If someone gave me a penny for every time a church has been contacted by a parent to “fix” their child or provide spiritual growth opportunities, I would be rich. While the cry of desperation and desire is genuine, the decision to “off load” the spiritual development of children and students – primarily to someone other than the parent or parents – is misguided. Unfortunately, the church hasn’t helped because we keep providing more and more opportunities to simply “drop your child off” and let us “experts” spiritually grow or “fix” your kids.
The honest truth is that we have more resources today for marriages and families than ever before in the history of the world. No kidding! We have materials for married parents, single parents, blended families, grandparents and the list goes on and on. Yet, marriages and families, of all shapes and sizes, are still in trouble at an alarming rate. Cries of desperation abound and we must find a solution. Research indicates that while parents desire for their kids to grow spiritually, they just don’t know how to disciple their kids in the home. Since they give to the church, they have concluded that the “expert” pastors should do it. However, in so doing, they fail to apply a central passage of God’s Word regarding who should play the primary spiritual role in helping children grow spiritually.
Before I unpack all this, let me give you a word of caution as a parent and grandparent: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! I am a proponent of having fantastic ministry opportunities for children and students that help them connect with God and one another. Rockpoint is committed to this. However, we must begin to look at a more biblical approach that allows us to help the home and not hurt God’s design for faith development in young lives.
Allow me to briefly discuss the problem and then share how we are starting down a new road at Rockpoint. I believe this biblically sound approach will help married couples with kids, single parents, blended families, and families where grandparents or other caregivers are the primary faith influences in a child’s life.
An Honest Look at the Home
Let’s be honest. When kids start to stray from the truth, it could be due to a natural desire for independence. In these cases, I tell parents to relax. Make sure the home is a safe place and that these kids know that mom and dad love them no matter what. At some point, almost every student will begin to make this transition toward making decisions on their own. Because their brain has not fully developed, some of these decisions make no logical sense! However, that is where grace plays an enormous role in the home. Intentionally stay engaged with these kids, and by all means, let them try to fly on their own and be allowed to make mistakes. Loving consequences are the best teacher. The cost is higher than taking advice, but the lessons will often run deeper.
Sometimes kids actively rebel beyond seeking independence. These are the ones that go beyond making stupid decisions, to willfully making sinful choices. In this case, parents need to remember they gave birth to a little sinner. While each parent believes that their child will win the next contract to be on the label of Gerber baby food, the reality is that looks are deceiving. Inside the mind and heart of that beautiful baby is a sinister desire that will prove beyond a shadow of doubt, that they have a sinful nature. It should be no surprise to you as a parent or grandparent when your little child rebels.
Unfortunately, sometimes these sinful choices can lead down a very dark path. While grace, mixed with natural consequences, is a good place to start, you may need to seek some help. Certainly a group of committed followers of Christ in community is valuable to support and pray for you as a parent. Don’t lose hope. In many cases, these “prodigals” test the waters, and eventually, by making their faith their own, they come back stronger and more committed to Christ. I know, the wait is hard. Please let us know how we can help.
While it is true that what I have just stated is built into the DNA of each child, and no amount of protection will eradicate the sin in your child’s heart, there is another cause that parents, often unintentionally, need to own up to and begin to address. It is the problem of intentionality.
In the vast majority of homes today where kids are still living at home, virtually no spiritual conversation ever takes place between kids and parents outside of prayer at a meal. It really should be no surprise when so many of these same kids walk away from their faith once mom and dad drop them off at a college or university. Faith was never modeled or lived in the home.
While parents should take an honest look at what is happening in the home, they are not alone in the cause.
An Honest Look at the Church
The church, for too long, has suffered from spiritual amnesia regarding its biblical role of supporting the family structure and not replacing it. Churches need to take ownership for how we have fragmented the family, and in many ways encouraged a “drop-off” mentality to busy parents. Yes, family burnout is a real issue. – More on this next week. – However, the church should never replace mom and dad as the primary force in a child’s faith development. No matter how you slice the research, mom and dad are still the most powerful influence in a child’s life, for good and for bad.
I love what the church can provide for a family. After serving couples and families for so many years, one of my core values as a Senior Pastor is to have great ministries for kids and students. But, that can never replace the role of mom and dad.
A BETTER APPROACH
Believe it or not, you don’t have to read very far into the 66 books of the Bible before you find the solution to our dilemma. Drive down Route 66 and pull off at a rest stop and read: Deuteronomy 6:4 – 7.
“Here, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Who is the “You?” You guessed it – the parents. Notice, the church is not mentioned. Is there a place for the church? Yes. Our role is to support parents as the primary disciple-makers in the home. Sure, some parents do not know Jesus. The church can help there as well. But, once they do, this passage is clear. The church helps the parents grow spiritually and then helps each parent (and grandparent) intentionally grow disciples in the home.
You see, our role as a church is not to encourage you to drop your kid off and have us “fix them.” Yes, we want to help those who are in a crisis and struggling with raising kids. However, we know that if we can help you as a parent leverage your relationship and time you already have with your kids, we all win. After all, you have more time with your kids than the church will ever have. As Moses told the nation of Israel, when you are with your kids in life and the teaching opportunity naturally arises, you are there to instruct them in the moment when they are most receptive.
Rockpoint is beginning a new chapter in our ministry. In the fall of 2017, our incredible family team, made up of Kevin Block, Seth Fagerland, Ryan Pott and Wendy Dean, is launching a new approach to family ministry. Our role will now be to come alongside and support you as parents and grandparents in discipling your kids and grandkids. We know your heart is right as a parent and grandparent to help those in your home follow Jesus. Our goal is now to help you intentionally grow disciples in the home. Over the next several years, you will see us unfold the “how” that will match your heart and role as the primary disciple-makers in the home.
Yes, you will still have struggles. Prodigals and rebellious kids who test every boundary will never go away. But, as you provide grace as the atmosphere, we as a church will provide the tools you need to help your kids follow Jesus. If they do stray, then there will always be a light on in the home so they can find their way back.
More next week on avoiding family burnout. Again, the church and the home can work toward a solution.
Pastor Roy Fruits
Lake Elmo, MN