Family Nurture – The first key in Making Young Disciples

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At the beginning of this month, we hope you checked out the article – 10 Keys for Making Young Disciples – and we promised that we would put up 2 of the 10 Keys or Pillars of Faith Formation.  So here is the first key – Family Nurture.  This content is courtesy of Here2Stay.org.au.

Mark DeVries writes in his book Family-Based Youth Ministry:

“Almost with that exception, those young people who are growing in their faith as adults were teenagers who fit into one of two categories;

  • they came from families where Christian growth was modelled in at least one of their parents, or
  • they had developed significant connections with an extended family of adults within the church.

How often they attended youth events (including Sunday School and discipleship groups) was not a good predictor of which teens would, and which would not, grow toward Christian adulthood.”

The family is the most important group of people mentioned in the Bible. While acknowledging that families come in different shapes today, consider some difficult perspectives. Mark Griffiths in his book, One Generation From Extinction, helps to bring this back into focus in our modern context. He writes:

“Often we are dissatisfied with our children’s ministry. We know we should do more; we’re just not sure what. We’re trying to take our ministry forward, but we’re not sure where to. I propose that 21st-century children’s work should be in three dimensions, and that to miss any one of these dimensions is to seriously jeopardise the impact of your ministry to this rising generation.”

The first two of these dimensions are outlined below. There are two Hebrews words used throughout the Old Testament that are translated as ‘family’. One describes a ‘household of faith’, the other refers to the larger ‘community of faith’. All children belong to a ‘household’ and it is this close communal setting that has a major influence on their development as human beings.

DIMENSION ONE: BAYITH (pronounced BAH’-YITH)

The first is the word Bayith. This communicates the concept of what we would now call the immediate family – parents and children together under one roof. We encounter this word in the instructions for the Passover meal (Exodus 12:21-28)

DIMENSION 2: MISHPACHAH (pronounced MISH-PAW-KHAW)

This word carries within it the sense of tribe, clan or community; it is in effect a bond of kinship uniting people to a common cause. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 and Deuteronomy 11:18-19, when instructions are given for the passing on of the belief system from one generation to the next, are written in the context of mishpachah’.

Our journey with children helping to see Christ formed in them must involve active participation within the bayith and mishpachah settings.

Principles and practical ideas to inspire you as you implement this Formational Experience into your long term plan:

Principle

Families (households) are the “primary faith communities “ of children, and need to be supported strongly in this role.

Practical ideas

  • Run a “Parenting Course” at the same time as Kids Club/ Youth Group. Have child-minding for younger children.
  • “Carpark Ministry”: As kids come for Kids Club, provide coffee and conversation for parents when they come to do the ‘pick up’.
  • Provide interest groups for parents and their kids. Eg. “Dads and Lads Fishing Weekend”
  • Organise  “Parents Dinner”  Nights, with child-minding; valet parking etc. Have guest speakers and topics for conversations about parenting.( Include nights for Single parents and Grandparents who have the care of children).
  • “Boxes for Baptismal Families”- when families bring children for Baptism have a special box prepared including a Bible; certificate and other items  signifying the importance of Baptism.)
  • “Baptism Book” – during the Baptismal Service for a child, pass a special book around s o that Parishioners can write a brief message of encouragement for the child and family;  a significant Bible verse; or a brief statement about what it means to ‘walk with Jesus’.
  • Whole age approach to learning with resources for each age-group included in the Church Bulletin.
  • Tools for “God Conversations” with children.
  • Reclaiming the family table. Give very simple and practical tips for how to build family times around a meal table.
  • Churches to make a commitment that their families will have at least one meal a week together.
  • Ministry to fathers so that the rest if the household will follow.
  • How to help men to be heads of their households
  • Bath time, car time, meal time – life app each month. A question each week that kids ask their parents
  • Tell the stories of these conversations in church
  • Emphasise talking – communication. Emphasis not just on spiritual conversations.
  • Families mentoring other families to implement some of these strategies.
  • A bag of prayer points on the family table – very young children can pick out the prayers
  • Families listening to online radio stations with good Christian content.
  • Captivated DVD to educate parents on technology/media issues
  • Each household in your church family is given an A3 sized piece of card. Household members create a montage/collage made up of photos, pictures and small physical pieces of objects that reflect the interests and story of this ‘family’. Don’t forget to add the name of your family. Ideally, these could be framed with simple frames and hung on a space on your church walls. Your church meeting space then takes on a ‘living room’ feeling for your wider family.

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