Recently I have been experiencing a rather large shift in my thinking. Maybe it was becoming a father that led me into this shift in thought. I see my children becoming more aware of the world around them and the differences between churched and unchurched homes. For years I have seen the Church as the place to teach, train and equip young people for living out a real and authentic faith. I was even trained in seminary on how to pull off such a feat. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe the Church has a big role to play in that process, I just wonder, is that the primary role of the Church in the life of a young person?
If results are the superior way of evaluating effectiveness, one must ask then, are we seeing the results we had hoped for? Sadly, I have to say, no. Sure, I see many students that have come through my ministry over the years that are actively living their lives for the Lord. I have had the pleasure to see God move into over ten lives of teenagers that have now accepted the call into full time ministry or missions. Many more that lead lives that make a difference in their families and communities. But, the high numbers of those who are not living for the Lord is what concerns me.
We youth pastors sit around for hours discussing why it is we see so many of our students dropping off upon graduation. Why are they abandoning their faith? Why are they walking away from the Church? Is it because we as a Church have failed them? Have we missed something? If we create a more exciting worship experience for them will they stay? If we create better programs that are attractive to their generation, will they stay? What if we just made better summer camps or ski trips or even more mission opportunities? I believe the reasons are multi-faceted, and yes we as a Church, play a part. Beyond the Churches role and responsibility, I believe the weight of that responsibility falls on two very important people: mom and dad. As I said before, the reason for my shift may be due to responsibilities that come with being a Christian father and husband, which is an overwhelming task.
It is the families responsibility, that being mom and dad or grandma and granddad, to nurture the spiritual lives of children. Researcher George Barna correctly states, “When a church – intentionally or not – assumes a family’s responsibilities in the arena of spiritually nurturing children, it fosters an unhealthy dependence upon the church to relieve the family of its biblical responsibility.”*
So what is one of the key roles of parents? Instructing God’s people to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Moses presented them with very practical instruction on how to lead their children in living out that command. He writes, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon 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). That is some pretty specific instruction!
We are to pass our faith on to our children all throughout the day. In the slow time, (when you sit at home) in the go time, (when you walk along the road) in the down time, (when you lie down), and in the up time. (when you get up). Our role as parents is to share with our children how the Good News of Christ has changed us and how we experience His grace daily. They have to see us pray, believe our hearts, and see our transperancy as followers of Christ. They shouldn’t just see us work at the Church, they should serve along side of us, understanding that this is for the glory of God.
As a minister of the church, we have some roles and changes as well. Let us remember as a Church, it is our role to partner with parents in this ever important task. In our programming let’s dream of ways we can come alongside parents and families to equip them and resource them in their God given task. Ephesians 4:12 instructs us to prepare God’s people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up. Let us not merely focus on preparing students, but let us consider how we may also prepare parents for the task of discipling their children so the body of Christ may be built up. Let us not just have activities for the sake of activities, lets create environments where families can join with other families to celebrate and grow as a body of Christ, learning new ways to teach our children and open to a better tomorrow.