Community isn’t something that is static; it stretches through time, as culture is passed from one generation to another. The Bible has many commands about ensuring that its truth is passed on to the next generation. Yet as simple as this command is, the practice of raising up children and new leaders can cause great anxiety.
At our October 2021 event, Ruth Lukabyo, Dean of Women at Youthworks College, Paul Dudley, Chaplain at Shore School, and Mark Earngey, Head of Church History at Moore College, offer us some instruction about how we might work to raise the next generation in the Lord. Whether we are young or old, a parent or a friend, we need to take an interest in seeing the next generation of the church grow to be followers of Christ.
Links referred to:
- Watch video from this event
- Talk outlines (PDF)
- Slides (PDF)
- From a Ministry of Youth to a Ministry for Youth: Aspects of Protestant Youth Ministry in Sydney 1930-1959 by Ruth Lukabyo (New Growth Press, 2020)
- Moore College Preliminary Theological Certificate
- Our 2022 events: “Commanding the heart”
- Our first 2022 event on “Anger” (Wednesday 9 March)
- Episode 067: Bringing up children and youth in the Lord and in the church with Tim Beilharz and Dan Wu
- The Acrostic of God: A rhyming theology for kids (Jonathan Gibson and Timothy Brindle, illustrated by CS Fritz)
- The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones)
- The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments (Marty Machowski)
- Show Them Jesus: Teaching the gospel to kids (Jack Klumpenhower)
- Support the work of the Centre
Runtime: 1:19:33 min.
Chase Kuhn: Today on the Centre for Christian Living podcast, I’m pleased to bring you a special episode with audio from our most recent live event on “Raising the next generation”. This event was our final in a series for 2021 on the theme of “community”. At this event, we aimed to consider how community is something that’s dynamic and generational. In particular, we wanted to consider what responsibility we have in seeing Christian community continue through the next generations—especially as we entrust the gospel to others.
I’m so thankful that we had wonderful guests at this event—my colleague Dr Mark Earngey, Shore School chaplain Paul Dudley, and from Youthworks College, Dr Ruth Lukabyo. I really hope you enjoy listening to this episode.
Mark Earngey: Well, good evening and welcome. My name is Mark Earngey. I’m one of the faculty members here at Moore Theological College. It’s great to have you with us this evening. It’s a real privilege, in fact, to stand in this evening for Chase Kuhn, who normally hosts these evenings, and it’s a great privilege of mine to stand in and host it for the Centre for Christian Living, which is a centre of Moore College that really exists to bring biblical ethics to everyday issues.
This year, we’ve dedicated our four live events to considering different facets of community. And tonight, we get to one of the most vitally important aspects of Christian community: how to raise the next generation. We ourselves have been so blessed to know and to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and we so deeply want this for our own children, for the youth and children of those we love, and for the youth and children in our Christian communities and ministries.
But it’s not easy. It really isn’t easy. It’s a real challenge, in fact, to raise the next generation. You may know this from very close-up, first-hand experience. And, well, wonderfully, though, our good God speaks words of wisdom into this very challenge—words which we hope, tonight, will bless you richly.
Before I introduce our guest speakers, let me read from the Scriptures from the gospel of Matthew to see just how precious the next generation are to our Lord Jesus Christ himself. I’ll read from Matthew chapter 19 from verse 13:
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:13-15)
In response to this word and in anticipation of all we’ll hear this evening, I ask you to join me in prayer.
Our gracious and loving heavenly Father, who delights to give his children good gifts,
We thank you for the Lord Jesus Christ, who showed us in his words and deeds how much he values the next generation of precious little ones. Heavenly Father, would all that we say this evening echo the teachings of our Lord Jesus and of your word more generally, that we might lead the next generation in ways that they would see the beauty, truth and goodness of the gospel, and love and know and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.
Well, I’m really pleased to welcome briefly two additional speakers this evening, beyond myself. The first is Dr Ruth Lukabyo: she’s the Dean of Women at Youthworks College here in Sydney. She loves teaching enthusiastic and creative women and men to serve in children’s and youth ministries. She’s a senior fellow at the Anglican Deaconness Ministries—ADM—and she’s also the author of the recent and excellent From a Ministry of Youth to a Ministry for Youth: Aspects of Protestant Youth Ministry in Sydney 1930-1959. We’ll be really blessed to hear her insights this evening.
Paul Dudley is the senior chaplain at Shore High School over in Sydney, and he’s also a visiting lecturer at SMBC—Sydney Missionary and Bible College—and he’s served in ordained Anglican ministry for many years and is full of thoughtful and wise ideas about how to raise the next generation also.
But before we hear from our guests, would you just permit me briefly to run through a few details of our time tonight. Firstly, I’m really grateful for technology that allows us to have an event like this, even in lockdown, and though we’re coming out of that now, we can still do this sort of thing.
Our plan for this evening: we’ll hear three short addresses on the topic of raising the generation—one from each speaker: Ruth, Paul and myself. Then we’ll have a short panel discussion, followed by another discussion where we’ll be answering your questions that have been submitted in advance through the Sli.do application.
Finally, on the webpage, you’ll see an outline for this evening, and you can download and follow that if it benefits you.
Let’s get to our first presentation. Would you please welcome Paul Dudley.
1. The privilege of raising the next generation
Paul Dudley: Well, thank you so much, Mark. Well, I want by saying that it is a great, great privilege to be raising the next generation. I think back on all my time in schools, in churches, doing social work—all these different contexts. As I think back on it, I think back as a great privilege—seeing those great moments of joy—of the wonder that children have as they play out nature—seeing that moment of realisation as the gospel just suddenly clicks in a young mind. Or walking with a youth who’s dying of cancer, and then their final days, dies full of faith. It is a great, great privilege.
2. The beauty of the next generation
a. Beautifully created
I think if I was to categorise it in two different areas—of why it’s a great privilege—the first is, as we look at the Bible, it’s a great privilege because of how precious, and the way that God describes, youth. You see, as we look at it, as we look at the Bible, the Bible sees that they are very precious. I always have this great picture of—I don’t know if you’ve seen a child when they find something so precious, and they pick it up and they might wrap it in a little tissue. And they come and bring it up to you, and they say, “Look at this!”
As we peel open the Bible and have a look, it’s like God says, “Have a look how precious they are”. As we look at Psalm 139, we see that children and youth are created fearfully and wonderfully made (vv. 13-14). You think of their gifts and their talents, the way that God has made them all so very different. But not only that, as you look at Genesis 1:27, we see they’re created in God’s image. They have intrinsic value—inherent value—not because of what they will become, but they’re created in God’s image. This great, great value.
Colossians talk about the fact that they have purpose (1:16). There’s a great story in 2 Samuel 12 where David has a child with Bathsheba, and the child is dying, and David is pleading with God. And the servants outside, the child dies, and they’re worried about how David will take the news. And so they come in, and David goes, “What’s going on?” and they go, “Oh, we’re worried about telling you the news”. And David says these great words that “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (v. 23). There’s this great picture of the child being immortal. Those who are involved in raising children and youth are involved in raising immortals. What a great privilege!
As we look at the Bible, it’s clear also from Psalm 51, though, that from the moment of our conception, we are sinful, and we’re needing to be matured and developed. And we’ll hear later on more from Deuteronomy about that process of helping to raise and grow and nurture these children (e.g. 4:9-10).
b. Beautifully saved
That’s the first thing—that they’re a great privilege, because of what the Bible has to say about them. But they’re a great privilege, because they can come into faith. As we heard from Mark, a similar passage from Luke picks up that idea of Jesus speaking to his disciples, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). They can be in relationship with the creator of the universe through the work of Christ. What a privilege to be involved in that!
c. Beautiful teachers
But in that same passage from Luke chapter 18, in verse 17 we hear these words: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”. You see, Jesus has them in front of the disciples saying, they are teachers as well. There are great lessons to be learned as we look at them and their faith—their modelling of faith—their trust.
Well, it is a great privilege, because this next generation are beautiful.
3. The challenge of raising the next generation
The second reason why I think it’s a great privilege is ’cause we get to walk in the midst of those challenges. And there are many challenges with raising youth at the moment. We live in a rapidly changing world, where the pace of life has never been so fast. What a great joy to walk with them in that—to support them and help them thrive—to guide them.
