I’m a big fan of Brian Haynes and loved his book from a few years ago, Shift: What it Takes to Reach Families Today. Brian Haynes is a leading voice when it comes demonstrating to churches, families, student ministries, and children’s ministries that they can work together to make the greatest impact on those growing up both physically and spiritually all around us.
In the promotion of Brian’s newest book, The Legacy Path: Discover Intentional Spiritual Parenting I’ve been able to submit a few questions that he has graciously offered to answer for us.
Your first book, Shift, was helpful in getting children’s ministers and student ministers to reconsider how they should spend their energy in their ministries. How is The Legacy Path different than Shift?
As you know, Shift is written to help ministry leaders understand the role the church can play in equipping parents to lead their children spiritually. Shift addresses the issue from the church side of the coin. The Legacy Path is written to the parent. I wrote it with the parents of my church in mind and from a parent’s perspective. I needed a tool to help my parents quickly understand their role in the faith training of the next generation. I think church leaders who have read and implemented Shift principles or the milestones strategy will find this to be an excellent tool to help families take steps toward intentional spiritual training at home.
I love what you’ve written about talking to your kids about spiritual things. Could you describe further how you define “Faith Talks” in your book?
Sure. Faith Talks are an important part of training our children spiritually. I think there are two kinds of Faith Talks. There is the informal Faith Talk that could take place any time, any place, anywhere. This is natural conversation that explores life from a biblical perspective. We should go a step farther though. There is also a more formal Faith Talk. This kind of Faith Talk is planned, scheduled, and intentional. It is a time set aside for a family to gather around the worship of God and to learn from the words of the Bible. There is something forming about this kind of Faith Talk. In The Legacy Path parenting strategy, it is important to use these Faith Talks to help our children progress in their Christian development. The milestones path is just a map that teaches us what issues we need to focus on to help our children grow in their faith. My experience both at home and at church proves that leading intentional Faith Talks is the most difficult aspect of the strategy for parents to consistently practice. It is also crucial to our efforts as the primary faith trainers of our children.
What would you say to a parent who is uncomfortable talking about spiritual things with their children? How can they start?
Most parents I know are initially uncomfortable talking with their children about spiritual things. The question is “Why?” I think this has a lot to do with our feelings of inadequacy around the contents of the Bible. Often we are afraid kids will ask questions we cannot answer or that we will say something that is wrong. If we are just starting this with our teenagers we feel like they will think we are corny or stupid or something. These are obstacles that have to be overcome. I encourage parents to begin consistent personal and group Bible study so that they are growing in their personal understanding of the Scripture. Then I encourage them to use tools that their churches are already providing to lead age appropriate Faith Talks. Many Kids Ministries and Student Ministries are offering take home tools for parents to help them lead Faith Talks. Also, many pastors are now writing Faith Talks based on the Sunday morning sermon. These tools are helpful in getting started because they give you a simple plan for your conversation.
This next question is a big one for parents at all of our churches who are heartbroken about the decisions their sons and daughters are making. What happens if the child doesn’t choose to walk the path their parents are leading them on?
There will be times for all us when our children choose not to follow well. Some will experience this to a relative small degree and others will experience full-blown prodigals. I wrote a chapter in The Legacy Path called “What if It Doesn’t Work?” I wrote that chapter because I have ministered to many families in pain because their child is growing up and choosing to walk off the path. When you have tried to do everything right and they choose wrong it rips your heart out. I encourage parents to continually pursue their child in love, pray like crazy, and depending on the situation build healthy boundaries to protect your heart, your family, and to allow the prodigal to experience the consequences of sin. Remember God, the Father, loves that prodigal and He will discipline them to bring them to repentance. It’s more complicated than this short answer but the wisdom of Proverbs 22:7 gives us hope. Early in their lives, invest the truth in them intentionally and authentically. Pray that if they ever walk away that these truths you planted in their heart will lead them back.
Starting to lead your children for the first time late in their teenagers years is certainly a challenge. This is cliché but, “Better late than never.” You have to just jump in where your kids are on the legacy path. This might need to begin with an honest conversation. Something like this. “I just realized a large part of my responsibility in being your parent is to lead you spiritually. I really am just only beginning to understand what that means and I want to become intentional about it. I crave time with you and I want to teach you some things about God, the Bible, and life before you grow up and leave home. So, we are going to start doing some things like having a Faith Talks.”
What if your kids are teenagers, and you want to start leading on this path so late in the game?
A big part of this is heart connection. If the heart connection is weak then the parent has to work to mend that connection in order to be heard and followed. I discuss this aspect thoroughly in The Legacy Path.
What is the church’s responsibility in all of this? Are parents supposed to do it alone?
I would point back to my book Shift as an important answer to this question. I think the church has a massive responsibility to connect the discipleship strategy of the church with the strategy at home. So, churches need to consider their holistic discipleship strategy. What is the plan or the path for growth? We use milestones. How do you progress from one to another? How does children, student, and adult ministry align along the path? The church has to equip mom and dad for the task. The church also has to partner with parents in the faith development of children and students. I just spent a week at youth camp. I often thought how grateful I am for the investment our student ministry staff and volunteer leaders are making in our children. Our ministry at church can lock arms with the family so that parents are never alone in the process. Also, the church needs to make adult disciples. How can parents disciple their kids if they are not disciples themselves? Finally, the church becomes the primary faith influence for kids whose parents are spiritually AWOL. Discipleship is a two-sided coin: Church and home.
What is one thing that the Children’s Ministers who are reading this could be doing to take some next steps towards helping parents lead in this Legacy Path?
I think a simple step for Children’s Ministers to take is to actually lead some small groups of parents through this book. That’s what we are going to do at my church. As you might know, I see a Children’s minister as a minister to kids and their families. So I think kids pastors should be spending time with adults. I wrote The Legacy Path thinking that parents could gather in small groups, read a chapter a week, and use the discussion question at the end of each chapter as a catalyst for discussion in small groups. This is a great next step because it allows you to explain the principles in the context of your church’s unique version of the strategy.
Brian considers his most important ministry as loving and serving his wife Angela and together parenting their children, Hailey, Madelyn, and Eden. He is the creator of the Legacy milestones strategy designed to help the church and family work together to equip the next generation. Brian is the author of the book SHIFT: What It Takes to Finally Reach Families Today as well as a contributor to several other books and resources. Brian served for 15 years in three churches as a student pastor and associate pastor including Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas. He now serves as Lead Pastor at Bay Area First Baptist Church in League City, Texas. Brian holds an undergraduate degree from Baylor University, a master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary for his work in family ministry and discipleship.