On a weekly basis, I enjoy a roundtable discussion with some excellent brothers in the Lord. This live radio show includes a guest in addition to our regular panel. Recently we had the privilege of talking to a man that has dedicated his life to serving families through the Awana program.
For over forty years this man, and his bride, have been deeply involved in trying to help families engraft Scripture into their hearts and minds through the Awana ministry. The Awana program is an internationally known ministry that features many innovative ideas for accomplishing this task.
What struck me during this conversation was a statement that this dear saint made. He quoted a study conducted by the group to see how many of their young people are actually staying in the faith after graduation. Many church wide studies point to a dismal failure, but not theirs. If a child will stay in the program, and their parents are involved with them, they are experiencing over a 90% success rate. Here is the actual quote from the Awana website:
“For years leaders have recognized that kids who do the best in Awana programs have help at home. A recent Awana® alumni study shows not only that, but also over 90 percent of those Awana kids still attend church at least once a week as adults!”
Awana, for the first time, is now offering their program for home school families because they see the direct correlation between parental involvement and the successful transference of faith from one generation to the next.
My Ph.D. dissertation was entitled, “A Biblical Analysis of the Roles of the Family and the Church Regarding Faith Impartation.” One has to have a long title when writing these things. My hypothesis was that the more the parents are involved the better chance you have to be successful in imparting faith generationally. The Awana study seems to confirm this.
Part of my research included studies by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. Dr. Ray has interview over nine thousand home educated children that are now adults living on their own. His conclusions were similar to what the Awana study found. While many in the traditional church are losing 70-90% of their young people in the first year of college, this group was retaining their parent’s faith system in over 90% of the cases. Hmmm.
Many years ago, I was having a discussion along these lines with a Christian school administrator. This man had dedicated his life to helping students and as we chatted, he said something very insightful. While the direct quote eludes me it went along the lines of – it really does not matter what method of education someone chooses for their children, what matters is parental involvement. Are we seeing a pattern here?
I know there are families that are messed up and there are children that do not have their parents intact. However, for those that do, parental involvement seems to be critical to faith impartation. Christian marriages are falling apart and the next generation pays a huge price tag when they do. Perhaps that is why the enemy of our soul works so hard to destroy the basic family structure. If parental involvement is a key to faith transference it is not a huge jump to state the other side – parental neglect impedes it.
Even our world system seems to understand the principle. “Parents, the anti-drug,” and “Do you know where your children are right now” campaigns have flooded the TV airwaves paid for by our tax dollars. Why? Homework is given by teachers and students are encouraged to enlist their parents to help them. Why? In extreme school cases, parents are even brought into the classroom to help the teacher. Why?
Maybe what the Awana group, Dr. Ray and even our humanistic society realizes is that God was correct all along. The family unit is the best possible place to reach the children. The family structure, when intact, presents the highest and best opportunity to shape the future generation. God put it this way:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
As parents, we have a wonderful opportunity to shape the next generation. Will we seize it or will we squander it away? As a father of adult children, I can testify to the fact that the time of direct influence we have is fleeting. The children grow up quickly and soon just come over once and awhile to visit with their own children in tow. We can still influence but not like when they were living in our home. We must seize the time we still have to make a difference.
Whatever you choose to do with your time I pray that your family will take large amounts of it. Invest wisely for you only are allowed to spend the time once. God will redeem and He will forgive but God does not recreate time for us. I pray that we will invest in the things that matter the most.
If your home is already broken and you are a single parent the job remains the same. Invest whatever time you have left with your children to help them deal with the pain and heartache they endure. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin but the consequences of it impact the children in deep ways. The children need the parent’s time even more after the trauma of divorce, not less. God will give you grace and strength to walk through these days. Draw near to Him and He promises to draw near to you. God loves you and your children. Spend time with them and make sure they know that as well.