A word I came across just recently was VUCA—that the culture that we’re living in—the society that we’re living in—it’s volatile, it’s uncertain, it’s complex, it’s ambiguous. I guess as we come out of lockdown this very week, we have some our students back already at school, but the rest returning back next week. This time of COVID—this lockdown—the fingerprints of COVID are all over this youth: fear, languishing.
As I think about the challenges of raising youth and the vast changing world that they’re in, think of the digital explosion. I was reminded just recently as I was listening to an interview that I’m not a digital native. But they are: they’ve grown up with technology their entire lives.
Think about work. They’re rapidly changing. As educators, we’re educating for jobs we do not even know what will be there for the future. They’re global citizens.
Then we think about sexuality and identity: the topics of consent and toxic masculinity and #MeToo movement and pornography. All these challenges mixing in around our youth.
Then add in tribalism, the cancel culture, Black Lives Movement, and the entitlement that they feel within their different tribes. But then you just add that other layer of challenge: the challenge to Christianity. The growing hostility towards Christianity in our society.
It’s a challenge. But what a privilege it is to walk with them in the midst of those challenges.
Well, what about the responses? How have the students responded to that?
a. Voice of students
It’s interesting I heard some McCrindle research just recently, talking about the top five challenges that they perceived. Listen to these:
72%: High pressure to do well in exams and assessments.
63%: Navigating their own mental wellbeing.
62%: Preparing for unknown careers.
58%: Navigating loneliness and social isolation.
57%: Juggling work with study.1
Listen to their top five fears:
65%: Not having enough money to live comfortably
61%: Being stuck in a job they don’t enjoy or find fulfilment in
54%: Not reaching their full potential
48%: Not finding love
47%: Never being able to buy their own home.2
b. Mental health
It’s interesting as I speak with many different schools, one of the things that keeps on coming up, and even in our churches, is that of mental health. Mental health and the research that is gone into thinking about wellbeing and all these type of things just growing, and that is even before COVID came along.
And during COVID, we see that there’ll be those that will cope well with it, but those that are already languishing with many issues are struggling. And there’ll be those where COVID just brings new fears.
c. Purpose: what is the good life? “Lived experience trumps all”
It’s interesting, thinking about listening to this current generation. It’s interesting listening to them talk about what is the good life. I love hearing from them and hearing what they have to say. Here are four different perspectives [from] some of them that are growing. Here’s one student:
I believe that there is no set purpose in life, but rather, the only purpose there can be is that what is constructed by the individual in order to try and find meaning.
Another student says this:
I was left on this earth for a reason. I have a purpose. To be honest, I haven’t quite worked out what that purpose is. That is what makes me get out of bed in the morning—not knowing my actual purpose, but knowing that one exists.
And listen to this last one:
I don’t know. I have no clue on what to do with my life. I don’t know what I’ll want to be or what I seek in life. However, the idea of having no purpose sits well with me. I accept my life as it is and I want to live it to its fullest by experiencing as much as I can.
There’s a real sense of trying to work out what purpose there is in life, and a growing sense of “Is there purpose in life?” For so much of our youth, it’s about that lived experience. Their lived experience trumps everything.
5. A better story: truth, beauty and goodness of the gospel of Christ
And I think, as we try to think about trying to help our students with purpose, that idea of having a sense of purpose makes our students happier and healthier, and more engaged and less stressed. We have this great, great message—that they’re not an accident; that there are those that will walk through those long, tough valleys. They are created by a loving Father and they have a purpose. You see, there’s a better story that we can offer—a better story that talks about the truth, the beauty and the goodness of the gospel of Christ. What a great privilege it is to speak that gospel—[to] model that gospel—to walk with others in that gospel.
I’m going to hand over to Mark, now who’s going to help us think more about that.
ME: Thanks very much, Paul! And look, Paul’s just really given us an excellent glimpse into this beautiful challenge, we might say, of raising the next generation. He’s left us really thinking about this beautiful story of the gospel of Jesus.
What I want to do in the next few minutes is to, firstly, bring us into the story of the Bible and secondly, bring us into the story of the Christian history that comes after the Bible—after the Bible was—the canon was closed, we say. What happened in Christian history afterwards when it comes to raising the next generation?
And I would really like us to see that, firstly, God has always cared about raising the next generation. And secondly, that Christians have had some really great ideas about how to just do that.
1. Passing on the faith in the biblical story
So firstly, passing on the faith in the biblical story.
a. Abraham (Gen 18:19)
I reckon one of the really important starting points is remembering that God has always wanted children to know and to love him. He created Adam and Eve so that humanity would increase and fill and subdue the earth; those children that would be from Adam and Eve would know him and love him. And of course, we know that Adam and Eve’s faithlessness and fall into sin throws a really significant spanner into the works.
Which is why Abraham’s faith and rise into grace is just so marvellous. In fact, the beautiful covenant that God makes with Abraham has countless children in mind—more than the sand on the beach and stars in the sky. But for this to happen, Abraham is required to pass on the faith to his children. God says in Genesis 18 that Abraham needs to “direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right” (v. 19). To direct his children—instruct them so they would keep the way of the Lord.
b. Moses (Deut 6:4-9)
In fact, it’s little wonder, then, that when we come to Moses, we see the same thing. In fact, zoomed in in detail: Deuteronomy 6, that beautiful little passage in Deuteronomy—it’s just a cracking chapter. It really records—it gives us a special giving of the Shema—“The Lord your God is one”—and the command to love God with heart, soul and strength.
But then God says, “Pass these on. Impress them on your children.” It’s not just for you, but you need to pass it on. And you need to do that when you’re sitting at home, when you’re walking along the road, when you’re lying down, when you get up. In fact, get these instructions, tie them onto your hands and heads, and write them onto your house and gates. Pretty beautiful passage, isn’t it.
c. Proverbs of Solomon (1:7-8)
And I think this sort of thing’s probably in the background somewhere of Solomon’s Proverbs—especially at the start of the book, which says in the first chapter,
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
d. Jesus (Matt 19:14-15; 28:19-20)
Now, hundreds of years later when Jesus Christ comes into the world, we see a similar stance towards passing the faith onto children. In that beautiful episode in Matthew 19 that I read at the start of tonight, we see Jesus praying for children, caring for children, declaring that the kingdom of heaven is also theirs. And after Jesus’ mighty sin-bearing death and earth-shattering resurrection, he declares in the Great Commission at Matthew 28 that his disciples, both adults and children, need to be baptised and taught to obey all his teachings.
e. Paul (Eph 6:1-4; 2 Tim 1:5)
And we can see the faith being passed on to Jesus’ disciples—his followers, both young and old, in the Apostle Paul’s writings. We see in Ephesians 6 how fathers are not to exasperate their children, among other weighty things; I’m sure Paul had in mind dad jokes. I often think of that verse. Not to exasperate their children, but to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (v. 4). And Paul also knows the important place of motherhood for passing on the faith: he speaks about the transmission of faith in Timothy’s own life and story: from his mum Eunice and grandma Lois (2 Tim 1:5).
f. Catechise (cf. Luke 1:4; Gal 6:6):
So even from this whistle stop tour of the biblical story, we can see that [the] passing on of the faith to the next generation really does matter to God. In fact, one of the key words used to describe this is “catechising”. It comes straight from one of the Greek words of the New Testament and it means “teaching” or “instruction”. It’s not the only kind of teaching and instruction, but it’s one of the biggies. And it’s something that Christians have kept on doing in the church and in the home ever since New Testament times.
2. Passing on the faith in the historical story
a. Catechising in the early church
Now, in the early church, catechesis was the moral and doctrinal instruction given to new converts who rejected their pagan past and embraced the Lord Jesus Christ. So for instance, we know in Hippolytus, when he writes in the third century, that a catechumen—someone being catechised or taught—was taught the basics of Christianity for three years before they could belong to the church properly.
And we know from Cyril’s Procatechesis in the fourth century that lots of doctrine was taught and examined—like the virgin birth, the cross of Christ, the resurrection, the ascension, and so forth.
