Jason wrote a couple of days ago about why if you ask us what our church has for your kids, the best response we can give is “We have you!” Let me explain a little bit about why we’re so passionate about seeing parents as the most important resource the church has to offer our kids:
One of the most memorable and profound books that Jason and I read as we were on our journey towards church planting was Think Orange. It talks about the importance of integrating the family and the church into ministry. That’s the whole reason behind the title – if you picture the church as light (yellow) and the home as a heart (red), when you mix them together you get orange. (I’ve been paying attention during Sesame Street’s lessons about colors.)
One of the most paradigm-shifting things that I read in that book was the vast difference between the amount of time a church gets with a kid versus the amount of time they spend under their parents’ influence:
Reggie Joiner says: “At best, with those who attended our church consistently, we would only have about forty hours in a given year to influence a child. When we calculated holidays, sick days, custody issues, sports, vacations, and other factors, we realized how limited our time with children really was. The same fourth-grader who would spend nearly four hundred hours playing video games and studying math would spend forty hours in our environments with our teachers and leaders. That same day we calculated another number that shocked us: the amount of time the average parent had to spend with their children. It was three thousand hours in a single year” (Think Orange, 85, emphasis added).
We had suspected the limits of our influence with the teenagers in our youth group before we read this book. The longer we were in ministry, the more we noticed that most kids, for better or for worse, became the type of Christians their parents were. We had a handful of kids who went through rebellious stages. But those that came from solid, godly homes seemed to find the right path again eventually. And we had some kids who came from non-Christian homes, or homes with marginal faith who were wildly passionate about the Lord throughout their time in our youth group. It was incredibly disheartening to see those same kids walk away from the church just a short time after graduating high school.
Of course, there were a few who broke this mold, but in most cases the influence of the parents prevailed.
If that alone doesn’t convince you of the enormous amount of responsibility that we as parents have to teach, disciple, and model Christ-like love to our kids, consider these words of Moses as he was giving the law to the Israelites:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
And so, as Jason and I sensed that God was leading us away from youth ministry (towards what, we didn’t know yet, exactly), we started asking each other – what if there was a way for us to reach the entire family? If we could see teenagers come to faith in the Lord and never walk away from it by reaching their parents?
Over the years, somehow the church (hopefully on accident) has communicated to parents that the spiritual education of their children is best left up to the “professionals,” that they didn’t go to Bible school and that some things are just beyond them. Best to let the pastor handle that. But not only will this mentality severely limit the amount of time that your kids have a chance to absorb Biblical knowledge and principles, it goes expressly against what the Bible teaches.
The responsibility to raise godly children rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents.
I know this is intimidating. I get it. I’m a mom, and we’re even pastors, and sometimes, when we look at our two little boys, the thought of shepherding them into adults who love and follow Jesus seems like an overwhelming responsibility. We’re in the same boat as you, just trying our best as we go, trusting God’s grace to fill in the gaps, and praying for them as hard as we can.
And that’s where the church comes in. Not to raise your kids into godly adults for you, but to stand beside you and offer you tools to accomplish that. Our responsibility is to come alongside your family, to resource you, to show you what it means to really follow God, so that you can model that for your children.
That’s why we will always insist that godly parents are the very best way to reach kids for Jesus. In your homes, in your daily conversations, in your regular faithfulness to follow God in front of them. When it comes to kids ministry, the best thing we have is YOU.