An Epidemic of Apathetic Families: Curing “Sunday-Only” Faith

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 205

In today’s fast-paced world, an epidemic of apathy towards faith has emerged among families. While busyness is often blamed, the end result remains the same – parents are disengaging from discipleship. The passing excitement of Sunday services fades by Monday, revealing “Sunday-only” faith rather than genuine spiritual vitality. Families become caught in a cycle of half-hearted worship attendance yet little genuine growth. It can be difficult to distinguish the causes of this apathy from the symptoms. Yet as disciples called to make disciples, we must cure these plaguing Sunday-only patterns.

Unfortunately, many churches fail to provide the antidote, instead relying on attractive on-campus programming alone to re-engage families. But discipleship is not about events; it is about cultivating faith as a way of life. If our solutions remain confined to Sunday mornings, we will never facilitate true transformation. The key is refocusing on discipleship outcomes rather than simply creating more programs.

What if we could empower families to embrace discipleship not just on-campus, but integrated holistically into their daily lives? In this article, we’ll explore moving beyond stale Sunday-centered approaches to leverage on-campus, at-home and online tools in harmony. Only then can we equip families to thrive in faith amidst the pressures of modern life. The time has come for a new model that permeates life with discipleship.

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On-Campus Family Discipleship

As churches strive to cultivate environments that nurture spiritual growth within families, the on-campus setting emerges as a fertile ground for transformation. On-campus family discipleship initiatives provide a unique platform for families to unite, learn, and flourish within a shared space. Nevertheless, it’s imperative that the approach aligns intricately with our core discipleship outcomes – Worship, Prayer, Biblical Instruction, Fellowship, Service, and Evangelism – to forge a genuinely vibrant and harmonious experience.

Midweek Family Worship

Amidst the bustling rhythm of life, Midweek Family Worship emerges as a sanctuary of collective devotion. These bite-sized worship sessions are meticulously crafted with families in mind, enveloping participants in a shared spiritual experience. Whether it’s parents and their young children or teenagers navigating their faith journey, this inclusive worship setting caters to all. The central aim is to cultivate a rhythm of worship that seamlessly flows from the church to the family home, deepening individual connections with God while fostering a unified familial bond.

Church-Supported Outdoor Adventures

Stepping beyond the sanctuary walls, Church-Supported Outdoor Adventures invite families to embrace God’s creation as a backdrop for spiritual exploration. Family Nature Walks fuse the wonder of nature with devotionals, allowing families to unearth spiritual insights amid the beauty around them. Playground Prayers and Family Picnics provide a dynamic fusion of faith and outdoor experiences, facilitating an authentic form of fellowship that resonates beyond church gatherings. These outdoor engagements aren’t confined to a rigid schedule; instead, they can punctuate the year, aligning with seasons and creating cherished memories.

Kid/Parent Bible Studies

Our commitment to innovation leads us to reimagine the way families interact with the church campus. Instead of the conventional Creative Worship Spaces, consider a Kid/Parent Bible Study. This session could commence as a unified learning experience, and then transition to separate age-appropriate groups for deeper exploration. This approach provides parents and children with tailored spaces to delve into scripture and discuss its relevance in their lives. This tailored exploration method celebrates the uniqueness of each family member’s spiritual journey while reinforcing the bonds that underpin family discipleship.

In the realm of On-Campus Family Discipleship, the mission is not to merely occupy time, but to strategically design opportunities that align with our cherished discipleship outcomes. As we traverse the following sections, let’s preserve these core principles as our guiding light. As we’ll soon uncover, on-campus connections constitute just the initiation. The story unfolds in the harmony between on-campus, at-home, and online engagements, forming a holistic framework for family growth. So, onwards we venture, delving into the realm of At-Home Family Discipleship.

At-Home Family Discipleship: Infusing the Everyday with Purpose

While the church campus provides a pivotal foundation, at-home discipleship infuses faith into the very fabric of daily life. When families devote time to spiritual growth within their home, it cements discipleship as an integral part of life rather than an occasional event. But in the swirling tempo of school, jobs, errands and activities, where do we begin? The answer lies in purposeful integration.

