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.