by Brian Haynes
I have three daughters (10, 7, and 2) that I love deeply. My wife and I often talk about what life will be like for them in another thirty years. I have a dream for them that I take to God in prayer almost every day. The dream is one of Godly legacy. Faith in Christ passed down from my wife and me to our daughters and from our daughters to our grandchildren and great grandchildren. We pray that the generations to come from our family would love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. In order for this to work out though, I am going to need some Christ-filled son-in-laws. It’s a simple request but one the culture pushes back against in its post-modernity.
How is it that the local church has the greatest children’s and youth ministries in the history of western civilization and yet produces a generation of young adults who “compartmentalize” their faith in Christ at best? I dream of a day when the kids being equipped at my church and yours become adults who make decisions about relationships, family, marriage, morality, and life path based on their deep conviction that all of their life belongs to Christ. The status quo however indicates that despite all of our technology, resources, programming, and professionalism we are somehow missing the boat of effective spiritual formation. In what ways do we need to shift our thinking and our methods in order to hurl a legacy of faith into the next generation?
What Does the Bible Say?
Most of our spiritual formation practices in the local church reveal a fundamental belief that all discipleship takes place inside church buildings on one maybe two days of the week. When we compare our practice with the theology of spiritual formation it is possible that a disconnect will be revealed. Follow this biblical path of spiritual formation with me.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 These commands that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Psalm 78:5-7 He decreed statues for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
When you follow this thread of Scripture it is easy to discover that God’s plan is to partner the work of the family and the work of the church to disciple children. If you are like me, you know exactly what to do at church to lead children but how do you push discipleship back into to the home? How do you equip mom and dad to disciple their own children?
The Shift: 7 Legacy Milestones
At Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas where I serve as Associate Pastor, we call this strategy “Legacy Milestones.” We constantly encourage parents to “walk the path of Legacy Milestones,” leading their children as they go. We provide a common path of spiritual formation integrating the leadership of parents at home and the discipleship process at church. It is one simple path composed of seven legacy milestones. We equip parents to lead faith talks and capitalize on God Moments along the way leading their child toward the next milestone. Our strategy at church focuses on a Bible Study process and a series of events and experiences, ushering children toward the next milestone. The family and the church walk the same path celebrating milestones along the way. Rest assured, this is not complicated.
A milestone is “an event preceded by a period of instruction from parents which celebrates a spiritual development point in a child’s life.” When you think about the practice of your church, most likely events or celebrations highlighting milestones already exist. Do you have any type of baby dedication at church? How about baptism? Have you done anything lately to help your children prepare for adolescence? Do you host a True Love Waits event? Do you celebrate graduation with High School seniors and their families? I am betting you do some or all of these things. Now it is simply a matter of aligning these events along a common path allowing the church and the parent to partner effectively to equip the next generation.
Here is how it shakes out at Kingsland. We lead people toward seven legacy milestones as they walk a path of growth in Christ.
Milestone 1: Birth of a Baby
Milestone 2: Faith Commitment
Milestone 3: Preparing for Adolescence
Milestone 4; Purity for Life
Milestone 5: Rite of Passage
Milestone 6: High School Graduation
Milestone 7: Life in Christ
With each milestone we offer parenting training, family devotion resources, campus events, and family celebration ideas to help parents lead their children along the path. Milestones give parents markers along the way to help them stay on course during the long journey of leading a child spiritually from infancy to adulthood. The simplicity of this approach in practice is the beauty of the strategy. Take what you are already doing, rethink your practice with the family in mind, and maximize milestones for spiritual formation process linking church and family. Discipleship involves church and family. Spiritual formation is not quite Biblical when church and family neglect the opportunity to partner. Take the easy step of maximizing milestones to help parents lead spiritually the other six days of the week.
Is it Working?
If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times. “The Legacy Milestones Strategy looks great on paper but how is it really working in the local church setting?” “Are parents really discipling their own children?” Fair questions.
We measure three behaviors of parents to determine if they are really using our “path of Legacy Milestones” to lead their kids spiritually. Certainly there are other behaviors that are less measurable like “modeling” life in Christ. We believe however, if parents are consistently doing these three measurable components, there is a great chance they are making disciples at home.
3 Key Measurable Behaviors:
1) Leading Intentional Faith Talks
Faith talks are the platform from which parents formally teach their kids the Bible every week. Another word for “Faith Talk” is family devotion. We ask parents to lead a planned faith talk at least once a week.
2) Capturing God Moments
God Moments are those little teaching opportunities God provides as you are simply living life. You have to be around to catch them. When God throws them your way, you speak into your child’s life from a biblical perspective.
3) Celebrating Legacy Milestones
Legacy Milestones is the strategy Kingsland uses to help parents pass on Christian doctrine and life application to their children. Milestones are celebrated as a parent leads a child to progress in his or her faith by teaching them Scripture and modeling life in Christ. As a child leaves one phase and begins another, the family celebrates God’s work in growing the child.
The Latest Results: Survey Conducted at Kingsland During All 3 Worship Services on April 19, 2009
According to our most recent survey we have discovered the following based on the responses of adults ages 18 or older who have children ages 0-18 and attend Kingsland.
1) 35.3% of parents say that they lead an intentional “Faith Talk” at least once a week.
2) 92.9% of parents say that they capture “God Moments” as teaching opportunities with their children.
3) 71.4% of parents say that they celebrate “Legacy Milestones” as they are leading their children spiritually.
In 2004 we conducted an extensive Family Needs Survey at Kingsland Baptist Church. We discovered that only 17% of our parents did anything beyond bringing their kids to church in order to lead them spiritually. The 17% who claimed to lead their kids spiritually in 2004 were committed beyond church to the point of praying with their children and telling them Bible stories. That meant, in 2004, 83% of our parents did nothing to lead spiritually except bring their children to church. That information became a springboard for our strategy to encourage, equip, and resource families as they disciple the next generation.
Looking at the latest survey results lends both positive and negative results. Certainly the most difficult behavior for a parent is leading an intentional Faith Talk at least once a week. You make look at 35.3% and say…”Wow, that’s an “F” in my book.” Me too. On the other hand, it tells me 35.3% of the parents in our church are highly committed in leading their children spiritually at a deepening level. A very high percentage of parents are looking for God Moments and speaking into their child’s life biblically as well as celebrating Legacy Milestones. As I see it…. we are advancing the ball. It may be slow but I believe the generational impact on our culture will be immeasurable. To tell you the truth, this is the most exciting, most impacting Kingdom work God has ever involved me in!
Where are You?
Maybe you are where we were in 2004. You realize that your church values family but family is completely uninvolved in the spiritual formation process. You can begin today by making a “Shift” in your practices at church to equip parents to disciple the next generation.
To learn more about how your church can begin the process of equipping the generations one home at a time, visit us at www.legacymilestones.com .
For a more indepth look at the milestones strategy get a copy of my new book “SHIFT: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today.” You can order it at www.group.com
Brian serves as Associate Pastor at Kingsland Baptist church in Katy, Texas overseeing spiritual formation. Brian is the creator of the Legacy Milestones strategy designed to inseparably link church and home to equip the generations. He is the author of the new book, Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today. Brian is married to his high school sweetheart Angela and they have three daughters, Hailey, Madelyn, and Eden. Brian is a graduate of Baylor University, Southwestern Seminary, and Liberty Theological Seminary where he earned a Doctor of Ministry for his work in discipleship and family ministry.