It’s often true that simpler is better. In the landscape of family ministry discussions in the church today, solutions can sometimes feel elusive. Church leaders seem to be aiming at the same thing but approach it from different angles. While there are a few who offer a robust theological foundation for family discipleship, there are others who have presented a simple executable strategy that any parent could employ within minutes of reading the first chapter. Mark Holmen has given readers the latter. Impress Faith on Your Kids has put the core values of family discipleship easily within reach for parents at any level of spiritual maturity. His simple process turns up the microscope on Deuteronomy 6:3-9. As he progresses through these verses, the author offers highly practical suggestions that parents will find simple but truly effective. Four strong take-a-ways are highlighted below.
First, the gospel is the top priority. Ultimately, the strength of this book is rightly located in the first chap- ter. Holmen outlines the ultimate agenda for impressing faith on your kids as one not of moral endeavors but one of life and death. The simple plan for great parenting is to lead our “children into life not death” (7). While those words may not seem cutting edge, they dictate the end goal of parenting in all aspects and reflect a biblical value of parenting.
Second, parents are primarily responsible to disciple their children. Holmen spends a few pages discuss- ing a common phenomenon in local church ministry that he labels “drop off,”: defined as “letting the professionals do it, an outsourcing approach to parenting and impressing faith on your children” (31). This must be seen as a biblically inaccurate parenting strategy. Holmen includes references to statistics to support the need for parents to actively lead the faith process in the home. He, however, does not include any critical assessment of the various studies that yielded the statistics but rather lets them stand at face value, leaving the reader to decipher their validity. The style of this book may not have warranted any assessment of those statistics. There is no doubt that this book aims to help parents become more faithful in their God-given role given. The author raises a concern that is pervasive in the church today: “When it comes to doing what we need to do to lead our kids to life, through faith in Christ, I don’t think parents have any idea how important their actions and behaviors at home are” (35).
Third, parents need to have a plan. In creating a tangible strategy for impacting the spiritual growth of your children, Holmen offers a strong suggestion that every parent should implement. In chapter two, he walks through a brief process whereby fathers can lead their family to charter a family mission statement. “A lot of families are struggling today because they are trying to build their family without a plan” (24). The simple, sequential process for a family mission statement will help parents lay a strong foundation for charting the course and leading their children to life. Although he does not include biblical texts in the family mission statement process, the primary questions that he suggests should easily find their basis in God’s Word. I would add to the family mission statement process by asking each family member, especially the parents, to include a scriptural reference for each suggestion they bring to the process, if possible.
Fourth, parents must live the Word. Holmen does an exemplary job of maintaining a simple awareness of the basic foundational doctrine found in the Deuteronomy 6 passage. He spends the remaining chapters driving home essential principles from the text that are often read quickly, leaving little opportunity to absorb the heart and intention of the very words.
One strong recommendation is to put this book in the hands of fathers who have seemingly tight schedules. With community and accountability, this resource could liberate the unfounded perception that impressing faith on your kids is complicated. It just might spark a courageous season in the life of a church. Make no mistake, it is not easy. The task for parents is often a difficult one but it does not have to be complicated. The author offers transparent testimony of his personal journey through these suggestions and understands that it is a process that requires adjustment along the way.
There are times when parents desire a more effective process for leading the spiritual growth of their chil- dren. This book has put simple but powerful principles well within reach for any Christian parent.
[Editor's Note: This review originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2.1]