But what happened was that after the church exploded geographically, it started to explode organically, largely as a function of children born to Christian families. So in the following centuries, catechesis took place in the church and in the home. It was really important.
b. Catechising in the Reformation
And that’s what we find when we come to the mighty Reformation in the 16th century. The great German friar Martin Luther: he wrote catechisms and he expected churches and families to use them. In fact, as the quote shows, he even wanted Christians to drill themselves with catechetical questions:
… I appeal once more to all Christians, especially the pastors and preachers, that they not try to become doctors too soon and imagine that they know everything. (Vain imaginations, like new cloth, suffer shrinkage!) Let all Christians drill themselves in the catechism daily, and constantly put it into practice …3
And what are these questions? They’re like short and memorable questions—easy to teach and easy to learn. They’re questions like, “What does”—this is from Luther—“What does ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ mean?” Answer: “That we should fear, love and trust in God above all things”.
Now, what about the great English Reformer, Thomas Cranmer? He actually wrote himself a very important catechism. The preface to his catechism sets out the biblical warrant for catechesis and it notes the importance of teaching, among other things, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed (that he calls “The Articles of the Christian Faith”) and the Lord’s Prayer. Three biggies:
And truly it is no new thing that the children of godly parents should be instructed in the faith and commandments of God, even from their infancy. For does not God command his people to teach his law to their children, and their children’s children? … Does it not appear by plainly expressed words of Paul, that Timothy was brought up even from a child in the Holy Scriptures? Have not the commandments of Almighty God, the Articles of the Christian faith, and the Lord’s Prayer, been necessarily always (since Christ’s time) required of all, both young and old, that professed Christ’s name?4
Lastly, let’s have a quick look at what the great French Reformer John Calvin says when he writes a letter to the Duke of Somerset: it’s pretty strong stuff. He says that the church will die out without good catechesis:
Believe me, Monseigneur, the Church of God will never preserve itself without a Catechism, for it is like the seed to keep the good grain from dying out, and causing it to multiply from age to age. And therefore, if you desire to build an edifice which shall be of long duration, and which shall not soon fall into decay, make provision for the children being instructed in a good Catechism, which may shew them briefly, and in language level to their tender age, wherein true Christianity consists.5
If you want to build a strong church, then you need catechesis. You need to catechise its children, is what Calvin’s saying to this newly Reformed church of England. You need it!
c. Catechising today?
We might ask about our churches today: what about catechesis in our contexts? Now, we’ve got some great children’s and youth ministries. We’ve got great books for youth, great music for children. But what about this kind of question and answer catechisms?
3. Principles from the past for the present
We can chat more about that in question time. But let me just give some big principles from the past that I think we can adapt for the present.
a. Three biggies
Firstly, historically, there are three big features of Christian catechising: the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. What the historic creeds and catechisms tend to do is use those three biggies as a kind of super structure to explore other points of biblical doctrine.
So a catechism might start with the phrase, “I believe in God the Father Almighty” and it might ask, “Well, who is God and how many persons are there in God, and what are their names?” So [it] might have the structure from the creed, but ask particular questions.
b. Two techniques
Okay, next, historically there are two major techniques used in Christian catechesis. They are repetition and pointing. Repetition and pointing.
Repetition, that great way of drilling ideas and concepts into our heads and down into our hearts. Some ways it’s gone out of fashion. People used to speak ill of rote learning. But I think it’s gone out of fashion at our own peril. That’s repetition.
What about pointing? Well, pointing is basically asking pointed questions.
Question: Who made you? Answer: God.
Question: What else did God make? Answer: Everything!
Question: Why did God make you and everything? Answer: For his glory.
We do this with our children with hand actions.
c. One habit
The last principle from the past for the present is that catechising ought to be one single habit. That is, it shouldn’t just be a clunky, awkward, occasional thing, but something that’s just naturally woven into the fabric of church and home life. So to paraphrase Deuteronomy, when you sit down at home for dinner; when you walk along the road to drop the kids off at school; just before when you lie the kids down at night.
4. Give it a go!
Now, you might think, “Well, how do I get started with all of this? It sounds a bit tricky”. And I would just say, give it a go. Give it a go.
- A starting point (First Catechism: Teaching Children Biblical Truths)
- A singing way (Songs for Saplings)
- A fun idea (The Acrostic of God)
- A place (dinner table, change table!)
- A non-anxious approach (It’s God’s great story!)
I’ve mentioned a few practical tips in the outline that we can talk about in question time—some different resources—and I’d love to talk about that. And if you have questions, I’d love to answer them. And you might want to ask a question about those things.
But before I pass onto Ruth Lukabyo, I would just say this: catechesis is part of the story of God’s people in the Bible, and part of the story of God’s people in history—a wonderful part of it. And so, I would encourage you to hook into that part of it—to give it a go.
I love doing catechisms with my kids and I reckon that you would to.
Ruth Lukabyo: Thank you, Mark for an excellent biblical and historical overview of passing the faith down to the next generation.
I’m going to talk more from church history—how Christians in the past have done that very thing: pass the faith down to the next generation.
1. Fearing for the next generation (Deut 4:9-10)
I think often the context of that has been in big transitions and also there’s been, in the past and also today, a lot of fear. I agree with Paul that there’s times where we feel really overwhelmed about raising the next generation, and we feel like raising our children as Christians in this world is really hard. We’re fearful for our children about what will happen to them and whether they’ll grow up with faith.
I go to a church with [a] healthy, large-ish kids and youth ministry, and once a term, we have a welcome lunch for newcomers. Most of the guests come from other churches, rather than being genuine newcomers to church, and after lunch, I often ask them why they come to St James. And a hundred per cent of the time, they say it’s because of the kids. They say, “You know, there’s no kids my kids’ age” or “My kid won’t go to youth group” or they’re unhappy with the youth ministry in some way. Underneath, there’s a great fear for their children. And what makes us more fearful, I think, is the secular world that Paul was talking about and all those challenges that it brings. It’s a different world to the one that I grew up in.
But as Mark has reminded us, since biblical times, it has always been the same: it’s always been this way. The whole of the Old Testament, I believe, is about how one generation passes down their faith to the next, and holds on to the promises of God.
So I’m going to look at two transitions in history tonight, when the church had to reconsider how to pass their faith on to the next generation.
2. Sunday schools
First of all, the Sunday schools. In the 18th century in England, many people were moving into the cities as the cities were becoming industrialised. Children were working in factories, often six days a week. There was little formal education, and parents were not catechising their children. Middle class Christians became really anxious and fearful that the next generation would not have faith.
So the Sunday schools were invented. The first Sunday school was formed in Gloucester in England in 1783. Robert Raikes was a Christian who was walking through the town one day and he saw youths running wild. They were swearing and causing trouble and not attending church on the Sabbath day.
Seeing those kids, he had a vision for giving them an education and giving them some basic religious instruction. He employed four women to teach a hundred children on a Sunday. In the morning, they were taught to read, and then after lunch, they were taught the catechism and were taken to church. This concept of Sunday school spread like wildfire. People loved it. In 1870, there were around 3.5 million children in Sunday schools in Britain. That’s incredible, incredible growth!
How about in Australia? The first Sunday school was opened in 1813 at St John’s Parramatta, and by 1880, there were in Sunday schools in Australia about a half the children under 15 were being taught. These Sunday schools were a wonderful innovation. They were great at giving children a basic foundation in the Christian faith and an understanding of what was in the Bible. They had a wonderful focus on knowing God’s word.
It’s hard for us, looking back, to assess the Sunday schools and to work out what kind of impact they had on people. We can assume that many children did become Christians. In fact, anecdotally, my own mother came from a non-Christian family, but said she wanted to go to Sunday school and became converted in the Sunday school.
But unfortunately, history indicates that the majority of children actually dropped out of Sunday school after their confirmation at the age of 14, and they never became adult church members.
So that’s Sunday schools. The next model that I want to look at is the fellowships.
a. The challenge of high schools and teenagers in the 1930s
In the 1930s, there was a different challenge for Christians in passing down the faith to the next generation. Until the 1930s, there were no high schools: most kids didn’t go to high school. You went to an extended primary school and then at the age of 14, you went out and got a job. You might think that would be a good idea today!
