intact.
Today’s church needs compassion. The assumption has been made here that “drop off” equates into “I have other things I want to do.”
You ought to be ashamed.
Mom might not be coming with her kids. Mom might not be in the right spiritual frame of mind….but Mom might just be alone and seeking something…anything that might avoid for her children the life she’s facing.
Of course to do so means we have to be willing to let “those” sort of people into our congregation.
Is it possible that the Youth Minister that you and I grew up with was God’s way of preparing the church to minister to a world that is under attack?
It’s going to get worse and we need to prepare for it…not sit around and bemoan how our quaint little Christian Club is being threatened.
We can sit around all day and discuss how it should be in the home but my responsibility doesn’t stop there…and neither does yours.
I agree 100% with what Alan has said should happen at home.
My question is “But it’s not…so now what?”
It wasn’t until the middle of the fourth century when the Church began using unleavened bread for Christian communion. But that’s another topic for another discussion on another day and in another sermon series.
You ask, “So now what?” The “now what?” is that the Church and the programs and the preachers and the ministers equip and edify and aid us in passing on the faith to our children and grandchildren in our homes. And we are moving in that direction. Probably too slowly. But we are moving in that direction. And I’m determined for us to get there.
I asked why…not when.
To scare the non-Christians straight.
That was the man’s point last Sunday – those things have to be happening at home! He was a great speaker – would be interested in hearing more of what he has to say!