Sunday, March 26, 2006

Passing on the faith

Life is really hectic so I'm sorry for not blogging for a while.

I've been pondering how we pass the faith on to the rising generation. I love the new Cadbury's TV ad where a boy gives a girl a couple of chunks of his chocolate bar, marries her, has a son who is seen in the last frame giving a chunk of chocolate to the girl he fancies. It strikes me as being a wonderful picture of what the author of Deuteronomy might have been trying to convey.

Deuteronomy 6 - which we use in dedication services - talks of families speaking about God's Law when they sit down and when they go out. It's a picture of mums and dads passing their faith on to their kids.

As we were reflecting on mother's day this morning at church, we talked about the relationship between family, church and the children's and youth programme in raising adult believers. Gone are the days when Christians are bringing their children up in a sympathetic environment.

David Smith puts it like this 'Adjusting to this new context [exile, the marginalisation of the church in western culture] is incredibly difficult since the mindset of most Western Christians has been formed by centuries of tradition which has conditioned them to expect the surrounding world to constitute a friendly and hospitable environment for their beliefs and values.' Lots of us still live as if this weren't so. We especially think that old ways of doing Sunday School and youth work still apply, are still good enough. [By the way if you've not come across David Smith, check out his stuff, especially Mission After Christendom (DLT, 2003) - excellent.]

David Voas - whom I've talked about before - sums it up well: the church has a half life of a generation, two church going parents have a 50:50 chance of passing their faith on to their children.

This means we face a challenge. One of the most stimulating thinkers in this area is Pete Ward. His book Growing up Evangelical: Youthwork and the making of a subculture is a revelation. He basically argues that over the past couple of generations, youthwork has aimed to create safe havens, bubbles that protect our kids from the world beyond the church. As a result they have failed to convert a childlike faith in Jesus into an adult discipleship.

This is a real problem for the church. If even church goers only have a 50:50 chance of passing their faith on to their kids, we need to think very seriously about how we as churches support parents in discipling our kids. We need to give our children and young people the tools to navigate their way as Christians in the choppy and turbulent waters of school, friendships, university and jobs.

Any ideas?

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