In the 30s, the government was encouraging kids to go to the new high schools that they were building, and it was the same all over the English-speaking world. This created a new monster called the teenager.
b. Fellowships created (1 John 1:5-7)
At church, these teens were bored with Sunday school and it was difficult to engage them with adult church. But again, there was a new, innovative ministry: the fellowship groups. They were formed by the young people themselves and they organised these groups on a weeknight. The group was for peer encouragement, for Bible study, for prayer, for fun, and these are the forerunners of our Friday night youth groups. The name “fellowship” was really important to them. It encapsulates the goal of the group. Their goal was to have fellowship with God and fellowship with one another. They wanted to grow in relationship with God and to grow together in Christian maturity, and it was young people themselves that gave the talks, that led the Bible studies; they were on committees to organise meetings, social events, house parties, fellowship teas.
c. Leadership and agency of young people
When I was writing my book, I was really struck by the initiative that young people had in setting up these ministries and leading these ministries. They had so much agency in doing the peer ministry and evangelism themselves. And I think this is one reason why the fellowships really thrived.
I was giving a talk at the beginning of this year and after the talk, I was chatting to an older gentleman, and he was saying to me, “This was really true”—the kind of leadership experience that he had had. When he was at James Cook High School, he ran his own ISCF group at the age of 13. 13! Then, when he was 18, he was running a Sunday school group at Auburn Anglican Church of 300 children. This is incredible responsibility for people so young and I don’t think we would do that today.
Both the Sunday schools and the fellowships were ministries focused on God’s word and on prayer. They were innovative and they responded to the historical context to pass the faith on to the next generation.
4. What are the weaknesses of these methods?
They also did have some weaknesses that have and continue to have an impact on us discipling our children today. So I just wanted to have a little look at the weaknesses there might be in those methods.
I think the most important thing, in terms of a weakness, is that they separated youth from the rest of the church. Parents dropped their kids off to Sunday school while they go to “real” church. When evening youth services were created in the 1970s, not only Sunday school children, but youth were really separated from the adults—from the rest of the church. I think this creates problems when kids and youth ministries become separate from the adults. They become almost like a parachurch, off to the side, and while children and young people have to grow up and, finally, they get to “real” church with the adults.
Whereas Paul, in the New Testament, really taught that the church—the body of Christ—includes young and old. It’s male and female, Jew and Gentile—I’m sure he’d want to say if he was here, young and old (Gal 3:28). In Ephesians 5, when Paul addresses and instructs the whole church as they gather to hear God’s word, he addresses slaves and masters, husbands and wives, and he also addresses children (Eph 6:1-3). Children are part of the body of Christ.
Another problem is that when children are separated from their parents, parents can begin to think that they should leave their children to the experts—to the kids minister or the youth minister, or their leaders. They can lose confidence in their own discipling of their children. But tonight, Mark has really reminded me of the responsibility of parents to teach their children the faith.
And research tells us that parents are still the greatest influence on their children’s faith development. This separation of young people from the rest of the church can mean that kids and teenagers have a fantastic peer group, but don’t get to know other Christians older than themselves. And there’s a lot of research on discipling young people that keeps showing us how important intergenerational ministry is.
In this book, Faith for Exiles, the authors argue that the form resilient faith—that is, faith that lasts—young people need at least five adults apart from their parents—five Christian adults in their life to mentor them, encourage them, love them. So the primary responsibility of faith formation is on the parents, but not just the parents; the rest of the church as well. Young people need other adults. They need peers their own age. They need people who are just that little bit older to show them what it’s like to be a Christian in a couple of years’ time. They need to feel like they belong to the whole church.
So how can we disciple the next generation? In conclusion, I think there’s three points that I want to bring out from church history.
Firstly, parents need to fulfill their primary responsibility. A great way that we’ll talk about more is to do some catechising at home.
b. Young people
The second point is that we should expect more of young people as disciple-making disciples. They might actually be capable of a lot more than we think they are. And they are disciples of Jesus: they have his Spirit. Let’s give them a bit of space to serve—to be involved—to evangelise—to encourage others.
c. Intergenerational relationships in the church
And thirdly, we should embrace and nurture intergenerational relationships in the church.
6. Final word: facing our fears (1 Cor 3:6)
Apart from these ministry principles, I want to finish on a bit of a word of encouragement: perhaps rather than talking about the things that we could do better and things we’re doing wrong, the way that young people will mature as believers is through God’s word and prayer, and the fellowship of believers in the church. Let’s help our young people to dwell in God’s word, pray for them and with them, knowing it is God’s work in their heart.
In the end, there’s also a mystery, isn’t there: we don’t have ultimate control. It’s the Lord who gives faith and helps grow. This verse helps me to trust in the Lord for my own kids, especially in times when I feel afraid or overwhelmed. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Cor 3:6).
So, thank you. We are now going to move into a time of discussion.
ME: Thanks very much, Ruth! It’s nice to be able to reflect on what you’ve been talking about in a panel, with Paul and yourself. And there are lots of different ideas that have really been stimulated by your talks, and I’ve got lots of questions.
ME: Paul, something that really leaped out to me when you were speaking, and I was going to ask you something else, but I want to ask you this one: about purpose, you know? You mentioned the word “purpose” a few times. In your ministry, you see that as something of a challenge, in terms of those that you’re trying to minister to, looking desperately for a purpose or maybe desperately clinging onto a purpose.
ME: Could you crack that open for us a little bit and say some more about—maybe about that challenge, and maybe a bit about how the Scriptures might help us to speak into that?
PD: Yeah, look, it’s something that I’ve picked up just in the last few years in speaking with youth and spending time with them. I think that the culture that they’re swimming in at the moment, this notion of that there is one purpose or there is a purpose in life, I think, has been eroded from them. You know, is there really truth there? And so, I think they’ve been fed everywhere they go that “You’re the one who creates the truth”—the “You do you” movement. “You’re the one who can create meaning. Don’t let others come out.” It’s come out of that postmodern notion of being sceptical of the truth and that type of thing.
So I think that there is a real sense and a real growing of not having purpose. But what I find fascinating is, they’re quite happy with that. You know? Like, I’ve got no purpose; I’m happy with that. I’m just here for a bit of joy—
RL: That live in the moment—
PD: Yeah, live in the moment! And so, then you get that kind of lived experience: it’s all about the lived experience. Don’t worry about having purpose in life. Now, that’s not true of all youth—
ME: Yes, yes.
PD: You know? There are those that have very clear visions of where they want to go. But I think at this moment, particularly with the volatile nature of it, there is a sense in which the gospel message can just speak into this moment and go, “There is a truth that is out there—that there is a purpose and a meaning in life that is profound and can bring great joy”.
I think—one of the things that I’ll maybe talk a bit a little bit later on—I think so often we’ve got this youth, and I think it’s our own sinfulness—is this notion of curving in on itself.
PD: And so, Augustine spoke about the curving in of the heart, and Luther and these others. But it’s trying to get that curving out and seeing—and it’s Christ—
PD: —the beauty of Christ and the gospel message that stands out. I think the Bonhoeffer had the Great Advocate—
PD: —is Christ that draws us out.
ME: Yes, that’s very interesting. I mean, I was reflecting recently on decision paralysis and how historically—I was reading some 16th century literature, as I tend to do [Laughter], and I was really struck by the use of the word “vocation”: you kind of had a station in life and that was your lot. And you didn’t move up and down too much in the social hierarchy.
And I was talking to someone about vocation in the modern day and age, and actually, there are so many things you could choose from: the self and others have been told all their lives, “You could do whatever you want”.
ME: And a lot of us could! Educationally, financially, all the rest, health-wise. And there are so many options, it can almost just be too much to work out “What’s my purpose out of all these things?”
ME: I’ve found, even in just talking to my mates that aren’t Christians that are desperate to hold onto something in life, that actually just trusting in God’s purposes can be incredibly liberating.
PD: Oh, yeah.
ME: You care about your life and you put in the effort. But you’re not the one who’s got the last say on it. Yeah. Liberating, you know?
I don’t know what you find in teaching students: do you find the purpose question or “What am I going to do in life?” How do you speak into that, Ruth?
RL: I was going to speak from church history again.
ME: Oh, lovely!
RL: Like you, Mark!
RL: I was [Laughter]
ME: No complaints here! No complaints here. [Laughter]
RL: When I was doing some research into the 1940s and 1950s—
ME: A great time!
RL: —the youth ministers believed that that was part of what they should do in ministry—that they should talk to the young people, especially as they were beginning to finish school, and talk to them about their vocation—talk to them about what they should do. That was a very important part of youth ministry that maybe we’ve lost a little bit—
RL: —that we leave that up to the school or that leave that up to the parents.
RL: But I’d encourage youth ministers to actually speak into that—
RL: —with their kids and teenagers.
