There is a massive void in the church today. People are looking for clarity on how to raise children who love God, and the Church is failing to fill the gap and stand with parents in the duty of discipling their Children. Most church programs are focusing on correcting children’s actions rather than forming their character. Bryan Haynes, Author of Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today, says that something drastic must be done. It is time for both parents and churches to come together and do more than modify behavior. Haynes gives a solution for how the family and the church can team to disciple children effectively.
“The Plan from the beginning,” writes Haynes, “has been for the church and the family to work together for the spiritual formation of the next generation” (page 30). Through time, because of cultural changes and pressures, parents have abdicated to the spiritual responsibility of raising their kids to the church. By doing so, the family has lost it power and the God-designed role as the primary discipleship making function in their kid’s lives. Simultaneously, the church has lost its cultural impact because it has weakened the family structure and diluted the legacy of faith passed on to the next generation.
By allowing the church to do what the parents should be doing takes away the structure God intended for fathers, mothers, and grandparents. While the church is to team with the parents, God never intended that the church take over for the parents, leaving them as nothing more than caretakers or non-spiritual coaches. Haynes suggests that for the church to have the impact that God intended for it to have on our culture, we must shift from a humanistic, godless, compartmentalized approach to a God-honoring and biblical approach. We must be mindful of God’s design for both the church and the family individually and then understand how the two can have greater impact collectively.
This book was birthed out of decades of experience and a heart of passion. Brian Haynes served as the associate pastor of Spiritual Formation at Kingsland Baptist Church for many years. This growing church is led by Ryan Rush who has also written and led the movement to call churches to minister with the family, not in place of the family. After Haynes time at Kingsland Baptist Church, he moved into the Lead Pastor of Bay Area Baptist Church. He still leads the charge in his church and beyond to calls people to disciple their families well. He is the creator of a website ministry Legacy Milestone Strategy, which exists to help link the church and the home to help impact future generations.
Shift is a book for every pastor and church minister. Hanes has an apparent passion for calling the church back to the rightful place of equipping parents to disciple their children. His primary audience is those who influence the church and can change or create programming, which he calls “Milestones,” to help parents be intentional. Haynes gives very clear and practical solutions for taking a church from only offering a children’s program to truly equipping parents. The Milestones that he prescribes will lead to a stronger faith-based in the body and therefore lengthen and deepen the impact and legacy of a church by properly equipping the next generation.
A secondary audience for Shift is parents. A father or mother could read this book and walk away with a clear and conscience pathway for spiritual development for their kids. My father used the Milestones Pathway with me and all four of my siblings. Though there is a clear role for the church, a parent like my dad, could take the content of this book and apply it to their household. This book is practical for all readers—be it a parent or a practitioner trying to have a more efficient discipleship plan.
The bulk of the book is Haynes “Milestone Pathway” (from page 49 to 106), clearly describing what happens along the course of a child’s spiritual growth. He defines milestones as “Markers of progression on the spiritual formation journey” (pg. 42). As a child grows, he describes how the church should celebrate with the child and the parents the growth that has happened. The will provide them with the motivation and support they need to keep going. He says there are seven milestones that every person can celebrate as they grow.
Summary and overview of the Milestones
Milestone One is the Child dedications after the birth of the baby. Parents will often want to dedicate their child publicly but do not always understand the biblical mandate to do so. The idea of presenting ourselves and our children to the Lord is something prescribed in Scripture and practices throughout the Old and New Testament period (cf. Luke 2:22). Haynes says that the church “Must connect new parents with the magnificent responsibility and opportunity of leading their children spiritually.” By celebrating the baby dedication milestone, the church is allowing for a public surrender of their child to the Lord. Herein, the parents are connected early in the child’s life to the importance of being the primary disciple maker for their young.
Milestone Two is perhaps the most important—the faith commitment of the child to the Lord. As the parents lead their child toward the relationship with Jesus and learn the practical application of the Bible, a child is given the opportunity to respond in faith to Christ. The children’s minister and church staff must champion the idea of salvation in the lives of their kids, encouraging and equipping parents to lead their child to Christ. A parent can faithful cultivate a heart of faith in the child by talking about “God sightings” in the child’s life and having “Faith talks” with the kids on a regular basis.
