Intertwining Church and Home …
Over the last several years, we have heard church research experts, pastors and leaders discuss the issues related to losing our young people from churches and schools at alarming rates. We have reacted by hiring youth pastors, creating youth-centered programs, and trying to make church services more friendly to youth and young adults. The church can be as friendly and loving as possible, but it cannot prevent the youth from exiting the proverbial backdoor. Let me propose that in order to stem the tide and reverse this trend in our churches, the home must become the center of evangelism and discipleship to emerging generations. It is important for us to view home as the place where an early and lasting relationship with Jesus begins.
This is not to say that pastors, churches and spiritual leaders do not have a part in discipling the next generation. The role of the church should help further empower family discipleship that will strengthen both our homes and churches. Our churches can be a key in the training ground — encouraging, equipping and empowering families to disciple their children. The church’s place is not to replace the role of the parents; it stands beside them to strengthen and help equip fathers and mothers throughout the child-rearing years.
During the early years, a child’s faith is first developed and nurtured at home. In a world that has removed God from religion, politics and society in general, a parent’s work is never done. Raising a child to have a biblical worldview that includes a positive outlook of God seems nearly impossible at times. Parents often are at a loss to develop and maintain a meaningful relationship with their children while balancing a busy life. Statistics from Barna Research Group, ValueGenesis and other Christian researchers show how families are too busy to even eat a meal together let alone have family Bible reading and prayer.
The tremendous changes we have experienced in the American culture over the past three decades causes us to conclude that both the home and the church appear to be ineffective in discipling our youth. Though the challenge can seem overwhelming at times, now is not the time to throw up our hands in despair. As Ellen White writes, "Do we consider and realize that the greatest influence to recommend Christianity to our world is a well-ordered and well-disciplined Christian family? The world then sees that they believe God’s Word" (Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, p. 77). The simple, godly example of moms and dads as they lead their homes in the same way Christ leads the church will draw people to Jesus and ultimately to the unique Adventist message.
I have a dream that churches, conference leaders, Sabbath school teachers, pastors and elders will not only lead by personal family example but will seek to encourage every parent to make their home the center for evangelism and discipleship of their children. Then our churches will experience the majority of young people setting "an example by their speech, life and purity." This intertwining of home and church to raise up a new generation with godly values beginning in our homes will spill out and transform every church.
Tobin Dodge, Alaska Conference pastor