ME: That’s very interesting. Would at that time—this is a question—would around that time, lots of the youth fellowship leaders have been in their vocations full-time, employed by—is tertiary education probably not as big in the 40s as today?
RL: Oh, certainly not as big!
RL: Yeah, tiny.
ME: Yeah, so I imagine—
ME: —a lot of the youth leaders would have been at their trade or a particular job, already on that track in life, and speaking from that position into the life of the others.
RL: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.
ME: Which, I think, connects to your point about the—the intergenerational or just keeping people together in different stages and phases of life, you know.
PD: Mark, I’m interested, in terms of, for you—
PD: —this catechising in your own family, do you think it helps bring purpose?
ME: Oh, that’s an interesting question! I’d like to think so.
PD: And so, well, how do you do it? Like, how do you—
ME: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, look, I should say we are rank amateurs and works in progress, and it’s all a bit of an ongoing trial—a trial and error, that is. But it seems to be, in the Lord’s kindness, a good thing.
We use a little thing call First Catechism with our kids since they were two years old. We do it after dinner and ask a little question—make it simple, make it fun, use hand actions, little jokes, prizes—make it engaging, you know. And—
PD: I think I want to come to your place a little more often! [Laughter]
ME: You’re welcome! You’re welcome! It’s been really nice to be able to build into the kids some frameworks about who God is and how much he loves them, and to fill that out during just family Bible time, or you go for a bushwalk and you talk about something and it connects to some question about, you know? “What else did God make?” “He even made these birds.” You know?
I’d like to think that it helps our little guys work out who they are in this world from an early age, you know? That’s our prayer, I think—that they wouldn’t be formed in their critical early stages by lots of other narratives, but by these other true, biblical, beautiful, good, truth, beauty, goodness that you’re talking about—that from an early age, they get a sense of—
ME: —“Hey, this is the good life”. You know? “This is the way I’m made to be”. You know?
PD: Yeah. And it’s interesting: research is showing that those who do have that sense of purpose actually are much healthier and are happier and engaged, and those type of things. So, yeah.
ME: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, there’s a question that sometimes where some of the challenges that we’re presented with today with youth—contemporary challenges—and often whether it’s sexuality or something else, but often the answer is to help counsel your kids to think, “Well, what’s God’s vision for this or his plan or his design or his purpose for this?” I reckon that’s a cracking question—a right one to ask—but it probably has even more traction when someone’s already on board with God’s design and purposes for their life. You know?
PD: Yeah, yeah.
PD: Of course
ME: I really don’t like claiming any great expertise. But it’s our prayer and our hope, and I think it works quite nicely for our little tribe where they are.
I even, changing the two-year-old’s nappy on the change table [Laughter], have got a few questions under her belt already.
PD: Is that right? [Laughter] Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Now, as a part of life—
ME: You can come over and change a nappy—
ME: —and then stay for dinner.
PD: Yeeah. Okay. Thank you.
RL: Mark, I’ve got some questions about catechising.
RL: Because there’s potential critiques of it—that it’s just—
RL: —kids memorising stuff and it doesn’t necessarily get to the heart.
RL: Another thing I was thinking about is it’s very doctrinal.
RL: So rather than teaching them the narrative—
RL: —of the Bible and, I guess, a biblical theology, as you go through and teach them each Bible story—
RL: —you’re teaching them doctrines—
RL: —and why—why?
RL: Aren’t we evangelicals? So we’re on about—
RL: —teaching them the Bible, rather than doctrine or—?
ME: Oh what a great question!
PD: And can I build on that?
ME: Oh, build on!
PD: Within schools—
PD: —you’ve got that notion of where we might keep on doing the Apostles’ Creed, and we’re just making them say it over and over—
RL: What’s the point?
ME: Yeah. And doesn’t that nullify the whole operation?
ME: Yeah. Yeah, look, there’s some great questions. And they’re very understandable concerns, I think. My starting point to answer this sort of question is to say, I’m a pretty forgetful guy and it takes—
PD: I’ve been listening to that talk. It didn’t sound very forgetful to me! [Laughter] But anyway …
ME: Well, I mean, it takes time for us to learn things, right?
ME: And, you know, you could be told something about God or about Christian doctrine, or part of the biblical narrative or something about your vocation or, yeah, whatever. But it takes time to understand—deep learning, you know, takes time to grasp things. I like to think of catechising as setting up some coat hangers with concepts—
ME: —that you’re helping some structures that you can fill over time. And that makes sense to me. I think a lot of teaching in schools is like that: you could probably say heaps more about it than I could, but I just think about the kids’ primary schooling at the moment: do they understand everything about everything which is taught to them? I don’t think so! It takes time, you know. So that’s the first thing I’d say. Part of being a human is to grow into concepts.
Second thing I say is repetition’s great. ’Cause I’m forgetful, and we all are—but it’s biblical too, right? Think about the way that God gives people things to say—gives them festivals to remember things. There’s sets of words you see in the New Testament—little creedal statements, the Philippian hymn, there are songs. Even songs we sing in church: why do we sing the same songs all the time? For pretty much the same reason. You know? Set words help build things into our hearts. So I think that’s part of it.
Last little question, I think, was about doctrinal things, as opposed to narratival things. And I think there’s some substance to that. That’s why I would say, like, here at Moore College, we teach doctrine. We also teach biblical languages and biblical theology. You need to augment catechetical—you know, the question and answer thing anyway—with other ways of helping little ones learn things, I think, you know.
ME: So when you read the Bible at night and go through the biblical story, it’s so easy to connect that to the questions that you just had on the dinner table.
RL: Yeah, so it’s not like you do one—
ME: You know?
RL: —rather than the other—
ME: Yeah! Yeah.
RL: That they both—
ME: They just—
RL: —work together.
ME: —work in harmony: systematics and biblical theology, as they should. You know? Yeah.
PD: One of the joys—just picking that up is—
ME: Yeah, yeah.
PD: —I’m thinking of a student that—quite a few students have become Christians later on.
PD: I think it’s sowing those seeds, isn’t it, of the, you know, remembering—
PD: —the Apostles’ Creed or whatever it happens to be, there are points that you remember later on—
ME: Yes. Yeah.
PD: —that are seeds that have been sown.
ME: And sometimes when you remember things in life, it feels new or fresh, or there’s a new dimension of it, you know? The word “remember” comes up so much in the Bible, I think God does—
ME: —put it in there, because he knows that we’re forgetful! [Laughter] So—
ME: —there’s a friend of mine, his name’s Jonathan Gibson. He’s an Old Testament lecturer at Westminster Theological Seminary in America. And he’s co-authored a book with a rapper—hip hop artist [Laughter] called Timothy Brindle. And it’s a great book. It’s called The Acrostic of God. And it’s like an easy-to-learn piece of catechesis—question and answer—in rhyming syllables. Anyway, it’s really good. Deeply thoughtful, easy to learn, good for parents and children, and it can be done in, I would say, even a church context.
Let’s move on to another question.
PD: You don’t have to sing them yourself, though, ’cause I just can’t sing very well.
ME: I reckon after you come around, change a nappy, have dinner, maybe you could give it a go.
PD: Ruth, can I ask you a question?
RL: Yes please.
PD: ’Cause it’s actually something that you mentioned there that I actually feel really strongly about myself, where we separate children and youth. We’re actually trying to bring them together, I think, is really important. I remember when I was working in churches, trying to have these all-age services where everyone was learning together.
PD: And it was just great moments. And so, I’d love to hear more [of] your thoughts on that.
RL: Yeah. Well, I guess the challenge, then, is how to do it. So you mention one way, which is to bring them together in the service. I guess that lots of churches do, perhaps, just the beginning together. So have a family time before the kids go to Sunday school: you have a song, you have some worship together before they leave. If a kid’s getting baptised, bring all the kids in. I think our churches do that well.
Other times that I was thinking of was the parish house party or the congregational house party. I love those times—
RL: —where you can really make the most of that—of building relationships between kids and adults—
PD: And you build at a different level as well.
RL: Yeah! Yeah, yeah.
RL: Yeah, I think they’re totally awesome. Yeah, just be creative! Like, think of ways that the young people can be involved in the service at different times—of doing the morning tea or reading the Bible—
RL: —and then I just encourage parents and adults to look out for ways that they can get to know the kids in the congregation. Just to say “Hello” at morning tea and ask them how Sunday school was. Yeah, there’s lots of creative things that you can do to actually stop that separation happening.
