The vast majority of Christian adults say they came to faith when they were children or youth. Doesn’t this argue for concentrating our resources and efforts on children and youth?
George Barna actually makes this very point in his list of errors in disciplemaking. He identifies nine errors in his book Growing True Disciples. Point #8 says we make a mistake by investing our resources in adults.
I totally disagree with this.
The key is to disciple parents so that their children see a desirable, authentic adult example to follow.
I have observed a large number of congregations, and I have yet to see one where the investment of dollars and human capital (staff and volunteers) was not heavily weighted toward children and youth.
Again, I am not opposed to our reaching every child or youth we can with the good news of the Gospel. But I question whether the results of our youth ministries are truly all that great. If they are, why do we see the exodus from the Church of so many young people when they leave home? Why has the Church lost so much of its influence and relevance in society?
I believe the answer is that we fail to disciple our children and youth to the point that they become adult followers of Jesus. The real problem is that we stop at age 18 or 21 and never disciple them into adults who are spiritually mature, reproducing abiders in Jesus and who will raise the next generation to be the same.
In order to break this pattern that repeats from generation to generation, the key is to disciple parents so that their children see a desirable, authentic adult example to follow. Too often we are satisfied to know that our children are going to heaven, to have them learn the stories of the Bible, and to help them get through their teen years without a major bad decision or disaster. However good and desirable all those goals may be, in the end what our children and teens most need to see is what victorious, abundant, fruitful living looks like in a Christian adult.
After all, our children will live as adults for most of their lives. How they live as adults is what they will pass on to their children. In short, children need to see Dad and Mom living at stop 10 on Barna’s scale. True disciplemaking is required to help Dad and Mom become spiritually mature disciplemakers.