Recently my three young boys have been gaining an interest in baseball, which makes me happy! Growing up in North Georgia, I probably watched 120 Atlanta Braves baseball games a year (back when the Braves were good—Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz—yeah, those days). Though I was a lackluster player, I also grew up playing baseball and loved it. As I have been watching my kids play, there are some things that they have occasionally done that are fundamentally incorrect. For instance, one of the boys likes to bat as a switch hitter. I am okay with that; it will make him more marketable as a hopeful major leaguer one day. However, he tends to forget to switch the position of his hands on the bat when he changes sides batting. If you are not a baseball fan, this would be the equivalent of putting a shoe on the wrong foot. You would think it would be apparent to him to switch his hands, yet he needs my instruction to make it obvious.
The Lord has allowed me to serve in two different churches over the past nine years with the goal of encouraging parents to be the primary faith trainers in their homes. During that time, I have found that Christian parents are not all that dissimilar from the wrong grip of my son—many times, they do not know how to faith train at home and need someone to come alongside them to show them how.
Around three years ago, I and another pastor on our staff at Heritage Christian Fellowship in Medford, Oregon worked to strategically lay out a vision for families of our church from birth to graduation. The idea was something that we had seen expounded upon in a book from Brian Haynes called Shift: What It Takes to Finally Reach Families Today. We took many of the specifics and principles of that book and worked out how they would play out in our church context. The result was what we call the six “Heritage Milestones,” which are as follows:
- Milestone 1: Parent/Child Dedication
- Milestone 2: Faith Commitment
- Milestone 3: Preparing for Adolescence
- Milestone 4: Pathway to Purity
- Milestone 5: Movement towards Maturity
- Milestone 6: Preparing to Launch
During the year, we have these Milestones strategically placed on our church’s calendar to come alongside families as their children approach the Milestone in their life. Each Milestone involves three aspects.
- First, at each Milestone, we equip parents with biblically-based, gospel-driven training depending on the stage of life.
- Second, we look for ways to resource parents depending on the stage of life. We give away books, articles, and anything that we think will be worth the investment into their family.
- Third, we look for ways to involve the parents in that Milestone. Milestone 3 is probably the clearest example of that. In that Milestone, we do an equipping event that walks parents through the upcoming relational and physical changes that their soon pre-teen will begin to face. At the same time, we equip the parents to go on a getaway trip with their child, taking them through the Passport2Purity getaway kit, which, in addition to a few other topics, takes their child through the “birds and the bees” talk.
As we have been implementing this over the past two years, we have faced some challenges and failures. But overall it has been a blessing to the families of our church for so many reasons—not the least of which is that we have six Milestones that afford us further opportunities to share the gospel and apply it to the stage of life where their children are.
We’ve also realized that our Milestones program enables us to build into the parents’ marriage as well. We provide biblical wisdom and resources to parents on the importance of investing in their marriage, all with practical implications for them to see. As you lead your church, I am sure you know the attack on many Christian marriages. What an excellent opportunity to come alongside marriages!
As you read this short introduction to what we do at Heritage, I encourage you to consider how you can think “down-the-road” for the families and marriages in your church. What we do may not be what is best for your context, but start thinking about how you can strategically build rhythms into the life of your church that equip, resource, and involve parents to faith train their children while also empowering marriages to be healthy.