Do You Have
by Brian Haynes
The Christian life is a journey filled with celebration, suffering, the mundane, and mountaintop experiences. All of life is an opportunity for training children in the fear of God. In the Hebrew context, the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 defines the biblical pattern for using the journey of life as the most important opportunity to make disciples.
In the Bible, faith training begins in the home and occurs as parents experience life with their children. Faith training becomes a familiar path called life on which parents lead their children toward certain rites of passage as the next generation grows toward a biblical worldview.
Rites of passage are points of spiritual maturity preceded by a period of parental instruction regarding age-appropriate biblical truths. Rites of passage, often referred to as milestones, serve as moments of celebration and catalytic entry points to a new season of life for the maturing Christ-follower. Developing rites of passages as a central strategy in family-equipping models is beneficial to the church and the family.
Before any rite of passage can be achieved, parents must train their children in the mundane, ordinary days of life reflecting the ancient practice of impressing the commands of God on the next generation as we walk along the road, as we lie down, and as we get up. Beyond bringing children to church, how do parents lead children from one rite of passage to the next? The answer is found in the following parental practices.
By design, God instituted the family as the central environment for spiritual formation. Embracing this concept as a parent requires the development of a formal platform to train children spiritually. The formal platform is time set aside each week to worship and examine the Scriptures as a family and in an age-appropriate and compelling way.
The role of the church in this process is two-fold. First, to teach parents how to lead effective faith talks and second, to provide or point out excellent tools and resources assisting parents as they lead faith talks. Using a Bible study curriculum that incorporates a family faith talk component helps parents establish a formal platform to train their children spiritually.
An equally important parenting practice involves spiritual training that is informal in nature. This training is not necessarily planned, but occurs each day as a family experiences the circumstances of life. Informal training involves modeling authentic faith and capturing teachable moments along the way.
Deuteronomy 6:4 states the commands of God are to be on “our hearts” as we lead our children spiritually. Sons learn how to be godly men, husbands, and fathers as they observe their own fathers in daily life. Daughters understand godliness as a woman, wife, and mother as they interact with their own mothers.
Capturing “God moments” or teachable moments is an art that Christian parents need to master in training their children. Each day provides a new set of situations and circumstances that parents may use to teach a key truth and bolster a child’s biblical worldview. As a child grows spiritually he achieves certain rites of passage. When this occurs the family celebrates.
Rites of Passage as a New Testament Family-Equipping Strategy
The strategic model consists of seven legacy milestones representing all life stages. Each milestone is a marker of progression along a life path of spiritual formation. By our definition a milestone is an event preceded by a period of instruction by parents and the church to be celebrated as God works in a person’s life. The seven milestones represent an alignment of discipleship ministries working in conjunction with the family.
Milestone 1—Parent/Baby Dedication
Many churches already practice some form of infant dedication, understanding it as an important first rite of passage. The intent of the parent in this ceremony is typically to seek God’s blessing over their infant son or daughter. When practiced as a rite of passage, baby dedication becomes more about parents than about the new baby. Milestone 1 should begin with the theology of parenting and spiritual training. Fathers should be exhorted to embrace their biblical role as spiritual leader of the family.
Milestone 2—Salvation and Baptism
A second and most important passage is salvation and baptism. Family-equipping churches teach parents how to lead their children to Christ. The church also partners with the family by teaching children biblical core competencies in Sunday School, family worship, and other events. Using baptism as the celebration moment for salvation is both biblical and communicative as the church embraces rites of passage as a spiritual formation path connecting church and home.
Milestone 3—Preparing for Adolescence
The mere thought of adolescence causes anxiety for parents. Family-equipping churches help parents equip their children to live biblically in this traditionally tumultuous phase of life. During this passage, the church and the family serve together as guides for children ages 10-12, preparing for the storm of teenage life in a Western culture. The family faith talk and children’s Bible study for pre-teens partner to teach core competencies designed to bolster a biblical worldview headed toward the teen years.
Milestone 4—Purity for Life
Milestone 4 enables parents to lead their middle school students to make a lifelong commitment to purity. Modeled after the familiar True Love Waits program, parents learn how to talk with their teenagers about sex through the filter of a biblical worldview. Through family faith talks and church ministries, students should learn the following core competencies: biblical purity, healthy relationships, identity in Christ, and biblical sexuality.
Milestone 5—Passage to Adulthood
Milestone 5 is a rite of passage from childhood to biblical adulthood. Parents are trained to lead faith talks with their teenagers around the following core competencies: biblical roles of men and women, spiritual gifts and service, and catechism.
Milestone 6—High School Graduation
High school graduation is a launching pad into life away from home. Central to this season are the core competencies of apologetics, courtship and marriage, God’s plan for my life, becoming a person of influence, and basic life skills. Parents also learn about the importance of the biblical blessing to their son or daughter.
Milestone 7—Life in Christ
Life in Christ encompasses adults ages 18 to senior adulthood. Within this age range so many life-changing events occur. In any church, adults approach life from diversified perspectives. In the midst of all of this diversity there is one commonality: we are all pursuing life in Christ. A cursory study of the gospels reveals seven core competencies that Jesus taught His followers: prayer, Scripture, authentic faith, obedient follower, disciple-maker, generous living, and community. Doing family ministry well means equipping adults at every stage of life.
“The church was never intended to be a substitute for the home. Nothing in God’s plan has ever replaced the home as bearing the primary responsibility for imparting Christian values and insuring godly nourishment and growth for each family member.” Using rites of passage as the strategic plan for accomplishing such a grand vision truly reflects the essence of the family-equipping model and results in a unified church composed of families training children in the fear of the Lord.
About the Writer: Dr. Brian Haynes serves as Lead Pastor at Bay Area First Baptist Church in League City, Texas. Brian is creator of the Legacy Milestones strategy designed to link church and home to equip the generations. Brian is married to his high school sweetheart Angela, and they have three daughters: Hailey, Madelyn, and Eden.
To view examples of seminars for each milestone visit www.legacymilestones.com.