As this generation drifts away from the institutional church, how will the next generation know God?

It used to be that parents relied on the church to teach their children about God. Even if mom and dad snoozed during the sermon on Sunday morning, they dutifully sent their kids off to Sunday school to learn the great stories in the Bible.

But today millions of American families have abandoned the church and its educational apparatus. And many who remain no longer attend every week. Once or twice a month is the new normal for many families.

What’s the effect of this slim-down diet on Christian education time? “It’s too much to ask for a Sunday school teacher to completely disciple your kids in two hours a month,” said children’s ministry entrepreneur Phil Vischer in this week’s Holy Soup Podcast. Vischer has made a sizable impact on children—and grown-ups—through his animated characters in the Veggie Tales series and the more recent What’s in the Bible series.

Vischer knows that now, more than ever, faith must be nurtured in the home. That doesn’t mean that parents must become little seminary professors. But they can become better at reflecting God’s presence in their everyday lives, so that their kids see and feel the reality of God’s love.

For parents, sometimes it’s as simple as spontaneously including references to faith during everyday happenings.  It’s often a big deal when a child hears a parent say something like, “God really answered my prayer today.”

The church can best fulfill its role in ministering to children through educational processes that acknowledge and include the home. For a fresh example of this, see Group’s revolutionary new online-delivered Dig In curriculum.

And churches can do more to encourage and equip parents to initiate faith talk with their kids. But it’s going to take more than another sermon or lecture on the subject. Parents, and other relatives, need to be given an opportunity to actually practice. I know some pastors who allocate time in their sermons for people to do just that. For example, they’ll invite people to turn to someone next to them and answer a question such as, “How would you explain the concept of grace to a child?”

Then, when a teachable moment arises at home, parents will feel more prepared to make a lifelong spiritual impact.

And, if more churches would provide that kind of practical equipping, they may just see more people coming back. Most Christian parents actually want to help nurture their kids’ faith, but they want and need a little help.

For more insights, take a moment to listen to my Holy Soup Podcast with the voice of Bob the Tomato, Phil Vischer. And, make plans to join Vischer, and me, at the annual Future of the Church summit in Colorado, where we’ll explore the future of Christian education and other crucial topics.