‘Generational discipleship’ sets the table for a new approach to family ministry.
The fraction 1/168 is a tiny number. It’s hard to grasp what 1/168 of a pie or a pizza even looks like. The pizza would be a super-skinny slice with a smidgeon of sauce and a partial pepperoni. Certainly not enough to satisfy.
“The denominator in the fraction stands for the number of hours in a week,” said Ron Hunter, author of The DNA of D6: Building Blocks of Generational Discipleship. There are 168 hours in a week. “The scary part is what the numerator represents: the average number a student spends engaged in church-related discipleship each week.” In other words, one hour.
Hunter shared this example during the D6 Connect Tour held at First Baptist Church Bethalto on May 24, one of five stops made on the tour.
The 1/168 figure comes from thirty minutes of small group time combined with thirty minutes of a sermon-type message from a pastor or youth pastor. D6—a movement intentional about empowering parents, homes, marriages, leaders and churches to live out the story of Deuteronomy 6—uses this fraction to make the point that time spent in church is not enough time to truly make disciples as Jesus instructed.
A new way to slice it: Families have their kids 168 hours a week. The church has them only one, maybe two. How can churches help parents disciple their own children, rather than outsourcing it to the youth pastor or Sunday school teacher? This movement returns responsibility to the home, with a new kind of help from the church.
Small group ministries are the primary means of discipleship among most churches. This Scripture shows that God’s design for the family is the original small group. Discipleship begins and is sustained at home.
“Generational discipleship means pastors and church leaders are doing less ministry, and are pouring their time and effort into helping others do more ministry… particularly in their own homes,” Hunter said.
That means youth pastors and children’s pastors need to be spending a third of their time or more mentoring the parents of these young people and not just the young people themselves. The church can equip parents to best launch their kids into adulthood as Christ followers.
“Ministers need to de-emphasize themselves as the spiritual leader and be intentional about how they can set mom and dad up for wins,” Hunter said. “The question we ask is ‘What would it look like if our church went home?’”
A better plan
The family unit is God’s intended launching pad for new adults. That means painful conversations and hard lessons will occur during childhood and especially during the adolescent years. Hunter said giving parents tools and guiding them away from delegating these conversations is crucial.
“Deuteronomy’s generation discipleship is not just about the next generation, it’s about every generation working together,” he said.
That means taking a critical look at how church is conducted on a weekly basis. Is the church equipping the saints with the right end game in mind?
“I’ve had the chance to sit down in a number of church staff meetings and 95% of the time is spent talking about church services and how the next Sunday will go,” Hunter said. “Discipleship is not an event to plan or a small group strategy: it’s a way of life.”
“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God,
the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God
with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
These words that I am giving you
today are to be in your heart. Repeat them
to your children. Talk about them when you
sit in your house and when you
walk along the road, when you lie down
and when you get up.”
– Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (CSB)
Generations and gaps
For decades, the church has lost the majority of its children who have grown up in Christian homes. Teenagers get their driver’s licenses and basically drive away from the church.
As the church recognizes that home is the vehicle for imparting faith to the next generation, leaders of the D6 ministry contend parents must begin to own the fact that they are the primary disciplers of their own children.
“Our goal is to revamp the way we do curriculum and create connection points for conversation,” said Brandon Roysden, D6 conference coordinator. “We want to take the philosophy of Deuteronomy 6 and provide a practical way for parents and churches to implement it.”
But how does the church come alongside the child who doesn’t have a support system at home? Brian Housman, executive director of 360 Family Conference and author of several parenting books including Tech Savvy Parenting, said the church should not negate the importance of family-centered discipleship because of the brokenness of sin.
“The church must fill the gap and find a way to partner with that single mom or that grandparent who is raising their grandkids,” he said. “We’ve done a great job of dividing ourselves into different age-appropriate ministries and its time to open the doors and invite each other in. Instead of children’s events and youth events, have family events and family service projects where everyone participates. Let’s all come together and do this thing together.”
No one is meant to be lone rangers when it comes to the support and encouragement of their families, he concluded.
“We are supposed to love and encourage others and others are supposed to love and encourage us. It’s supposed to be a big circle,” said Leneita Fix, author, speaker and missions/training coordinator for BowDown Church and Urban Youth Impact in West Palm Beach, Florida. “We have a young man on our track team and his father was diagnosed with stage four cancer. We asked what we can do to help and the best way we’ve found is to literally run alongside him this summer as he continues his training. It’s volunteering our unique gifts and talents that make the church the church. It’s not programmatic, it’s helping your congregation notice the people around them and love them well.”
For more information on D6 conferences, visit d6family.com.
Kayla Rinker is a freelance writer living in Park Hills, Mo. where she serves alongside her husband, Josh, who is youth pastor at First Baptist Church Desloge. Kayla is also a stay-at-home mom to their four sons, keeping her life full of craziness and joy.