Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Family Is More Effective Than Children's Ministry

As a parent, I'm a little skeptical of these numbers.  For parents of school-age children, I'm pretty sure that some of those 3,000 hours are spent sleeping. :)  However, the basic principle is still solid.  Research confirms that parents are far more influential on their child's faith development than any church program.

But there's more than just numbers and time at work here.

I am a parent--and I am involved in children's ministry.  When I am working with a group of children at church, I don't know the personal fears of those children.  I don't know what sins they are struggling with.  I often don't know who has been fighting with their siblings that week or been disrespectful to their parents.  I may not know if they have been the subject of gossip or bullying at school.  Frankly, if I did know those things, it wouldn't be very wise to bring it up in a group of their peers.

But in the family, we already know these things about each another.  We can talk about them.  We can drive home the practical application of Biblical lessons to fit our children's personal lives.  We can make it real for them.  As a parent, I'm very aware of my child's character weaknesses and can foresee potential stumbling blocks.  As a parent, I can tailor our talks about God to specifically what my child needs to grow spiritually.  They can receive customized spiritual instruction and coaching in the home in addition to the lessons they are learning at church.

I love youth ministry.  There is no question that is extremely valuable and important.  My own involvement as a young person left a lasting and powerful impact on my future.  Nevertheless, we can't rely on church programs to pass the faith on to our children.  That's not the model of passing on the faith that God set forth in the Bible.

Here is a challenge for you!  If you can find a scripture that clearly states that the church has the primary responsibility for passing on the faith to the next generation, I would love for you to share it in the comments.  I've searched and haven't found it.  I have found numerous scriptures that lay this responsibility firmly at the feet of parents.  I'll share my favorite here:
   He commanded our ancestors
      to teach them to their children,
  so the next generation might know them—
      even the children not yet born—
      and they in turn will teach their own children.
  So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
      not forgetting his glorious miracles
      and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78:5-7

So the question becomes, what do our lives reflect?  Do our priorities reflect the belief that WE are God's primary tool for impressing the hearts of our children with a love for Him?  Do our actions reflect the belief that WE are responsible for planting seeds of faith in our children and nurturing those seeds as they blossom?

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