Skip to Main Content

Salvos IDEAS Crowd

Faith and Families

by Kevin Unicomb | Oct 21, 2019 | in Archived Ideas
Faith Challenge - Oct-Dec 2019

Update 02.03.20: Idea did not progress after RDL stage.


Fix the family and you fix the world. We are living in a world where the basic unit is seen as the individual. The reality is that the basic unit of society is the family and the principal teacher of Children are their own parents, and this includes faith teaching.

The Christian church, and particularly the evangelical church has forgotten this, and we developed programs. Unfortunately programs have always been relatively ineffective but we have used them as our principal  method of outreach and evangelism.

I am a 3rd generation officer and a many generation believer. For years I  believed it was the programs i was part of (Sunday School, Junior Soldiers) that brought me to maturity in my faith and to my calling as a Salvation Army Officer at the age of 13.

In recent years I have seen that it was a small amount due to the Church but mainly due to my families influence and teaching.

The basis of this is from Deuteronomy chapter 6 (and is the basis of the D6 movements teaching).

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind' - that's discipleship.

'(parents) teach it to your children'. That's evangelism.

I have discovered through my research that this 'family' evangelism from Deuteronomy accounts for 96% of members of the Salvation Army. The stuff we learnt when we were young  particularly  from our parents.

The other evangelism we are told to do, the great commission, if done well, accounts for 4% of our members. I don't think it has ever been more than 4%.

The reality in our society today is that the teaching of Deuteronomy 6 is proven beyond doubt. The principal teachers of children are their own parents - and what they are teaching their children, in the majority of cases, is a life without faith. Parents are teaching this very effectively.

The church, I believe, is in decline simply because the Christian message is not being passed on generationally.This has always been the number 1 biblical principle. We have based our faith development on the great Commission and made it number one, and not family and generational teaching.

No program the Church offers will counteract the teaching given by parents in the vast majority of cases.

The churches great opportunity is to help parents teach and raise their children.

i often say, the devils greatest work in the past 50 years is to convince us that our families are OK. The reality is that families are a mess.

Fix the family and you fix the world - and the Church.

Kevin Unicomb.


Who is the target market for your idea?


Have you seen this model being effectively used elsewhere?


D6 is working well but their model is still to 'Church' and program based.

Why do you believe we should trial this model?


I see myself as a researcher. This model needs input from academics and practitioners to develop it. this model needs to be part of every community.


What is the format of the gathering? (I.e. Online or face-to-face)


Online to begin. Would love some discussion and sharing of ideas.

What resources would this idea require?


An open mind and different thinking.

What Department are you from?


I'm  a Corps Officer

edited on Mar 2, 2020 by Neri Morris
Kevin Unicomb

Attach files

Comments are closed, but you can still post because you are a moderator.

Sarah Grounds Oct 25, 2019

Maybe parenting courses/groups


Kevin Unicomb Oct 30, 2019

Thanks Sarah, That's great. I believe when the 'Home League' began in 1908 by William Booth' that's exactly what it was - 'a parenting group'. I think parenting, through Home League, created thousands of strong families in the early Salvation Army and that was our main growth during the 20 century - which is scriptural - generation to generation. But this is not how we view our Salvation Army History.
Unfortunately, I think the Home League, within a very short time, developed into a fellowship group and lost the vision of its origin. Now this is not a criticism of the Home league, but the need for a radical parenting group in our society today is a very positive way for the church to impact all of Australia.


Derek Hughes Oct 29, 2019

Love your work Kev!


Kevin Unicomb Oct 30, 2019

Thanks Derek. Still thinking about that book.


Derek Hughes Oct 30, 2019

Let's get together on it some time.


Kevin Unicomb Nov 2, 2019

Here's an article I wrote a few years ago.


meredith moore Nov 4, 2019

Kevin I agree with you, that is my experience also. For me Sunday school & Corps Cadets continued to reinforce & help me remember the Bible stories. I didn’t realise the part that learning a text for Sunday School played in knowing Scripture. The sad thing is Kevin that most of today’s parents don’t have a Christian Faith to pass on & the next generation will be worse. These are the things we need to remember when people accept Christ for the first time. AND for Christian parents not to advocate this wonderful responsibility.


Heather Unicomb Nov 7, 2019

Have a look at this video clip, encouraging children to ask their parents about God. prayer,
God designed families as the most important place for the next generation to be raised as God’s people.


Karen Clark Nov 7, 2019

Thanks Kev. You have shown that through your own family and your grown up children are witness to this. I had a conversation with a certain 18 y.o. in my family this week who thanked us for what we have done to disciple him. He said he many not have always appreciated it at the time, but he's so glad we were intentional in having regular family devotions and praying, questioning, learning, struggling through issues together. "We will tell the next generation" is crucial and I'm happy to support your idea. Excited to see what comes of this discussion. Bless ya :)


Kevin Unicomb Nov 14, 2019

Check out the attached file. Is it time to do away with Driver's licenses?


