Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Other Part of Effective Children's Ministry

What does and should Children's Ministry look like in our churches? What is the true, God given role for the church to fill in the area of training and teaching children? For many, many years we have mostly focused on the area of teaching in Sunday school, mid-week ministry and for special events like Vacation Bible School. While these are certainly areas the church can and should strive to be as effective as possible due to the tremendous way they allow us to reach in to the “church” kids and out to “community” kids, true, genuine and lasting effectiveness is achieved as the church fills it’s role in equipping and encouraging parents and grandparents to fill their God-given role as the primary teachers of the children they love.

Even a quick look at Scripture passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Psalm 78:1-7, 2 Timothy 1:5 and Ephesians 6:1-4 clearly show how God has entrusted to parents and grandparents the vital role of passing on a legacy of faith to their (grand)children. When they take seriously their responsibility and great privilege to train and teach their children, they create a setting ideal for them to grow to understand, believe and live God’s Word!

I believe there are two primary areas the church can and should focus it’s attention on . . . the first being the essential role of equipping and encouraging parents/grandparents to teach their own children and the second of coming alongside to reinforce and build on what they have done and are doing. We will look at both of these areas.

First in equipping and encouraging parents/ grandparents we have two groups to consider – church parents/grandparents and community parents/grandparents. I sincerely believe most if not all Christian parents and grandparents sincerely desire for the children they love to respond to God’s grace and love and then grow in their walk with Him. Some understand their God-given role to teach their children, are committed to doing so and see the fruit of this commitment in their lives. However, many parents/grandparents I talk with express their frustration, generally in one of two areas. 

First, in not understanding their role – they tell me, “This is why we bring our kids to church, so they can learn about God and the Bible.” These parents and grandparents love their children, but see the church as the primary – and in far too many cases, the sole – spiritual educator for their children. While it is true the church has an important and much needed role in coming alongside and building on that which the parents/grandparents have done and are doing to train their children, the church cannot nor should be the primary or sole trainer/teacher of children. Scripture is clear this is a responsibility, privilege and joy given to parents and grandparents – they are to train children as they rise as they walk . . .  throughout the day. Parents and grandparents are the people in the position to train their children day-in-day-out . . . throughout life. Teachers at church are not able to train and influence children to this extent; it is clear God’s plan is for parents and grandparents to be the primary trainers of their children. When we work with them to help them understand their role we need to be clear in helping them realize the difference between teaching facts only and passing on a true legacy of faith. Too often church parents/grandparents think when they are studying the Bible in family devotions and making their kids memorize verses they are filling this role. However, passing on a legacy of faith is not about adding to the head knowledge of kids – it is about helping children understand how to make real connections between life and God’s Word which impacts the choices made and the way they live.

The second area of frustration parents and grandparents have shared with me has to do with them feeling inadequate to teach their children. Many have only a head, fact-based knowledge of Scripture and feel completely at a loss as to how to connect Scripture facts with their own lives let alone teach their children how to do this. There are parents and grandparents who do not have the confidence to relate what God’s Word says about issues like discipline, sibling relationships, how to lead their child to Christ, how to give, how to pray, how to serve and the list goes on. If they lack confidence or do not have the information they need, they will not train their children.

Community parents and grandparents may not recognize the need to pass a legacy of faith to their children – especially if they lack faith themselves – but many, especially single parents/grandparents are looking for answers to both their parenting concerns as well as answers to the problems and challenges they face in life and this provides the church a golden opportunity to touch lives and reach out to the community and in so doing, impact families in real and lasting ways.

In my next post I'll look at what we can do to help parents and grandparents teach their children!

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