Our Family-Driven Faith
Crossway is kind of unique in that we do not follow the traditional model for children and youth ministries. However, we do think we follow the biblical model.
Most churches segregate families as soon as they walk in the door of the church. They are separated by grade or age, and sometimes gender into different classes. While this is not inherently wrong, often the consequences can be harmful.
While the Bible clearly teaches that parents are to be the primary teachers for discipling their children, many today believe the Church should be responsible for that. However, both the Old and the New Testament show that God’s plan is for parents to disciple their children –
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut 6:4-9).
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
More than just being biblical, current studies show that the current model of youth and childrens church-based ministries simply do not work! It is an incredibly sad fact that while the last twenty years has seen exponential growth in the amount of degrees given out in children and youth ministry as well as children and youth ministries started in churches, the drop-out rate for so-called Christian youth has also risen exponentially! We are not doing something right!
What we are not doing right is raising our children to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Sadly, family discipleship is something that has been neglected for at least two generations in Western Christianity (that is, the USA, Canada, Great Britain, and Western Europe). And the result is that we have an enormous drop-off rate for our children, and are no longer the leaders in the Christian world. At one time, the most growth, best discipleship, strongest evangelism was coming from us. Now, it has moved on to other parts of the world, where they are now sending missionaries to us!
Part of the reason for these changes lies in the fact that we have abandoned a Christian view of the family and responsibilities that come with it. We have decided to go along with the rest of society instead of choosing to live a counter-cultural lifestyle. Now we are paying the price and must claw our way back. Not back to the top of the Christian leadership, but back to a basic Christian discipleship; back to living how God wants us to live.
The key to this is living a ‘family-driven faith’ – fathers and mothers being committed to obeying God by teaching their children about Christ, and showing them how to live as Christians. Therefore, at Crossway we seek to encourage and equip parents to disciple their children.
This doesn’t mean that we have abandoned teaching children and youth at our church. No, we have ministries to children and youth. However, the emphasis there is to support the work of parents in discipling their children, not replace it. We pray that the result will be a new generation of young people who have a deep, convictional, God-given faith that comes from one faithful generation passing it to the next (cf. Psalm 78).