Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Review: Rite of Passage

I just finished a great new book that covers a subject I have been thinking a lot about: raising children to be disciples rather than just church goers. The book is called Rite of Passage for the Home and Church by D. Kevin Brown. Much of what passes for young adult and kids ministry in local churches amounts to entertainment, bribing and dumbing down to keep kids attention. Kevin proposes just the opposite. Instead of sending our kids off to do their own thing and hope some of it sticks, he says we need to keep families together and challenge our youth and young adults. Like Kevin, I agree that if our kids are truly Christian they will rise to the challenge. If they aren't Christians they need to be prayed for and hear the Gospel instead of getting a watered down Gospel.

I liked a lot of what Kevin had to say, probably because it sounds a lot like what I have been writing about recently and where I come down on many issues of parenting regarding education, courtship, gender, family integration, etc.

I like that Kevin emphasizes mentors. Older, more mature men mentoring younger men is pivotal especially since so many Christian men grew up without Christian male role models, either at home or in the church. We find ourselves "recreating the wheel" generation after generation and one man at a time. There is a lot of wisdom tied up in the older men of the church, it is high time we tap into it.

Another thing that Kevin mentioned was the importance of focusing on men. He wrote:
Today we have emasculated or gender-free Bibles and there is a growing movement toward egalitarian doctrine that is feminizing the church. Yet, we cannot feminize the church and keep the men and we cannot keep the children, if we do not keep the men. N0 father equals no family and no family eventually equals no faith. (Rite of Passage, pg 87)
That is absolutely true. if you lose the men you WILL lose the kids but we spend tons of money and effort on children’s programs and virtually ignore the men. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that the biggest change we can make in the church to benefit children and young adults is to get adult men to reengage in the church, equip them and demand that they take on the task of discipling children.

So there was a lot to like about the book. Kevin's treatment of the problem was very thorough and I think he gets the underlying issues that have led us to the very troubled place we find ourselves in today.

I have to admit that it seems like it took a very, very long time to get to the point. Nearly 2/3 of the book talks about the problem before even getting to the “how” of ROP. Most of the book is taken up with diagnosing the problem. If you are unfamiliar with some of these statistics and key passages then certainly this is valuable information but if you already know a lot of this stuff you might find yourself, as I did, kind of saying: get on with it! I would also have liked more focus on the actual "how" of what he proposes with Rite of Passage. I thought the end seemed a little anti-climactic. I would like to see a supplement or perhaps other resources to help implement the process. Kevin also operates within the framework of a traditional church and while he does offer information to use ROP in the home, it clearly works best in a traditional church setting, a setting I think the church is moving away from.

Having said that, I think Kevin's book is an important one to read because it helps to spur the conversation in the church. As we seek to foster a generational vision for our children, it will become increasingly important to train up our children for ministry in a post-Christendom, post-Western Church model America and world. I plan to use many of the concepts in Rite of Passage in training my own children and other youth in our area. We cannot afford to lose this generation and books like Rite of Passage help show us the way forward, not a new way but a very old one that challenges fathers to take the lead and challenges kids to step up. If you are a parent, a church leader or anyone concerned about the direction of youth discipleship, Rite of Passage is a book you should read and give serious consideration to.

(I received this book free of charge from Energion Publications in return for an unbiased review)

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