Colin Hopper Nov 14, 2019

I want to give a big shout for this Idea. Yesterday I attended an NCLS workshop in Brisbane. It was made very clear by Ruth Powell (NCLS presenter) that faith sharing within the family is still the the major means of people coming to faith. She made special mention that today there is a unique opportunity for mum and grandparents to have a major faith influence in members of their family coming to faith. She said that the church today should major on equipping families to share faith in meaningful ways.


Darrell Wilson Nov 15, 2019

Good on you Kevin - you have my vote


Mike Ryan Nov 18, 2019

I think you have a small part of the answer Kevin. What you are saying is we can grow the Salvation Army faster by procreation than other methods tried so far. Regarding the Army's efforts of the Great Commission - this has been a failure (as with other Christian groups) because we have done it incorrectly. We do not use fishing methods to catch fish, we use the method of programs to create sheep - this does not allow the presence of God to be release but simply human endeavors, hence the low success. Christian groups continue to use programs without questioning the low success. Your thoughts have merit for building strong Christian families within the Army, but the Army would cease to exist by the time you could "add" enough members.


Kevin Unicomb Nov 20, 2019

Hi Mike,
Thanks for your comment. You are right that we would cease to exist if we waited for procreation to produce enough members. However, that is not what I am saying and I found it interesting that you read that from my idea.
What I am saying is that families in Australia, of many different types, are quite dysfunctional.
When I ask parents if they know they are the principle teachers of their own children, they are quite taken back. This is stuff they have never heard.

I am also saying that every Social issue that we invest so much time on, such as Youth Homelessness (an adult homelessness), youth suicide, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment, mental illness etc, in the majority of cases, have their roots in Dysfunctional families.

You only need to ask the question - tell us about your family - and the picture is usually painted of people/parents ill equipped to fulfil the role of raising children.

My idea is to help redefine what a family is and how that might look in the future. What if every family in our nation was healthy, lived by a set of values, they wrote them themselves, they understood them, they shared them and they lived by them.

What would it look like if this was the churches idea? How would we teach it or begin the conversation.

Could this reduce homelessness, alcoholism, drug dependency, declining moral values, suicide?

I wonder why we wait for a crisis and then react?

This is what I believe Booth did in 1908. Saw a need in families, and began the Home league, as a parenting class, and help create generations of strong christians.

Yep, those families helped by Booth, merrily procreated, and for several generations sustained the Army - My dream is that the same thing can happen again - as we many families (or is it most families) who need as much help today as in the time of Booth.

I am certain that if families become healthy because we, as the Church help them, then they will be open to join us.

Matching family standards to the world's standards today, however would be an interesting exercise and need help with this one.

Imagine a risk assessment every day when making your kids lunch, or if the height of the clothes line is appropriate etc. Imagine what family might be like if we had to apply the standards we do in the community to our families

My dream is that the Church is not the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, but the reason people never, ever, go near the cliff.

May the discussion continue.


Mike Ryan Nov 20, 2019

Hey Kevin
All of your comments have value.
I will pose some seemly provoking question to challenge thinking on the subject :)
How do you propose the Army attract the outside group you are referring to - Why would they come to us - what would draw them to a teaching family values class/program.
In NZ the Maori bikie gang approached the Army to assist them in exactly the area you mention. Why did they approach us - they first saw their need to change, then no-one would assist them but the Army - then those working with the bikies had to learn what was needed as they traveled down the road of life with them.
You are talking about assisting families/people they aren't knocking on the Salvo door - what will attract them, what is the bait to attract these fish you are talking about :)
I am not convinced the "the" root of the problem is in Dysfunctional families as it is in disrespect, lack of morals, no boundary lines, violence etc etc. This is accepted by government bodies, law makers that change things to suit the wimps of every group making a noise. this then feeds into the family which has no resolve to stand against it. The bottom line for me is we as a country don't believe in God anymore, don't follow His ways, and look to every other thing for guidance.
So :) the question I have then is How does the Army do something different to attract newcomers and convince them we have an answer - and as you rightly pointed out it Not a program :)


Kevin Unicomb Nov 25, 2019

Thank you Mike for your feedback and questions.
Last week on the ABC's show 'Australian Story' we learned about a movement 'sober in the country' that has been created by an individual 'Shanna Whan'. Shanna as a young country woman was abused sexually 4 times in one year, and from that time for many years her life was controlled by alcohol and parties. 5 years ago she gave up alcohol completely and out of her experiences the movement 'Sober in the country' has emerged.
I was amazed as farmers, who had been drinking for many years, just because that's what farmers do, talked about the impact of one woman on their lives, and how many farmers are giving up alcohol because, more than anything, they have been told you don't have to drink to be an aussie bloke.
When CO at Wollongong about 10 years ago we had a movement (which is still running) called the 'first floor program'. It certainly doesn't fit the 'program' mould that are relatively ineffective - the first floor program is brilliant.
Jane, who created the first floor project about 30 years ago and headed it up until she died, came up with the statistic that every person in addiction, impacted the lives of 42 other people - mainly family members.
So, as adicts from Wollongong were referred to the Army's rehabilitation centres Jane and her team worked with their families. Her reasoning was that so many addicts who were given appropriate help in our rehabilitation centres, then returned home to dysfunctional and unhealthy families. The cycle just began over.

