A slow fade is occurring.  Christianity is losing its young people.  Studies show that 75% of the children who grow up in church leave the church. That is a real problem.

During the past 40 years, the church in America has clearly lost a lot of its strength, stability and overall health.

According to a study conducted at the City University of New York, the United States appears to be going through an unprecedented change in religious practice.   Large numbers of American adults are disaffiliating themselves from Christianity.   Since WWII, this process had been observed in other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand  England and other European nations.  But until recently, America's affiliation with Christianity had been at a high level-about 87% and stable.

What can we do the stem the tide? 
What can we do to pass faith on to our kids?

The church must equip parents to become primary spiritual trainers in their own home.  As God prepared to give the Promised Land to His people, He said, what I'm about to tell you is the way you can have a strong faith in me, and pass that faith on to your kids and grand-kids.

Changes in our society have made it necessary for a shift in our thinking.  (Technology, TV, computers, cell phones, media, schedules, school, sports, and the list goes on.)

Family life has gotten busier and more hectic over the past few decades.  Intended or not, we've moved away from the home being the primary place where faith is nurtured.

Peter Benson, director of Search Institute notes "As the family goes so goes the future of the church. Religious life in the home is more influential than the church." Together, mom and dad are 2-3 times more influential than any program at church.

The problem: Faithful Christ-like living isn't happening in our homes today.  In other words, families of all shapes and sizes are not applying faith to their everyday lives at home.  They might come to church on a regular basis or be involved in a church program, but when it comes to talking about faith, praying together, and reading the Bible in the home, it isn't happening.  The result is a crisis that has short-term and long-term consequences. Parents' behavior during the week does not match what children see on Sunday.

Search Institute conducted a nationwide survey of more than 11,000 participants from 561 congregations across six different denominations.  Revealing that among the churched teens that were surveyed: 
     12% have a regular dialog with their mother on faith/life issues.
       5% have a regular dialog with their father on faith/life issues.
       9% have experienced regular reading from the Bible in their home.
     12% have experienced a servanthood event with a parent as an action of faith.

George Barna's research confirms these results... "We discovered that in a typical week, fewer than 10% 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."

It is easy to come to the conclusion that religious life in the home is almost non-existent.

We are losing the primary place of influence for faith development ... the home

Since parents are primary Faith Trainers, we must have a clear partnership between church and family with training for parents.  It's not only what we do as parents but what we are.  The church should teach parents how to love God and people in front of their children.  The church must ask the question of parents: "When have you talked to your children about the story of God in your life?"

We must challenge parents to live out Deuteronomy 6 in their lives.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The College Hills church will enact "Path of Legacy" Milemarkers, which are practical and intentional ways to hand down your faith in God to the next generation of Christ-followers in your family.  These mile markers take place:

Milemarker 1 - Baby Dedication
The first milemarker along the parenting pathway is the Celebration of Life Ceremony. This ceremony is for children 1 year of age and under along with their parents. It is held once each year during the 8:45 Sunday morning worship service. The Celebration of Life Ceremony is preceded by a required class for parents. Parents learn of their biblical role as the primary faith trainers of their children. They are encouraged to embrace God’s plan for them to intentionally lead in the spiritual and moral development of their children as the church partners with them along the way.

Milemarker 2 - The Blessing
The second milemarker is enacted in the second year of the child’s life. A class is offered to assist parents in establishing the ritual of praying God’s Blessing over their child daily. Parents will discover how the simple practice of blessing your family can transform their lives forever and, more importantly, change the fabric of their daily family life. The biblical practice of blessing is a potent, yet simple way to help children come to know and love God.

Milemarker 3 - Entering Kindergarten; Reading the Word
The third milemarker is reached upon entering Kindergarten. A class is offered to help parents model and encourage the reading of God’s Word. We want our children to make decisions based on a biblical world view. A ceremony will take place for the elders of the church to give a Bible story book to each child to encourage them to begin their own personal walk with God.

Milemarker 4 - Taming Technology
The fourth milemarker is reached at age 8-9. A class is provided with the goal of giving parents and children the information and tools that will help them effectively navigate the challenges of today’s technology. This session is designed to be experienced by parents and children together. It will address the use of phones, computers and gaming systems as our families strive to make good, safe, God-honoring decisions in with their devices.