Milestone Three is the preparation for the adolescent years. It is the acknowledgment that the child is about to enter into the adult years of their life. They need to be equipped with knowledge while given and increased amount of responsibility. At this stage, the church can offer a seminar for the parents to help them know what to share and how to share it with their children. “The beauty of milestone 3,” writes Haynes, “lies in the extent to which the family and the church work together to help children prepare spiritually and emotionally for adolescence.” One again, Hanes is making it clear that the church does not do this for the parents, nor do the parents have to do it without the church. As they team together, a powerful partnership is formed to help young people enter adulthood equip and ready to continue to grow and serve.
Milestone Four is a commitment to purity. The culture today is luring our youth into all sorts of promiscuity before marriage. For a believer to stay pure and focused, it is important that the church and the parents team together to support and protect our young people. This milestone can include several elements: a parent seminar, clear talking points and biblical lessons taught to the youth, a church event with a purity vow and a family celebration. This milestone is a counter-cultural commitment, but one that will help our kids stay faithful and obedient to the Lord and something that should be celebrated to underscore its importance.
Milestone Five is the passage into adulthood. The author writes:
“The growth of a child into adulthood is a significant milestone. In American culture the age of 16 represents an important threshold, but the Passage to adulthood milestone isn’t about superficial freedoms such as keys to a new car or the latest mode of cell phone. Instead, Milestone 5 delineates the responsibilities associated with becoming a man or woman of God” (page 85).
This milestone is the most personal and family-based of all the milestones. There is not a big church celebration or a large announcement. Rather, this is something very intimate between the parents and the child. It involves a blessing and commitment on the parent’s behalf to support the child as they enter into the world and wage war on spiritual and cultural battles as an adult.
Milestone Six is the high school graduation. Also centered around a blessing and passage into adulthood, this milestone celebrates the coming of age when a child will leave their father and mother and venture out on their own. At this point, they will put the life skills they have learned to the test and begin managing their responsibilities and relationships. A formal and even public blessing can be given at this milestone, to allow the parents to share their joy and emotion (pg. 96) about what has happened in their young adult’s life. The church begins to treat these young adults as adults and seems them as their own unit, no longer under the authority of the parents. They are asked to serve, lead, and contribute to church life faithfully.
Milestone Seven is the Life in Christ, meaning they are now living out their life and walking with Christ. The church seems them now as part of the body life on a regular basis and is supporting them as they now start the milestone pathway over again with their children. At this phase, the Adult Ministry Discipleship Pastor will take over for what the Children’s Pastor or Youth Pastor has been doing. He will “equip all the adults in the church to pursue life as people abiding in Christ” (pg. 102). Haynes states and describes seven core competencies that in a mature believer: Prayer, Bible reading, authentic faith, obedient follower, Disciple-maker, Giving and Serving, and involved in a community.
Review, Value and Criticism
As a pastor for ten years, I can say that I have never found a more concise and practical guide for equipping the family. Brian Haynes has done an exceptional job at taking the role of the parents in a child’s life and partnering it with what the church should do. The format of the book is easy to read and apply because of the call-out boxes, clear calls to action at the beginning of each chapter and the “Q&A” sections on the sidebars within the pages.
In the later part of the book, Haynes gives practical guidance as to how to make the shift in a church that already has existing programs going. He challenges to church to rethink and re-strategize to find the new paradigm of effectively partnering with the family. If a church is far from the Milestone Pathway he prescribes, he gives advice on how to rethink the mission of the church and its programs. His advice is of extreme value, because most churches unless they are just planting, are going to need to rethink how they approach family ministry.
I have little to no criticism of this book. While there may be some phrases or words I would use differently to explain family ministry, that is merely a semantics and must be contextualized for each church. This book is a strong piece of work and must be used by pastors and families everywhere to shift the emphasis of our ministry and to reach the next generation.