Table Talk: Turning Meals into Meaningful Dialogue

Rather than allowing dinner to become mindless consumption between tasks, let’s rediscover it as a chance for meaningful dialogue. Develop prompt cards with engaging questions to spark discipleship-oriented conversations. Go beyond sharing the highs and lows from the day by discussing how God is moving in each family member’s life. Transform eating into a treasured time for laughs, support and spiritual nourishment.

Car Line Habits: Beginning Each Day with Purpose

Establish a simple morning routine of reading a short passage of scripture in the car on the way to school. Allow kids to take turns reading the Scripture, and ask them to share a thought or prayer based on the reading. This daily devotional habit roots the day in perspective, aligning hearts and minds with the Lord before stepping out into the world. Let scripture nourish souls rather than becoming an item to check off a list.

Monthly Serving as a Family: Living Out Discipleship

Create volunteer opportunities where the whole family engages in service together. This could look like providing meals for homebound church members, serving at a soup kitchen, or visiting residents of a retirement home. By encouraging families to serve others together, you reinforce that discipleship means living out your faith beyond just weekly worship. Service bonds families in a shared purpose.

At home, the aim isn’t to make life even more chaotic. Rather, it’s identifying simple yet consistent ways to infuse the simplicity of following Jesus into everyday family life. When these practices become ingrained into the rhythm of home, family members are encouraged to grow together in faith wherever they go.

Online Family Discipleship: Leveraging Digital Tools to Foster Connections

While analog engagement is ideal, digital tools open up valuable opportunities for connection when families are apart. These kinds of tools become especially important as kids become teens, and their lives are increasingly spent apart from their parents. Provided limits are set, selected online resources can reinforce at-home and on-campus spiritual development.

Leverage Interactive Bible Apps: Making Study Accessible and Engaging

Bible study apps like YouVersion provide access to dozens of reading plans for the family to work through together or individually. Encourage families with older children to select a reading plan to work through. Then, those table talks which may be harder to come by can become a good place to pause and discuss what each person is learning through the reading plan.

Family-Oriented Podcasts: Sparking Conversations and Learning

Podcasts designed for kids and adults provide another portal for biblical wisdom. But these are really hard to find! As a church, work with your family ministries team to create a short, weekly podcast that parents and kids can enjoy together in the car. Perhaps it could include a short devotional thought–but also some fun, interactive components like trivia or car games that line-up with the core idea of the devotional. Whether listening during car rides or sitting together at home, podcasts fuse technology with meaningful learning. Families can pause to discuss insights gained through engaging storytelling. 

Video Prayer Groups: Gathering Community Across Distance

While confined to a screen, video prayers still allow families connection amidst busy schedules. Small groups meet online for shared joys and concerns. Guided conversation explores applying faith to life. Togetherness transcends location through technology. While this isn’t designed for a whole-family, as kids are unlikely to sit and engage in this kind of group, a video-based prayer group could be beneficial for parents who spend hours each week driving their children around town and are longing for spiritual connection.

The connective thread between on-campus, home and online is the articulation of discipleship outcomes into each environment. Through harmonizing these realms guided by purpose, families are empowered to interweave discipleship into the tapestry of life.

A Holistic Framework for Family Discipleship

Discipleship thrives not as an isolated event, but when seamlessly woven into the fabric of family life across various contexts. 

The “Sunday-only” faith plaguing families today demands urgent action. But the solution will never arise from better programming alone. It requires fundamentally reimagining discipleship not as an event, but as a way of life seamlessly integrated across all aspects of family living.

On-campus, we must move beyond stale approaches to facilitate hands-on experiences that bond families together in their spiritual journeys. At home, families need practical tools to weave discipleship into everyday life. Online resources must reinforce these hands-on experiences.

In isolating solutions to Sunday mornings, we have neglected the remaining 167 hours in a family’s week. It is time for an awakening – discipleship was never meant to be confined to a pew. May this integrated approach ignite a passion in families, as faith ceases to feel like another appointment but becomes the very rhythm of life. Then we will cure Sunday-only faith, nurturing families to live out discipleship always.

BONUS: Watch this episode on YouTube.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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