The Need for Family Discipleship

Students need the gospel of Jesus Christ. On the surface, this seems like an obvious statement, but it has been rooted in my mind over the last few weeks. When we think about the environment teens face on a daily basis, their need for the gospel seems apparent. The public school system, for example, is a place where ideologies naturally combine and clash. This is bound to happen when you put hundreds of students together in a building. Yet in this social media age, the battle shaping the worldview of our teens isn’t limited to a few hours each day, but surrounds them constantly, seeking to shape their thoughts and perspectives.

But when I say students need the gospel, I’m not saying it for the reasons you might expect. Yes, students need to see the world from a Christian worldview, able to articulate why views of the world and life contrary to Scripture are wrong. However, the more time I spend around teenagers, the more I’m concerned that it’s not necessarily the ideologies of society that are winning them over – the sexual revolution, deconstructing their faith, and let’s throw over-booked schedules into this list for good measure – but at the most fundamental level, many students don’t actually understand the true gospel.

This isn’t a new problem. Christian Smith summarized his research on teen’s spiritual lives into a religion where they believed in a god who was overall in control, but mostly uninterested in us, just wanting humans to do good with the hopes that he might not be disappointed in us. In his book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Smith coined the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to describe this belief. What do we do to combat this belief? Should the church put all of our money into programs and initiatives to get more teens into the student ministry? Do we try to win back the public schools and coerce students into learning from a Christian worldview in that way? I think those things may be good, and certainly come from good intentions, but I don’t think they treat the heart of the issue.

The same sociologist who recognized Moralistic Therapeutic Deism continues to do the same research today. And while some of the findings have changed over the years, there is one consistent theme that has not: “The good news is that, among all possible influences, parents exert far and away the greatest influence on their children’s religious outcomes” (Christian Smith, “Keeping the Faith,” First Things, May 2021).

How do we change the tide of students leaving the faith after their High School years? How do we ensure students stand strong against contrary worldviews? Parents need to teach their kids the gospel, in their words and in their deeds. I think all of these issues point to a need for family discipleship in our homes. The good news? Now that we know the problem, we can begin to treat it.

As often as the Lord has allowed me, I’ve taught that the primary way parents can teach their kids to follow the Lord is by loving and following Him themselves. This is a great place to start, but we also need to put a plan into place to help us effectively train our kids in the Lord. What does it look like to make and work a plan for family discipleship in our homes? That’s where we want to help.

So, if you’re the parent of a child or teenager reading this post, consider this your invitation to join us for our Family Discipleship Workshop on Sunday, October 10th from 5-7pm. We’re not only going to help you begin to craft this plan, but we want to connect you with other parents who are going through some of the same struggles to encourage you and provide accountability as you seek to teach your teens the gospel. I hope to see you there. 

Matt Hall is an NGU alum who has served as the Pastor of College and Youth at Mountain Creek since August, 2019.