PD: I love where the parents go away with their kids—like a father/son camp—
RL: Oh yeah!
PD: —or a father/daughter camp—
RL: Yeah, yeah!
PD: —or something like that.
ME: —we did this earlier this year before lockdown, and it was dads and their sons.
ME: And I can’t tell you how good it was! [Laughter] I took our little boy and we camped out in Blayney, out over the mountains. It was in the middle of the rodent plague [Laughter] and we had rats coming up into our tent at night. But I tell you, we had the biggest bonfire you’d ever seen, and we had a bloke from one of the congregations share his testimony around a fireplace at night, and my boy remembers it.
ME: Isn’t that beautiful?
PD: Yeah, yeah.
RL: That is beautiful.
ME: It is great.
PD: Yeah, yeah.
ME: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
How to not operate out of fear
ME: Hey, something you mentioned at the tail-end of your talk, Ruth, really resonated with me as a dad of young kids: the word “fear”.
ME: And I think you just say the word; we get it. And there’s lots of people watching who are just really—feel the weight of that word—
ME: —in parenting. Could you talk to us a little bit about that m—how do you do the “faith over fear” thing in parenting—
ME: —particularly when it comes to just thinking about the next generation?
RL: Mmm. I wish I knew the answer! [Laughter] Going to the Lord in prayer.
RL: Preparing for this, I was thinking a bit more about fear. My kids are young adults, and so I think more about the teenage years—the young adult years—where they could give up their faith so easily. And there’s lots of temptations and different pathways they can take. And you have less and less control, because they become more and more their own person.
So it doesn’t get easier, Mark. Sorry!
ME: That’s all right! [Laughter] That’s all right! And so, the problem’s changed: they don’t get easier; they change.
PD: Yeah, sure.
RL: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
ME: Yeah, yeah.
RL: I was thinking how do we as parents respond to fear? And I think maybe there’s sort of two ways. One is to really try and control more and more—like, to hold on really tight.
RL: And the other way is to withdraw. It’s kind of too much.
ME: Yeah, right.
RL: I’ll just let—
RL: —someone else deal with those problems.
RL: So I think, in my experience, one thing is to actively, when I feel like I want to control, I sort of need to remind myself the Lord is good, the Lord loves my children more than I do, I have to let go a bit. When I’m tempted to withdraw, one thing my husband says, which is really helpful, is “Stay connected”.
RL: Whatever’s happening, even if they’re being idiots, and you are appalled by the things that they’re doing—not that that happens in my house! [Laughter]
PD: I was going to say! [Laughter] Ga—can’t imagine that, Ruth! [Laughter]
RL: Just stay connected.
ME: Yeah, that’s a good word.
RL: Stay connected. Yeah.
ME: That’s a good word. What about in your ministry, Paul, or Ruth, in a youth ministry context? How would you encourage someone, maybe, who’s thinking about chaplaincy work or you’re encouraging someone who’s maybe a youth minister or a leader in a youth or children’s ministry to not operate out of fear? What are some ways you’d encourage them to operate out of faith, rather than fear?
RL: I think that’s more a parent thing than a youth minister thing.
ME: You’re probably right. I was thinking if you’re a youth leader—
ME: —and there’s a kid that looks like they were firing and then just disappears—
ME: —you know? Or—
ME: —you’re just desperately trying something. It doesn’t work. How does basic Christian stuff feed into that?
PD: Do you know, I wonder whether we’re living in a fear-averse culture as well, where we don’t want to take risks and that type of thing. And so, I think there is an element of staying connected. There is a risk in that as well of putting yourself out there or having a go at something. And so, what’s interesting in schools at the moment is we’re trying to help students actually have a go—putting in boundaries and that type of thing—
PD: —to try and help them in that, and safety nets—
PD: —but actually trying to—it’s okay to have failure in the midst of that—
ME: That’s good.
PD: —and having a go at it. Yeah, we do become very fear-averse, I think, at times.
ME: Yeah, it’s—and you want to give young people those opportunities.
ME: And as leadership, and stepping into purpose, and so forth.
PD: Yeah, yeah.
The word and prayer
ME: Maybe one last question to either or both of you, before we do some CCL housekeeping and announcements. The word and prayer: the bread and butter of raising the next generation. What can you say about the word and prayer, maybe in the context of some of the things we’ve discussed?
PD: Yeah, can I jump in here? Look, I think one of the things I love about education is trying to—I’m thinking about the word in particular and trying to teach God’s word and that type of thing. It’s interesting in terms of education just trying to help them learn teaching and learning. So there’s lots of things that I think—one of the things that’s in education at the moment is there’s this fluctuation between the 21st learning century’s learning skills and all that type of thing, but there’s actually this movement of schools’ current education where they’re trying to get people [to] dig deeper into God’s word. And it’s really interesting—
PD: —kind of looking at that, the way they’re trying to do that of—
PD: —thinking routines, of project-based learning, and all these type of things. I think there can be real benefit of trying to bring—
ME: Yes, yes.
PD: —some of these things in in terms of really opening up God’s word. I think—
ME: I love this.
PD: —sometimes we often bring adult—
PD: —ways of wanting to learn on our kids. But there are some really exciting and innovative and engaging ways of helping students really dig—
PD: —deep into their learning and engage them in that, I think—
ME: I like that!
PD: —really exciting things to think about in that.
ME: I like it.
RL: I love what you’re saying, because I think there’s a danger with kids ministers or youth ministers and adults in general that we think, “Okay, we’ve taught that”. You stand up the front—
RL: —and you teach the word.
RL: Then you assume the kids know it. But they don’t necessarily learn best that way.
RL: So how can we help them engage in the Bible in creative ways—ways that give them a bit more control—
PD: Yes. Yeah yeah
RL: —as well, so that they—they’re responding to the Lord. He’s at work in them and the Spirit works through his word. So if we can help them engage in the Bible, rather than teach the Bible like it’s from you to them—
PD: Yeah, yeah.
PD: And there’s a place for that. There’s a place where we want to have direct instruction. But there [are] other ways—is they can really dig so deep—
ME: A-and you can really connect that deep learning with the fact that the knowledge of God is exhaustible.
RL: That’s right.
ME: God’s incomprehensibility. You can just keep learning about God for the rest of your life.
ME: There’s deep learning right there.
ME: Start the journey!
PD: The other one I was going to say is in terms of—a big thing that’s coming in schools at the moment is agency—
ME: Ah yes.
PD: —giving voice, and that type of thing. So I think that’s important to give them opportunity to be able to have a say in their learning and engage in that. ’Cause they want to do that. They’re actually be more engaged in with things where they got a little bit more say—
PD: —and those type of things—
ME: Yeah, good.
PD: —I think would be interesting.
RL: Tell you one thing I’ve been experimenting with. So I’ve had a leadership role in the Year 7 to 9 group—
RL: —in my church, so on Sunday mornings. And I read this book on allowing kids to testify to their faith more. So giving them a space in the meeting to stand up and say, “This is what God’s been teaching me. This is where I’m at with the Lord.” Not in those words. There’s more—like, “What’s God been teaching me?”
ME: That’s huge!
RL: Yeah, it’s been really interesting.
RL: —been really good.
ME: I’d love to see that in action, yeah? Yeah.
ME: Hey, let’s hit the pause button for some quick CCL announcements, then we’ll come back and there’s lots of questions, I noted before, already starting to stream on the Sli.do.
But some short announcements. First one is about the Moore College Preliminary Theological Certificate, known as the PTC course. It’s one of these great resources that Moore College has been offering for over 75 years, would you believe—
ME: —for churches all around the world have picked up. Have you guys ever done a bit of PTC?
PD: No, I haven’t.
ME: Never? [Laughter] Oh!
RL: I’ve done one!
RL: I’ve done one!
ME: You’ve done one. Okay, there you go! Well, the offer’s there.
PD: I think I’ve got—I think I’ve got one of the books—
PD: —that I used at college
ME: Exactly! They’re great books—
ME: —written by Moore College lecturers. But PTC courses are fantastic things. You can do it online and you can get the materials and do the course online. It’s a great course if you’re in a church and you’d like to learn a bit more about God at your own pace. And we have an annual graduation ceremony, and you get to celebrate completing when you do six units of it, and you can graduate. So if you’d like to have a look at that and, perhaps, get involved and learn a little bit more about God and his world, you can find out more information on the website moore.edu.au/ptc.
