For several years my husband, John Daniel Small, known to most as Dan, directed a traditional age-segregated Bible camp. Year after year we got to know children of all ages who came to the camp from a wide variety of backgrounds. While there, they had much spiritual influence, teaching, and input: chapel sessions twice a day, morning and evening devotions with their cabin leader, personal talks with their cabin leader, activities geared toward spiritual growth, prayer at every meal, the constant modeling of Christianity by the entire adult staff who had come to serve them, and the comradeship of other Christians their age—or at least other children who were sent there to hear and learn the same things. All day long they were encouraged in spiritual things by people with a spiritual desire to see them come to Christ and grow in Him. Then we would send them home.
We had the campers for one week—one week out of fifty-two. Many of them came from very dysfunctional families and some from homes that had no spiritual influence at all. Even those who came from Christian families had very little throughout-the-week spiritual influence. They might go to church on Sunday, but that was often the extent of the spiritual input—fifty-two mornings out of three hundred sixty-five days. The rest of their lives they were mostly being bombarded by an unhealthy, ungodly culture. It seemed we were fighting a losing battle, and the enemy had a strong upper hand.
As he looked back on thirteen years of camp ministry, Dan recognized that, for the most part, only those children who came from strong Christian families—families who read the Bible and prayed together, who sought to truly live Christianity in their every day lives—were committed to Christ and walking firmly in the ways of their Lord. The others, though they may have had a genuine desire to know God and may have even “asked Jesus into their hearts” while at camp, most often fell away and were sucked right back into the ungodly culture; not only was it too hard to fight against the swift current of the culture, but they also didn’t know how to or really that they even needed to. The culture was their norm; it was what they were used to, and the ways of God were foreign and unknown. Those children who did continue on in their relationship with Jesus Christ often had no idea how to disciple their children as they grew up and had families of their own.
Burdened by these overwhelming odds, my husband began to do some investigating. What he discovered was rather staggering. From research done by Focus on the Family, a Christian organization in Colorado dedicated to helping parents nurture their families in godly living, he learned this astounding statistic: If a child is the first one in a family to come to know Christ, there is about a 3% chance that the rest of the family will also come to Christ. If a wife is the first in the family to come to Christ, there is about a 17% chance the rest of the family will come to Christ. If a father is the first one to come to Christ, there is a 97% chance the rest of the family will come to know and believe in Christ. Only one week out of the summer was scheduled for family camp; the other weeks had programming for different age levels of children.
These facts stopped Dan in his tracks as he realized that the church had primarily put its efforts and resources into children’s and women’s ministries. And the church had been losing ground for decades. From that point on, he decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his life helping families, and especially fathers, disciple their own children. He also wanted to help churches, especially pastors, become aware of their need to disciple fathers to disciple their own children. So he began the Family Reclamation Project.