Reversing the Trend

This blog was adapted from chapter three of Dr.Larry Taylor’s book, “Running with The horses.”

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles or this world rather than Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 NIV)

Early in my teaching and coaching career, I was privileged to become a head coach of our boys’ basketball team. You would have been impressed with my practice sessions. They were organized, structured, and purposeful. It all sounds good, but did you notice what I left out? What I did not mention was how my team did in the games. We got killed!

I needed to change my practice strategy and routine. Yes, those organized, structured, and purpose-driven practices would have impressed you. However, my practices simply did not come close to resembling the real game. My players were not being prepared adequately. I needed to help my players understand what they were going to be competing against.

In many ways we are still training our children today the same way we trained them a generation ago. Our practice sessions should be preparing our children to enter this world with confidence, courage, and conviction. If seventy to ninety percent of kids are walking away from their faith something is wrong or incomplete with our practices.

I believe there are four essential elements to consider as we address strategically how to reverse the trend:

  1. Understanding the discipleship process after children become Christians (before college)
  2. Understanding that discipleship continues during college and after college
  3. Linking the parents’ faith to the next generation
  4. Creating an impact by uniting the home, church, and school

First, to understand the discipleship process after our children become Christians and before they head off to college it is fundamental to understand the difference between the road to Damascus and the road to agora. While Damascus represents conversion (a child’s personal decision follow Christ) agora represents the epicenters of cultural forming entities (Hollywood, Wallstreet, etc.). Preparing our children for the agora is the most neglected aspect of discipleship for parents and the church. The road to agora will require churches to change.

Second, the first phase of parenting is marked by the 6,570 days from birth to high school diploma. The second phase is the 1,500 days during the four years of college. The third phase is life:work, marriage, and parenting. The primary point is that the maturity cycle for Christians does not end when one graduates from high school or college.

Third, the transcendent purpose for all parenting practices is linking our faith for “the children yet to be born,” our grandchildren (Psalm 78). Take some time to read Psalm 78. Notice God’s plan for parents-to tell the great stories of God to their children. Of course, pastors, children’s ministries, Christian schools, and para-church organizations are important, but the biblical model for transmitting our faith to the next generation requires parents to take the lead.

Fourth, when home, church, and school are working together on the discipleship of our children we are creating synergy or a common message. The important result of synergy is that the outcome is of more value than the sum of the parts. More specifically, we need to reverse the attrition rate of our 18 to 22-year-olds from their faith; we need to change the trend of secularism and its impact on the Christian community.

We must respectfully create dialogue over these four essential elements as we strategically address how to reverse the trend. Everyone must be invited to the dialogue table. It is not enough to develop isolated plans.

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