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Sounding the Alarm: A Call for Urgent Action in Family Faith Formation

We require urgent action in family faith formation!

I’m a Boomer who came to faith in Christ two weeks before my nineteenth birthday. As a young Christian adult, it was customary for me to regularly attend church services and meetings several times a week. It’s different today. Sunday evening church services are as rare as hen’s teeth. Mid-week children’s programs compete with other interests (dance, sports, tutoring, etc.). And “regular” church attendance is coming to church three out of eight weekends.

With the decline in attendance at church services and meetings, one would assume that Christian parents have ramped up the faith formation of their children @home. But family faith formation isn’t their pressing concern, and the spiritual wisdom of grandparents has been displaced by parenting advice from peers and podcasts.

The spiritual well-being of this generation of children and youth is severely compromised. This is cause for deep concern. Share on X

With many Christian parents disengaged from their children’s faith formation and their church attendance sporadic, the spiritual well-being of this generation of children and youth is severely compromised. This is cause for deep concern. Yet, there’s apathy and inaction.

The brokenness in families is reflected in the brokenness in the church, and vice versa. Where are the prophets sounding the alarm? Who are the preachers with the fortitude to address lukewarmness in the church? Why don’t we expect families to commit to God’s mission wholeheartedly? And what will it take to get parents to prioritize their children’s faith formation?

Yes, parents struggle to “manage it all,” and families are being pulled in many directions, but that’s nothing new. Families have always juggled competing priorities. Let’s stop blaming the problem on parents not having enough time. The issue isn’t a lack of time; it’s a lack of intent. Parents prioritize what they value. For parents to prioritize their children’s faith formation, they must reorder their values.

For parents to prioritize their children’s faith formation, they must reorder their values. Share on X

Time and time again, I hear children’s and family ministry pastors, directors, teachers or volunteers saying they believe parents should take the primary role in their children’s faith formation. But what is the church doing to help parents? If we want parents to step up and be more intentional, we must equip and encourage them. Not at a superficial level. Sending them some resources isn’t enough. We need clear-cut teaching on what Christian families should value and how they should prioritize their time. The Bible’s not ambiguous on the priority of family faith formation, so we shouldn’t be vague or unequivocal.

Being forthright isn’t incompatible with being gentle and kind. Part of the reason why we’re not seeing urgent action in family faith formation is we haven’t been honest. We’ve made excuses and, in so doing, failed to truly love one another. When parents say they’re doing a good job nurturing their children’s faith formation, but they aren’t, it’s un-Christian not to call them to account.

When parents say they’re doing a good job nurturing their children’s faith formation, but they aren’t, it’s un-Christian not to call them to account. Share on X

Less than ten percent of Christian families regularly read the Bible and pray together – the bare necessities for family faith formation. Helping every Christian family meet with God daily is the very least we should do (Hebrews 2:1). Being concerned about parents teaching their children the stories and truths of God’s Word isn’t enough. To make it happen, we must teach every Christian parent how to listen, read, synthesize, analyze, study, interpret, contemplate, reflect, memorize, apply and pray the Scriptures.

When our expectations are low, the outcomes follow suit. Christian parents aren’t aspiring to what God expects of us because we’ve lowered the bar. That’s not a legalistic observation; it’s aspirational. The Scriptures plainly indicate that the primary purpose of parents, grandparents, and the faith community is to tell and teach successive generations about the works and wonders of the Lord so they would know Him and, in turn, tell their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-8, Psalm 78:1-8).

Local church pastors and stakeholders have a vital role to play in renewing family faith formation. Share on X

Local church pastors and stakeholders have a vital role to play in renewing family faith formation. It will be an uphill struggle if church leaders don’t help make it work. We require a culture shift. Every church should embrace intergenerational ministry holistically and intentionally. If a local church isn’t operating as a family of families, the disconnect undermines a high view of the family and the precedence we should give to family faith formation.

Concerned children’s and family ministry practitioners wonder if we can turn the ship around. When their suggestions for improving how we come alongside Christian families are ignored or downplayed, they become discouraged or disheartened. To spark positive change, we must foster constructive dialogue. To promote constructive dialogue, we must strengthen our theology of the family.

Reigniting the flame of faith in the family will reignite the flame of faith in the church. Share on X

Reigniting the flame of faith in the family will reignite the flame of faith in the church. But if we want a win-win situation, humility and contrition are required. We can’t turn to God if we don’t recognize we’ve strayed from His plan. Only when we prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering will we make progress. God’s not limited. He can and will enable families to grow spiritually. But it’s a partnership – we must confess our weaknesses and shortcomings and trust Him to revive us.

Do you agree or disagree that we require urgent action in family faith formation? Please share your comments below.

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1 Comment

  1. I totally agree, but what does that look like practically speaking?
    We can exhort and encourage, but when response is dictated to by schedules and time restraints on behalf of these young families, progress seems constantly hampered. It’s a frustrating business.

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