Over recent years there has been a movement in churches towards a more family-focused, intergenerational ministry environment. One major platform proponents of this transition stand on is that “the home should be the primary place of spiritual formation.” Entire curricula, such as Orange from ReThink Group and Faith 5 from Rich Melheim, are predicated upon this premise.

As a family minister, I happen to agree with this viewpoint with one caveat – I do not believe that the home should be the primary place of spiritual formation, I believe it is the primary place of spiritual formation. The question isn’t should it be that but rather, since the home is where faith is formed, how should that affect how we do church?

Any number of studies, secular or sacred, that you look up on the influences during childhood and young adulthood will consistently lead to one conclusion – the parents and/or caregivers have the most lasting impact on worldview and faith formation. The Sticky Faith group at Fuller Youth Institute have studied the reasons young people walk away from the church, looking for a “silver bullet” for churches and parents to use to keep that from happening.  Their top finding was that time spent talking and living faith in the home was the biggest indicator of a faith that sticks in kids.  According to Jim Burns at HomeWord ministries, kids that talk about their faith at home with mom and dad have a 80% chance of remaining in church once they leave the home.

If that is true, than no matter what, the home, the place where interaction takes place between the child and the parent, is the place where faith is formed.

Now, it may not be the kind of faith that we as ministers in the church would like to see formed in children. It may be no faith in God at all. But regardless, faith is being formed at home all the time, everywhere, for every child.

So what is our response?

As ministers, we cannot assume that what we share on Sunday will become lived out on Monday unless we are somehow impacting and reaching into the home. We must connect outside the four walls of our church. We must continue beyond the initial engagement of an outreach event. We must recognize that even if our title is still Children’s Pastor, we are also Parent Pastor and Caregiver Counselor and Home Helper. Sunday may be our landing zone, but our work must be done outside home base.

It is no longer a question of whether or not the home should be the primary place for faith formation and spiritual growth. We do not have to wonder if parents should be spiritually leading their kids or discipling them in faith. These things are. They just are.

The question for us is, “What do we do about it?”

And as we wrestle with this reality, I believe we will find that our parents need us to resource them, equip them, pray for them, and encourage them to lead their children to faith in Christ.

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Christina is wife of Pastor Luke and mom to Hannah, Naomi, and Caleb. She has been serving in ministry since 2010, first as a director of children's ministry and now as a family minister near Lexington, KY. She is passionate about helping churches transition into family ministry and equipping parents for discipleship in the home. She is currently completing studies at Wesley Seminary at IWU for a Master's degree in ministry with a focus on children, youth and family, with the desire to help churches grow their family ministries.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great article! I believe in order to effectively make disciples of kids, we must create our ministry to be not only family friendly but family focused. I believe the days of big programs are coming to an end and I am encouraged to see more churches focus on how to equip and encourage parents to take on the Biblical command to shepherd their children. I believe this can take place when resources are poured into family resources rather than big programs. I really enjoyed your statement about children’s pastors also being parent pastors, caregiver counselor, and home helper. Thank you for your biblically based article and passion to see kids effectively discipled for the glory of God.

    • Thanks Matt! I’m also encouraged by the recent turn towards refocusing on the home and intentional relationship building between generations. I pray that more and more ministers and parents will become excited about the awesome place God established in the home for making disciples! Blessings to you!

  2. The main objection I have to this thinking is simply that God can transform lives in spite of what is happening at home. I have seen people who grew up in homes with no faith, in homes with a false or perverted view of God, who had a life changing meeting with Jesus either as children or actually at any and every age. Yes, parents can have a tremendous impact on their children’s faith, and that is probably the best way for people to come to God–as a result of seeing real faith lived out at home. But do not forget that God can reach people in other ways as well, and we are called to share the truth in love to all those we come in contact with, and be always ready to give an account for our faith. The real reason children grow up and turn away from the church…and from real faith in God…is because they haven’t experienced a real, life changing faith.

    • DJ, I absolutely agree!!! I have no argument with what you said at all. I think my heart in writing this is that we realize that the home wields the greatest influence on kids and we approach our ministry with that core understanding. For kids from Christian homes, that means we pour into parents/caregivers and equip them for discipleship. For those coming from homes where Christ isn’t a part of the scene, it means we recognize and minister to these kids with great intentionality and awareness that what we are sharing may sound foreign and not be backed up at home. We build relationships that go beyond the four walls of the church building. We disciple them in the faith through intentional conversations and meaningful ministry moments because we recognize that our influence, while important, is unbalanced in regards to the influence at home. And we pray diligently for Christ to bring the entire home into His kingdom. That is why I ended the article not with, “So every church needs to do this-or-that type of family ministry.” Rather I ended with, in light of the reality that the home is the greatest influence, what should we do? How should we minister? I agree that God reaches people in a multitude of ways, and by His grace, we are one of those ways. Blessings to you as you serve!

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