Another TLA—three letter acronym—to give you is the CCL events for next year: Centre for Christian Living, which hosts this evening. Next year, the 2022 CCL events are going to be all about the heart: “Commanding the heart”. I mean, there’s so much you can say and explore, and there’s so much relevance when it comes to thinking about the heart from a biblical perspective. But the Centre for Christian Living live events will consider different laws that Jesus expounded in Matthew 5, exploring how commands reveal the heart, actually. And I’d love it if you could come and join us as we consider righteousness that’s more than superficial and gain a better grasp of the kind of living appropriate for disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first event is on March 9, and it’s on the subject of anger: looking into what Jesus has to say about anger and what that reveals about our own hearts. I think that would be really worthwhile. Love you to come and join us on March 9 as CCL Director Chase Kuhn considers the command not to murder—how that exposes the motives of our hearts.
The last announcement is that the CCL podcast [episode] is up online and it’s actually on the same subject as what we’re looking at tonight: raising the next generation. The podcast has two guests: Tim Beilharz and Dan Wu. Tim who works for—I take it you know him quite well, Ruth!
RL: I do!
ME: There you go! Works for Youthworks, alongside Ruth, and Dan Wu, who’s an Old Testament lecturer—works alongside me here at Moore College. It’s a really good episode, and I’d encourage you to go and have a look at it up on the podcast.
ME: Why don’t we start thinking a little bit more about these questions? Let’s start with this one.
ME: I think this is a great question: “What are your favourite children’s Bibles?”
PD: The one that I—when our kids were a little older was “He whispers his name in every story” or something like that? Sally—
ME: Yes. Double-barrelled surname.
PD: No. But anyway—
ME: What’s it called?
PD: —I can’t think of it.
ME: I—I’ve got two copies of it a home.
PD: Yeah, me too!
ME: One that’s worn out—
PD: And can I—
ME: —and one that we’re onto again.
RL: Yeah, I was going to say Jesus Storybook Bible.
PD: The—that’s great. I love that, though, because it—it has that notion of trying to—even the Old Testament, pointing forward to Jesus and the answers. I think it’s brilliantly written—
ME: Ah, that’s it.
PD: —for primary-age children and, yeah, I think it’s great.
ME: That’s great. What about you, Ruth?
RL: Jesus Storybook Bible.
ME: Jesus Storybook Bible, again!
ME: There you go!
RL: But I might be out of touch. My kids have moved on.
ME: I think you’re in touch! [Laughter] Or maybe I’m out of touch [Laughter] as well! You know? We love it in our house as well. I think it’s fantastic.
We actually got on to another one that we’ve really enjoyed. I think the best Bible is the one the works—good translation—
RL: Sally Lloyd-Jones!
ME: —that works well for you.
ME + JD: Sally Lloyd-Jones!
PD: There it is!
PD: Fantastic! Well done!
ME: Well done, Ruth! There’s another one by a guy called Marty—I’m going to pronounce his surname entirely incorrectly. It’s like “Machowski”. [ The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments] It’s by New Growth Press, which is a really good publisher in the States. It’s an excellent Bible: you could probably get it from Reformers or one of the bookshops around here. And we loved it because it goes through a lot of the stories in Scripture that don’t normally make their way into kids Bibles. You know sometimes kids Bibles, they do best hits, and I love that: you gotta do the best hits. But there’s a lot of other hits that are really good. And this Bible has really loved us—good biblical theology without it being clunky and has, even, questions at the end for the kids. Which I just thought was good. So Marty Machowski.
Teaching and pointing children and youth to the gospel
ME: Okay! Another question: “How can we teach and point children and youth to the gospel, rather than Christian moralism, particularly in the school and church context?” Paul, could you start us off on that one? You mentioned the chapel rote learning thing. Let us know what you think.
PD: Yeah, I think it’s interesting, isn’t it. I mean, schools are really trying to help their students grow into good people—good men, good women—and that type of thing. And so there is a lot of that we’re wanting them to grow in compassion and all these values and morals.
Again, it’s trying to help them step back and trying to think, “Well, why? What’s the basis? Why would you want to live this? What is the foundation for this?” It’s very easy at assembly for someone to get up and, “Right: you all make sure that you’re wearing your uniform properly”. But getting up and talking about, at a deeper level—not necessarily about that particular subject, but other things at a Christian level and a gospel level—
PD: —about things and why it makes a difference and those types of things I think is important.
ME: Yeah, that’s good. Ruth: you got some thoughts on that one?
RL: I was thinking, again, of my Year 7-9 group: the youth minister came up with a really great goals statement for the kids—that they would come to love Jesus more than anything else, that—
RL: —what we were on about was their heart—
ME: That’s good.
RL: —and the way that you love Jesus more and more is to—understanding what he’s done for you—the gospel message of his death and resurrection. So that was always a great good reminder for us as leaders: what are we trying to teach? How are we trying to shape these young people? And that was the heart of what we wanted for them.
PD: There’s a great book out at the moment called Show Them Jesus—
PD: —on children’s ministry, which is very good. That—
RL: It’s really good.
PD: —same notion of—
PD: —keep on pointing them to Jesus, you know.
ME: And showing them Jesus, what sort of role does example play in—
ME: —in the school context, with youth—how do you show them how grace operates?
PD: Yeah, I think it’s really important. The whole modelling and being a role model and—
PD: —bringing role models, I think, is really really important. I can think of many examples of—in the school context—where, actually, it wasn’t the chaplain that people became Christians—him getting up and speaking. They’re sowing seeds. But it was actually the maths teacher who was a Christian that was just a lovely, godly person that modelled that as well. And the student was able to connect with that. So I think there is—
ME: Oh, I love that!
PD: —a real sense of modelling there.
ME: Yeah. Yeah, I imagine the modelling—let’s take cancel culture as an example, for a Christian that forgives—
ME: —or a chaplain that forgives—
ME: —or a mum that forgives or a dad who gets home from work and he’s tired and—maybe a dad who gets home and he gets it wrong with the kids, and asks for forgiveness.
ME: In the midst of cancel culture, that kind of—
PD: And can I say it’s very powerful—
PD: —seeing a Headmaster get up and say something and realise he’s said the wrong thing, but actually profoundly apologise, I think it’s very powerful—a reminder that we all—
PD: —are sinful and we struggle and—
PD: —but there is that sense of forgiveness.
ME: Yes. It’s an interesting thing, ’cause we’ve all—sorry, these are our own questions; we’ve got to come back to theirs. [Laughter] I’ve got to hold myself back. Oh, I had a great question! But I’m sure there are other really good questions.
The roles of mums and dads
ME: Okay. Let’s take this one: Ruth, I’m going to send it in your direction—to begin with, anyway. “Do you think mums and dads have different roles or parts to play in their child’s discipleship?”
RL: Great question. Paul particularly addresses the fathers in instructing their children in the Lord (Eph 6:4), and I think in different churches, often that responsibility has been handed to the mother, rather than the father. So one thing I would say is fathers: step up.
PD: Yeah. Excellent.
RL: Don’t just leave it to your wife. I guess she’s the one that’s normally more nurturing the children—more often the one that has stayed at home in those early years. So more likely to be the one doing the Bible story in the evening and that sort of thing. So I’m not really saying one’s different from the other. But I am saying, “Fathers: step up”.
ME: That’s a great comment. I’m in full agreement here. Paul, do you want to bounce off that thought of Ruth’s?
PD: Oh no, I agree totally. I think it is important that—certainly from the biblical passages from Paul. We only heard from 1 Timothy just the other night in the context of our church, and—
PD: —just that importance of men stepping up in that and [Inaudible].
ME: Yes. It is important, and there’s the household of—there’s a family household and there’s an analogy to the household of God as well, isn’t there. So there is something important about male leadership—and there’s something important about female leadership—
PD: Yeah, that’s right.
ME: —and yet there are differences. You know?
ME: They’re both so important. I use the example of Timothy’s mum and grandma—the way Paul speaks about the importance of that little lineage (2 Tim 1:5)—
ME: —and you contrast that—the way that Paul’s quite straight and up and down: he says, “Now, fathers: don’t exasperate your children. But do this to them.” (Eph 6:4).
