I have spent the last the last 29 years working with teenagers in some capacity, mostly as a director of youth ministry in the United Methodist Church. Youth ministry has been a vocation that has given me much purpose and satisfaction. However, I have recently come to understand that I have been doing youth ministry all wrong.
Two years ago, the family formation team here at Asbury began working with the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) at Fuller Seminary to help discover ways to create a faith that lasts. This was an awesome and humbling experience: Awesome in the respect that we learned so much about what helps people stay in the faith; humbling in the sense that we, “The Church,” have been missing the mark in creating a faith that lasts in young people.
Parents are the primary spiritual influence in their kids’ lives and this truth is what the modern church has forgotten. For years I ran what Kara Powell from FYI refers to as a “Dry Cleaner” youth program. We would have parents drop off their kids at the church and magically turn them into disciples then the parents would pick them up all nice and clean. In Kenda Creasy Dean’s book Almost Christian, I came across this quote: “The best way to get most youth more involved in and serious about their faith communities is to get their parents more involved in and serious about their faith communities.”
Our team here at Asbury has been dreaming about how to help parents pass down their faith in the home in order to create a lasting faith. One of our strategies is celebrating spiritual milestones. We designated six significant events that form faith during the growing-up years: Baptism, Entering Kindergarten, Second Grade Bible, Confirmation, Entering High School, and Entering Adulthood.
We have also provided families with experiences that they can do with their child each year from birth to graduation. These experiences are designed to help families have relevant conversations about their faith. (You can access all of our Milestones and Family Experiences by going to www.asburymilestones.org.)
In Deuteronomy 6:5-8, it reads:
5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. 6 These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. 7 Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. 9 Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates.
The primary place of spiritual development is in your home, parents. It’s my hope and prayer that you can use Asbury Family Ministries to create faith that lasts.