I don’t know when it started (maybe the 1980s), but in the local church, Sunday services became exclusively for adults to worship. What about the children? To put it kindly, they are to concentrate on learning things for little children. To put it more harshly, they are not welcome in Sunday services, for they are hard to control and too noisy, so they are segregated and sent to the so -called cry room or children Sunday school. What about the youth? They go to youth worship. In this way, the church becomes a fragmented body. In time, the church will lose the next generation, because the next generation does not know how to join Sunday services any more.
This segregation was a mistake in the Western church. By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late for many churches. They had already lost their next generation, leaving only a small group of old people in their churches!
Not only is the Sunday service fragmented, causing us to lose our next generation, but discipleship and church ministries are also fragmented. In discipleship, each family member joins a different group. The father goes to Disciple group, the mother goes to Sunday School group, the son goes to small group Bible study, the daughter goes to evangelism training group. So there is very little chance for the family to be discipled together.
In ministry, the father joins the adult choir, the mother joins the praise and worship team, the son joins the youth choir, the daughter joins the ushers. So over the course of a week, the family does not have much time together, because everyone is busy with their own ministries.
Actually, in the example above about discipleship and ministry, the fact that all the family members are actively involved is already rare and precious. What more can you ask for?
But marriage and family is a God-given institution on earth. When a family in a church cannot worship together, serve together, disciple or be discipled together, the church inadvertently becomes the chief cause of breaking up marriages and families. As time passes, family members become like strangers, unable to pass on their faith, or unable to hand their faith down from generation to generation.
In August 3-4 of this year, my wife and I attended the D6 conference (according to Deuteronomy 6) in West Malaysia. I was enlightened with 3 points that I believe will help our church for the future.
1. The church ministry is family ministry. I used to think that family ministry was just one of the many ministries in a church, never thinking that the entire church is ministry to families. So churches need to train parents to disciple their children.
2. The Methodist church (SCAC) not only needs inter-generational services, but also inter-generational discipleship and ministries. We have let families remain fragmented for too long. It is time to bring family members back together for worship, for discipleship and ministry.
3. Grandparents play a vital role in the discipleship of a family and a church. We need to train them in this role.
The Bible says, “4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 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.” (Deut 6)
The Israelites emphasized family life and training, so that even today in this world Jews are part of the elite in many different areas.
As the church, we need to emphasize family life and training as well, but we also need to expand further. Unlike the Israelites who only looked within, we need to learn from Jesus to look outward, to emphasize “Go”, to make disciples of all nations.
If every family in our church is united in trusting and following Jesus, united in ministry and worship of God, we will be witnesses of unity in Christ to the world, so that the world may believe in Jesus. This fulfils Jesus’ prayer before he went to the cross: “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)
Brothers and sisters, in order that we may not lose our next generation, in order that we would gain the next generation, in order that faith can be handed down from generation to generation, marriage and family need to be united, then only the church would be united, as witness for God.
By Rev Dr Tie King Tai