ME: You know? Instruct them and teach them. So Paul’s clear that there’s important roles for men and women with children. But certainly there are special things for fathers that need to be done in terms of leadership and responsibility, I think.
PD: I think particularly—I was just thinking then—just as a side issue, just the importance of fathers modelling good emotions and things like that. I think there’s a real sense of—you keep on hearing “toxic masculinity” and that type of thing—
PD: —and I think fathers have a role in that, I think, in terms of shaping what good emotions are and resiliency and that type of thing, rather than this performance macho thing.
ME: Yeah, that’s good.
PD: —we’d been thinking a lot about that in terms of just our students.
ME: Well, that’s right: an all-boys high school: you—
ME: —you’d have to think about that, yeah? What—
RL: Can I have another go?
ME: Yeah. Yeah, go. Yeah, yeah have another go—
RL: Yeah, it’s hard to—
ME: —I mean, [Inaudible]
RL: —put words on that, isn’t it.
ME: Yes, yes.
RL: I think, thinking about my family, the dad having the last word as the leader—
RL: —and setting boundaries and discipline, and that’s all really important in terms of discipleship. But of course, like you say, with grace and forgiveness and gentleness—
RL: —the mother is often more likely to spend more time with their kids—
RL: —and to hear the little stories and the challenges that the kid’s having, and will perhaps tell the mum more about what’s going on in their life. I mean, I’m making big generalisations, of course.
RL: So I think the mum has a bit of an opportunity there—
RL: —in those little day-to-day moments—
ME: Yes, yes—
RL: —to point their kids to Jesus.
ME: Tanya and I have sometimes thought about that in terms of proximity.
ME: Yeah, yeah: there’s a more frequent proximity that she has with our little rascals than I have, and that just shapes the dynamics and interactions. It means she can have certain kinds of impacts that I don’t tend to have. But then, because I don’t have as much proximate impact with the kids all the time, it’s like if one of the kids gets something wrong and mum says, “Your dad will come home soon”, and that means big business. [Laughter]
ME: And yeah, it’s sort of bound up in it, yeah? Something about the proximal relation.
ME: Hey, moving apart from the family unit, properly speaking, what about godparenting? In light of this Christian community impact, raising the next generation, there are lots of godparents. I’m godparent to a number of children and I’ve sadly had to say, “I would love to become a godparent of more children, but I can’t. It would be—
ME: —neglectful to the others.” But how does godparenting play into this intergenerational thing and—?
RL: Yeah. I love that question. I think too often godparents don’t do very much. We’re so focused on the immediate family that we don’t include other people well in our families. And I think having a godparent is a great opportunity to extend the family and encourage that godparent to spend time within the family unit. See, I don’t want to blame the godparent for their lack of—
ME: Sure, sure.
RL: —response. I—I think it’s up to the family to—
RL: —include them.
RL: So things that my god child’s parents have done is always invite us to her birthday party, every year. And the other godparents. Obviously, you want to pray and give gifts. But you’ve got to build that relationship over time, don’t you. So get a bit more proximity.
ME: Yeah, that’s right. [Laughter] But the prayer thing’s great.
PD: It—it’s interesting also—I just think in terms of having another person that—
RL: That’s right.
PD: —if they have that relationship, that they can do—
PD: —so when they get to those teenage years, there’s another voice or another person—
PD: —that they can turn to, which are—
ME: Who knows them, but they’re not in the everything—
PD: Yeah, that’s right.
ME: —of real life every day. You know?
PD: That’s right. Which, I think is really important
PD: There’s lots of studies and—
PD: —people have done a lot of research—
PD: —into that. But—
PD: —just having that other person—
PD: —there. But as you’ve said—
RL: Who doesn’t discipline them.
PD: No, that’s right! They’re outside of that, aren’t they.
PD: But they do need to be engaged with them, you know.
ME: Yes. They do. I remember the Lord brought me back to himself when I was 20, and I came to love and trust the Lord Jesus Christ’s work on the cross on behalf. I remember chatting to my godfather and he said, “Oh, I’ve been praying for you”. You know? And I would go and meet up with him every now and then, and pray with him and he’d give me something to read—a Christian book or something else—and just that outside of the—very special, yeah—
ME: Very special.
What to do during difficult times
ME: One more question I think we’ve got time for, and then we should conclude and pray, and I’ll ask you both to lead us in prayer in a moment. What would you say, raising the generation is hard; sometimes—no, let’s take a parenting context, or it could be a youth or school context—it’s just difficult. What do you guys do when your ministry is just really difficult or your family—what you’re trying to go through and help the kids. It’s just—what do you personally do? In your best moments? [Laughter]
PD: Can I just say that prayer ends up being really important in the midst of that—just turning to God in the midst of those—
PD: —times of just struggle and wrestling in prayer, I think. Resting, also, in thinking about prayer and knowing others praying for you and that you’re being held by others up in prayer, I think, is really important in the midst of that. So being able to share with people and—who you are close with—and having them pray for you I think is really important in the midst of that.
ME: Superb. Yeah.
RL: I think reminding myself, if it’s in ministry, it’s the Lord’s work; it’s not my work—
RL: —I need to be faithful and persevere. But in the end, I’m not in control—not in control of these students, kids, whatever they are. And the same in parenting: God’s given me these kids on loan, and I need to be faithful to him. And I’m a work in progress myself: sinful, I make a lot of mistakes, I need to speak the gospel to myself—
RL: —that I’m forgiven. There’s no condemnation in Christ (Rom 8:1). ’Cause I think we can get very down and—
RL: —judgemental on ourselves—
RL: —as parents.
RL: And then persevere.
ME: Yes. Ah, these are good words. And a great word to finish on. Thinking about us and raising the next generation as stewards—imperfect stewards—who are saved by a perfect saviour, and are desperately dependent on the Word and on prayer.
So I’ll ask you to pray in a moment. Thank you so much for coming to Moore College and being part of this CCL event, Ruth and Paul. And thanks to everyone’s who’s watching as well, for participating in this. We trust it’s been beneficial for you as well. I know there’s lots of questions that have come through. Apologies to those we haven’t been able to answer, and thank you for submitting those questions.
And if you’d like to continue benefitting from the work of the Centre for Christian Living, you can subscribe to the podcast or enewsletters that are sent out. But I’d really like to finish in prayer. I think that would be right and proper, conscious that we’ve got a great God who really does want to see the next generation raised up and who really loves using us to those ends, and who really loves us through Jesus. And maybe Paul and Ruth, would you pray for us. That would be lovely.
Heavenly Father, we do indeed thank you for just the great privilege it is to be involved in the youth of today, this next generation. We thank, Father, that you love them enough to send your Son to die for them, and we pray, Father, that you’ll continue to give us hearts eager to serve them—that you will give us great wisdom and creativity, Father—that you’ll give us patience. Give us all that we need in serving them well. Father, we pray that you’ll continue to be raising up godly men and women who will do this in the context of schools and churches, but also, Father, that you might be protecting and caring for parents in their role in caring for children. And we ask this in your Son’s name. Amen.
And Father, [we] particularly pray for parents who might be feeling overwhelmed or anxious, out of control. Help them and us to operate out of faith, not fear, knowing that you are the great God who loves those kids—loves those teenagers—more than we ever can. Father God, help us to be faithful—faithful in reading God’s word with our kids, in engaging with our teenagers, speaking into their lives with Christian truth. Help us to be faithful in prayer—in prayer for our children and teenagers—for our young people. And Father, help us to think, again, creatively—creatively for ways that we might be able to make a contribution in our churches, to reach out to other kids, to speak to them, to encourage them, to just get to know them. We really long for our churches to be places that nurture young people in their faith. I pray that we’d be able to be a part of that and pray for us all as we seek to glorify you and to serve one another. Amen.
ME: Amen. Thank you very much!
RL: Thank you! It’s been great.
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Bible quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by International Bible Society, www.ibs.org. All rights reserved worldwide.
1 Sophie Renton and Mark McCrindle, “The future of education: Insights into today’s students and their future expectations” (Norwest: McCrindle Research, 2021). Accessed online 3 December 2021.
3 Martin Luther, The Large Catechism of Dr Martin Luther, 1529: The annotated Luther study edition, ed. Kirsi I Stjerna, LW translation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016) 294.
4 Thomas Cranmer, Catechismus, 1548.
5 John Calvin, Letter to Somerset, 1549.