Proclaiming the Gospel to children and teenagers today is a journey of discipleship that includes the entire church family. It is a partnership between parents, families, church members, ministers, leaders, and pastors. On one level or another, at one time or another, everyone in the church is invited to be involved. It is a multidimensional, multigenerational, church-wide ministry. The home and the church come together for this common purpose.
In healthy ministries, the church family makes time to gather with young people for both worship and discipleship. This type of ministry is evident throughout Scripture. God’s people come together often in both the Old and New Testaments for the sake of teaching God’s word to the younger generation and worshipping with one another. The generations gather for prayer and confession in Ezra 10:
“Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered” (Ezra 10:1).
A similar ministry takes place in Joshua 8 when Joshua renews the Lord’s covenant, reading the Book of the Law to God’s people. Scripture tells us, “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel” (Joshua 8:35). This ministry of the Word included “the women, and the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.” This is a beautiful time of worship “where we see all generations present.”
Nehemiah 8 paints a similar picture. Ezra reads the Lord’s commands as a multigenerational community of God’s people participate in the day of worship. As Dave Wright describes, “We see the generations gathered for the reading of the Book of the Law of Moses. The vast crowd gathered to hear from God’s word included adults and non-adults. We don’t know the specific age range, but the text tells us that men, women, and all who could understand were present.”
The presence of young people in the midst of the larger God-fearing community is just one of the common threads woven throughout these three examples. Today’s church remains encouraged by this truth, for the command to disciple the next generation is a church-wide ministry. Families and church families will find a strong pattern for this in the New Testament as well.
When Paul wrote Timothy, he called him, “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). However, Paul later makes it clear that he was not the only one who discipled Timothy. Paul wrote, “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5). Here we find a mother, a grandmother, and a pastor, all investing in young Timothy’s spiritual growth. One can easily picture a similar partnership in churches today as church leaders and church members come alongside families in order to disciple children and teenagers.
Paul builds on the existing foundation as he encourages Timothy to fulfill his ministry by reminding him of the discipleship he previously received in the home. Paul wrote, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14). Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell observe the gospel seeds first planted in the home, as they write, “Lois and Eunice began to teach Timothy from the earliest possible age the substance of the Old Testament. His first stories were Bible stories…These godly women filled his head and heart with God’s Word, which made him fertile ground for the gospel.”
Paul knew that Lois and Eunice had already taught God’s Word to Timothy. This foundation was established long ago. Timothy had been acquainted with the Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15). And yet, God was not finished with Timothy yet. He sent Paul into his life to continue the ministry that had already begun, just as God sends the church today to water seeds already planted, build on foundations already established, and celebrate the truth that family discipleship is a partnership between the church and the home.
Jonathan Williams is the founder of Gospel Family Ministries, the author of Gospel Family: Cultivating Family Discipleship, Family Worship, and Family Missions, and the senior pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, TX. He lives in Houston with his wife and three children, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Family Ministry through the School of Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.
Dave Wright, “Gathering God’s People: Generational Integration in Youth Ministry,” Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide,(Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016), 104.
R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2012), 259.