The results at Wollongong were amazing.
1. Family members invited to be part of the first floor program just came. They saw the value of the teaching and saw immediately that the teaching and support would improve their family life.
2. Many families helped became mentors and Jane had a group of healthy families ready and willing to support other families, at our centre, at their homes or where ever they were needed.
3. Ten years ago we had 15 Soldiers in the Corps who came through the first floor program. Many Corps people, who were part of a very traditional large Corps, became active volunteers in the program.
4. Many other families joined or reconnected with other churches.
5. The ministries formed out of this movement to support the 42 people impacted were amazing. The grandparents group - many addicts parents have custody of their grandchildren. The homework club - some of the young people of the Corps would provide a mentoring service to the children impacted while teaching sessions were in progress for their parents and grandparents. Mentors training and sharing groups. Jane was a great artist - the arts group allowed people to express themselves. A separate art group was for local police who had experienced trauma and Jane, as the Wollongong police chaplain, had an enormous impact on the police force in the Illawarra region.

But the most remarkable statistic was, that after 10 years of the first floor program, more than 100 very dysfunctional families were involved, and not one of these families had experienced a marriage breakup.

Mike, what I am saying is that when a ministry makes sense, then people do and will come.
I do not have all the answers, but when I talk to people about family, for example, if I talk about parents being the principle teachers of their own children, and tell them that the bible tells us that in Duet 6, they are surprised and interested. Firstly every parent needs to know that they are the primary influence of their children (and that can be positive or negative) but most parents simply have never been told that.

By the age of 4 we have 50% of our adult intelligence, by the age of 8 we have 80% of our adult intelligence. That's easy to show and talk through but we don't learn that as parents. The result of not understanding these basic facts about our children results in what I see as the basic issue we have in Australia today. Immature adults.

Teaching stuff like this that makes sense and is biblical. I believe it gives the church credibility and a new way forward.

With a year to go before retirement, I have witnessed in the Army so many new ideas. All the church growth stuff that was suppose to make everything right , new ideas and new directions, but as I look back the test I give all of these things is 'did they make sense'.
And the answer I continually come back to is 'no they don't'.

In fact, more than anything, the things that I have been taught have been more about
the personalities behind them than the ideas themselves.

I go back to Duet 6 verses 5 to 8.
It starts in verse 5 by saying 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all our strength. Never forget these commands I am giving you today...' - That's discipleship.

Verses 6 - 8. Say. (Parents) teach then to your home....when away...resting...working. Tie them on your arms....Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.' - That's evangelism.

This passage has often been used to support the idea that 'it takes a village to raise a child'. Often this is used to justify our Programs. But I disagree with this thinking. Actually I have very little regard for the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.

These verses are about your own family. Teach your children, at home, working (when this was written the majority of workers work at home - Joseph for example had a home workshop and Jesus was impacted as he saw his father working). Tie them on your arms and foreheads. Write them on your doors and gates.

If you see Colin Hoppers comments attached to this idea, he says the NCLS survey backs this up - that the family remains the main evangelism method in the church today.

Because we have misinterpreted this verse we have lost sight of the vital role of the family and substituted programs.
Then we have made the great commission our number one evangelism method.

Let me finished by taking you to Matthew 23 from verse 34. You know this story well.
In the previous verses Jesus had made the Sadducees look pretty ordinary.
So the Pharisees saw an opportunity to earn a few brownie points.
They came up with a good question for Jesus. 'Which is the greatest commandment in the law'.
Jesus answered ' Love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind'.
And I think that everyone in his audience that day would have just kept going, 'parents teach it to your children, repeat it over and over.......' This passage and this teaching was, and still is, so important to the Jewish faith, that today as Jewish families say the sheema prayer at home every day, the importance of the family as the principle tool of evangelism is never forgotten. I an am told that the Jewish faith has a 4% drop out rate even i Australia.
I believe Jesus audience understood this when he responded to the Pharisees, but we, the evangelical Christian Church, have let this one slip through to the keeper, as we have taken our eyes off the family and moved them to programs.
I believe Jesus was confirming in this passage that the family was the principle biblical tool for evangelism, because he then goes on to say,
'The second most important commandment is like this, 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'. That's evangelism too - that's the great commission - reaching out to your neighbour - the number two way we are told to reach people - but family always has been and always needs to be number one.

Again, I said before that when something makes sense it will work. To me strengthening families makes a lot of sense.

If you fix the family you fix the world. In a biblical sense, if you give the family the place that I believe God has placed it then the world begins to make sense. I think, even in the church, we have lost sight of what family should be.

Sorry this took so long Mike, I had shoulder surgery about six weeks ago and I am still struggling with my arm in a sling. Hopefully it comes off tomorrow (the sling that is - I want to keep my arm).


Hugh Corner Dec 1, 2019

totally agree with trhe phil;osphy of Kevin Unicombe


Neri Morris Dec 1, 2019

Status labels added: RDL, Online


Neri Morris Dec 4, 2019

Status label added: Faith Challenge - Oct-Dec 2019


Neri Morris Mar 2, 2020

Status label added: Archived