Milemarker 5 - The Faith Commitment
The most important milestone in the life of every person is the decision to give his/her life to Christ. For the child growing up in a Christian home and participating in a local church, a decision point is often reached between the ages of 7 and 13. At milemarker 5, we partner with and equip parents to lead their children toward this life-changing connection with Jesus Christ. Parents are encouraged to attend a class that teaches
the biblical truth concerning salvation and baptism. In this class, parents will be equipped with resources to help them lead their children in making a commitment to Jesus.

Milemarker 6 - Preparing for Adolescence
It is critically important to help children prepare spiritually, emotionally, and physically for adolescence. Between the ages of 9 and 11 we begin to introduce these concepts to young people as they attend worship, classes, and activities at College Hills. During this time parents are encouraged to attend a class entitled “Preparing for Adolescence” where they are given tools to face the challenges of the teen years. Parents are encouraged to plan a “retreat/getaway” with their child to work through the “Preparing for Adolescence” material.

Milemarker 7 - What Does It Mean to be a Friend?
Jesus said the most important thing in the world is loving God. The second most important is to love each other. One of the most crucial skills for the growing disciple to develop is the art of friendship. What does it mean to be a true friend and neighbor? What qualities make a real friend? All of life is enriched when we love each other better. This session endeavors to help our children be great friends and neighbors.

Milemarker 8 - Parenting for Purity/Authentic Love
This effort will expose culture’s distorted messages about purity and love and will reveal how God has created us for a lifestyle of personal holiness. Students will examine the attributes of holiness that shape our identity. They will be challenged to reject the self-serving influences of culture and embrace what it means to live as godly young men and women who reflect the character of Christ. Parents will have a class
session before their children begin the project in order to be aware of the material and make plans for their child’s pledge.

Milemarker 9 - What It Means to Be a Real Man/Real Woman
These separate events are designed to take place on a Sunday evening for teens in middle school and high school. Parents and teens will experience these intergenerational event(s) together. Young ladies will meet with their mothers and/or other older sisters in the faith to share a meal together and to discuss the vital qualities that make a real Christian woman. Young men will meet with their dads and/or other older brothers in the faith to share a meal together and to discuss the vital qualities that make a real Christian man.

Milemarker 10 - The Rite of Passage/Driver’s License
A class is offered for the parents of those students finishing the ninth grade. The class recognizes the important milemarker when teens obtain the privilege to legally drive a motor vehicle. Parents are guided through ideas and plans on how to successfully navigate this significant moment where trust and responsibility are vital.

Milemarker 11 - Life in Christ
The Senior Summit is a Sunday in May set aside to recognize the important milemarker these high school graduates are passing. Gifts are presented to each graduate. A display table for each graduate is set up. A banquet is held where grads are challenged and encouraged to make their faith a priority. Each graduate selects a “mentor” to help in their transition in the year following graduation. Parents are shown how to
write a spiritual blessing for their child to be presented at the banquet just before graduation.

Milemarker 12 - Parenting Post-Graduates
Transitions can be tricky and often difficult. Letting go and moving forward is frequently more challenging for the parent than it is for the child. Parents have moved through the phases of parenthood from Commander to Coach to Counselor and now to Consultant. What new expectations and limitations does this new phase bring for parents? We cannot parent in the same way as we did when our children were toddlers or teens. This session will help parents to effectively transition into this new phase where children are now young adults.

 

The College Hills church will equip parents with the skills to prepare their children for each mile marker and provide resources to help parents gain competency.  These include Faith Talks, God Moments, Blessings, and Driven Home questions each week.  Sharing in worship each week is an important driver for each of these. The church commits to expect, encourage, equip, and educate our families in nurturing faith in their children.

This important initiative does NOT mean that there won't be a children's and youth ministry.  It will be quite the opposite.  The church will continue to offer vibrant, biblical and relevant ministries to children and youth.  These programs will support and supplement - not replace - what children and teenagers are learning at home.

 

A healthy family blesses the church.    A healthy church blesses the family.