What is the point of a church having Sunday School or other programs for children and youth? Will it have a lasting spiritual difference in their lives? Is your own home serving as a crucible for Christian discipleship? What are your dreams and aspirations regarding the faith of your children? What will be needed from both church and home to guide and inspire the next generations toward mature faith in Christ?
That's the focus of the first of the seven commitments featured in the book Zealous: 7 Commitments for the Discipleship of the Next Generation.
In this 7-part series, we'll spotlight each commitment with a summary, an excerpt from the book, examples of applications of the commitment, and recommended resources.
Commitment 1: Embrace a biblical vision for the faith of the next generation
Having a vision is crucial for discipleship of children and youth. As a vision-oriented leader you consider where you are going—clarifying your goals—and then you carefully develop and implement an intentional plan in pursuing those goals. By having a long-term vision one can more effectively develop a discipleship strategy that evaluates every program, activity, curriculum, and resource in terms of the greater vision.
Many young people growing up in Christian homes participate in “activity-oriented” programs in the church. Such programs focus on providing activities for children and youth that are not clearly linked to any goal or purpose (vision). An activity-oriented ministry puts more emphasis on the present, and less, if any at all, on the future. They concentrate more on what they are doing with the children, and less on where they are leading the children.
...[The vision-oriented pastor] identifies the specific purpose and goal for each activity beyond caring for children and giving them (and their parents) a positive experience. A vision-oriented program or activity is clearly linked to specific discipleship goals that are fueled by prayer and the desire for children to whole-heartedly embrace Christ.
Vision-oriented parents, Christian educators, and church leaders think about and act according to what they want to be true of their children 10, 20, and 40 years hence. Their priorities are shaped by asking questions like:
- What do we want our children to know and understand about God and His Word?
- What do we want them to understand about the gospel?
- What marks of faith and spiritual maturity do we want them to have?
- What portions of the Bible do we want them to be able to quote from memory by the time they graduate from high school?
- What kind of husband and father, or wife and mother do we want them to be?
- What do we want them to teach their children?
- How would we want them to respond when tragedy strikes or when they face suffering in their lives?
- What will fortify them against the temptations of wealth, pleasure, and success?
- What do we want them to be trusting in when they are taking their last breath?
APPLICATION FOR CHURCH:
- Develop a long-term, strategic plan for the faith of the next generations (see Developing a Vision Orientation of Ministry to Children & Youth for reference and see an example Vision Statement for the Next Generation].
- Communicate and explain your plan to parents, ministry leaders, volunteers, and the church as a whole.
- Review your current children’s and youth programs, curricula, activities, and events and determine if they reflect a biblical vision for the next generations.
APPLICATION FOR HOME:
- Develop a vision statement for your own family and communicate it to your children.
- Establish family routines and habits that place the highest priority on knowing God’s Word, faith in Christ, and growing in His ways.
- Set age-appropriate spiritual goals for your children. Teach, train, and pray toward those goals. Commit yourselves to a biblical, local church for training, equipping, encouragement, and accountability.
Listen to the podcast "Embracing a biblical vision for the faith of the next generation"