Professional Dissertations DMin

Date of Award


Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Curtis Fox

Second Advisor

David Sedlacek

Third Advisor

Stan Patterson



Although the Bible clearly calls parents to train their children in the faith and pass on faith to the next generation (Deut 6:4-9; Eph 6:4), few parents at the Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church seem to be involved actively in their children's spiritual development. As a result, the way God designed the family to function is being inadvertently abandoned. This apparent lack of faith and values transmission has resulted in a very high attrition rate among our youth, who are usually disengaged by age 15 and leave the church by age 25. This perceived crisis over the dropout rate has led the church to develop several programs that focus on the function and role of the church in the life of the youth. What appears to be missing, however, is the function and role of the church in training parents to be primary disciplers of their children.


A survey, entitled The Family Discipleship Perceptions and Practices Survey, was administered to assess the perceptions and practices of parents and to help me decide on the best approach in providing training and support for parents as they seek to pass on the legacy of Christian faith and values to the next generation. I then presented a four-part sermon series on family discipleship in order to teach and inspire parents to embrace their responsibility as primary disciplers of their children. I also presented a seven-part series of seminars entitled "Confident Parenting" over a seven-week period in preparation for the launching and implementation of the Confident Parenting initiative. Finally, I worked with the Family Ministries Department of the Church to develop a Parent Coaching Ministry to train and equip experienced and committed laity to support and encourage other parents through various stages of Christian family life.


The presupposition I had going into this project was that the parents at Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church were unaware of their role as spiritual leaders of their children and instead, depended on professional ministers to be the primary faith trainers in their children’s lives. The study, however, revealed that parents did not view professional ministers at church as the people primarily responsible for their children’s spiritual development. In a radical reversal of my earlier assumptions, the overwhelming majority of parents identified themselves as the persons primarily responsible for the spiritual development and discipleship of their children. In my role as pastor of the church, I had often urged parental involvement in children's spiritual development. I had lamented and even reprimanded the lack of commitment to family discipleship. Yet I had never clearly shown parents how to engage personally in discipling their children—or even outlined exactly what I expected them to do. A deeper interaction with the parents during our parenting small group revealed that what they needed was not lectures and appeals from the pulpit about family discipleship practices, but for the church to encourage and equip them consistently to engage intentionally in their children's spiritual growth. This discovery has led us to realign the efforts of the church to empower parents to engage effectively in family discipleship, rather than usurping the role of the parents as primary disciplers. This has resulted in the formation of three family discipleship small groups and a ministry that consistently trains volunteers as family discipleship mentors.


This study has confirmed what I had initially suspected from observation—that very few parents were consistently engaging in an intentional process of discipleship with their children. This lack of engagement, however, was not because parents were unaware of their role as primary disciplers of their children, but because they were either too busy or ill-equipped to engage consistently and effectively in discipling their children. A careful study of the data collected revealed that lack of time and lack of training accounted for 90% of the parents who had disengaged from their children’s spiritual development. In summary, parents are too busy and the church is doing very little to equip or encourage them consistently to perform household discipleship.

Subject Area

Church work with youth--New York--Seventh-day Adventists; Parenting--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists; Discipling (Christianity); Family life education; Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church (Bronx, N.Y.)