I love this! I am a fan of Tim Harford, as he does “More or Less” on Radio 4 . . . which is a little bit of brilliance in itself. However, “pop up ideas” is just superb. Malcolm Gladwell recently, today as I was driving in to the office it was Gillian Tett of the Financial Times. Absolutely fascinating . . . her past life (as an anthropologist) helped her to ask questions that no one else was asking of the financial world in the mid 2000s and she predicted the financial disaster that ensued. Prophetic or what?! Listen to it here.
I listened to it this morning and got to thinking . . . along similar lines, “what are the things that the Church is deafeningly silent on – that potentially have huge ramifications for even our future existence?” Is there anything – or do we have all the bases covered?
I think there is MASSIVE empirical evidence around the significance of the “household of faith” – the environment in which children are raised . . . the faith in the home and how that is passed on from one generation to another . . . or rather – how it is NOT passed on. Most of our data around child attendance at church suggests that if parents attend (even just one) church, there is a far greater chance of their children having faith as adults. Is that just because their parents BRING them to church . . . or is it also related to the faith of the parents themselves?
I would contend, that rather than so much effort going into programmes and activities for children at church, so much time spent dividing the family for our segmented “church” activities, so much time spent supporting and sustaining “men’s ministries”, “student ministry”, “women’s ministry”, getting people to effectively sign up for things that mean we spend less time in (and with) our families is counter productive if our aim is to grow the church.
Much was said a couple of years ago (and it still crops up – unlike some “trendy” worries of the church, which seem to be all the rage until the time comes to produce the next marketable resource and then these “great concerns” mysteriously take a back seat).
With all we do at church, children still continue to leave . . . still in their hundreds, it is not enough to say that well – they aren’t leaving in their 1000s every week so we are doing better. That’s like saying 100 deaths doesn’t matter as much as 1000 . . . each loss counts, each loss is a tragedy.
Isn’t it time to shift our focus COMPLETELY towards nurturing households of faith, the places where children still spend most of their time, the place where those closest to them are encouraged and EQUIPPED to live out their faith in full sight of and alongside their children.
That is my “pop up idea”, listen to this morning’s podcast, what are the conversations about in the Church, what are our leadership teams talking about, what is most prescient for our today and for our future.
Children, regardless of statistics are poor by a general standard if we consider the following: the poor are those with no voice, no power and no money.
Children are not heard or listened to . . .
Children have no power to make decisions in the church that will impact their present participation and their future involvement as leaders . . .
Children have no money (maybe that is the biggest issue!) and cannot buy influence or wave a wallet around to get what they want . . .
What are the homes of our children like – are they heard, can their voice influence what we do, sometimes they speak truth to power (whether in the home or the church) are we listening? They may not have money, but BOY do we spend most of our money providing for their needs!! How is that the case in the church. Many parents prioritize the health and well being of their children when money is tight . . . it is just “what you do”. Can the same be said in the Church? Chips are down financially in the church, what do we ensure happens . . . what must be maintained and looked after? Is it our children?
Our children need to know that they are our highest priority . . . we must INVEST time in the home rather than in getting people into our buildings, we must EQUIP parents to talk about their faith and share the story or God at home – is this happening? Is it what we do – or do all our efforts go into strong arming people onto the Sunday School rota? We must STOP endless activities that keep families segregated and apart (which apparently, we declare is about ministries that will build the Kingdom) . . .
Here is a thought, if we kept the children we currently had (who we part of the church), if we invested in these family relationships in such a way that faith was passed from generation to generation, parent to child and that faith STUCK, by the middle of this century the actual “membership” of the church in this country, (with no overt evangelism, just faith being effectively passed down the generations through the home . . . ) would be about 8 million. That isn’t those who tick “Christian” in surveys, that would be ACTUAL Christians. That we have raised ourselves. With no evangelism.
Here is a thought then – scrap your evangelism budget and create an “invest in faith at home” budget. Rather than Church Army Evangelists lets have Church Household Pastors and Teachers . . .
The thing related to this that I think we know (I have even heard evangelists whisper it) is that if we got discipleship right, and raised a generation of children and young people in the faith, who kept the faith . . . then the evangelism would look after itself.
There. That’s my pop idea.