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Incomplete: The Family-based Fallacy

by Dr. Dave Coryell; C.E. USA - Executive Director, World C.E. - General Secretary

Decades ago the concept emerged that young people spend more hours in their home than in any other place. Therefore, spiritually impacting the home will have a trickle down effect, lifting young people to a new faith level. Along with this idea came the thought that youth or young adult ministry efforts may not even be necessary. By applying an inter-generational approach, that would allow Biblical morals and values to be passed along.

The following examples, from various aspects of life, will help demonstrate why using this approach alone is incomplete.


I had the opportunity to offer leadership training for high school students in Ecuador. During my time there I was taken to the Quito city dump. At one time the poorest people in the world worked by picking recyclable trash out of the dump. Many attempts were made to pull these people out of poverty. It was found that a poverty mentality was so ingrained in their minds that they could not be changed. Many were the product of being the third or fourth generation dump people, so living near and working in the dump was all they knew.

Finally, a solution was found. I was given a day to visit and play with the children in a special day care that was created for people working in the dump. A day care? Yes, a day care. The poverty solution is to provide education for the young people. Doing better in school will eventually lead to better jobs and the opportunity to pull parents out of poverty. The model is working! Children are being pulled out of poverty and then are able to rescue their parents.


As I have traveled to African and Asian countries I have witnessed situations that use similar models. While in Sierra Leon I was with a team that visited an extremely poor school for children. A generous couple volunteered to donate some money to help with anything that could help pull these children out of poverty. Without hesitation, the leader for the region replied, “School uniforms. Buy school uniforms for our children.” Puzzled, the couple asked why school uniforms. The leader’s answer, “Education can pull these children out of poverty and then they can rescue their families. School uniforms allow them to approach their studies with a positive attitude and engage school with a higher level of importance.” Whoa! Children are the hope to pull parents and grandparents out of poverty.


When I was a boy my grandfather smoked a pipe. He actually had a pipe collection with over five hundred pieces. His boast was that he had smoked every single one at least once. Many people had tried to get him to quit smoking to no avail. I was about eight years old when I went to him and said, “Pap, I heard that smoking could hurt you and I think you should stop.” My grandfather continued his habit. Then, in school a few weeks later I learned that second hand smoke was dangerous to people around smokers. The next time I saw my grandfather I said, “Pap, I heard that your smoking could hurt me.” My grandfather never touched tobacco again.

Final Thoughts

Young people are the key to pulling people out of physical poverty. Physical poverty can refer to bad habits like pipe smoking or generational poverty like people living in South American dumps. I believe young people are also the key to pulling families out of spiritual poverty.

Family-based and inter-generational concepts should not be abandoned. Deuteronomy 6 speaks clearly about the needs to invest heavily in one’s family. However, most families understand that these principles are absolutely fine without the church or youth ministry targeting its efforts toward helping these families even more. It’s just not true. These concepts can add to the C.E. discipleship model. Used alone however, the family-based and inter-generational approach is incomplete.

Invest in young people. Have a strong ministry dedicated to age specific needs that periodically connects people across the ages. You will see the impact today and tomorrow.

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