“Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children.”
– William Penn
Give me three guesses on the most effective children minister or student pastor your kids will ever have growing up and I bet I can nail it. Here’s my first guess…actually, it’s my only guess and even that’s a misnomer because there is no guessing about it. The answer is easy and obvious: it’s you.
You will be the most effective children’s pastor your child ever has in his or her life. No one will have a greater impact for Christ on your progeny than the parent whom the child sees every day and night (for better or worse – effectiveness goes both ways don’t you know?). The Bible gets that. In fact, when it comes to role and responsibility of imparting the Gospel to our children’s hearts, minds and lives the Scripture focuses the spotlight not on the church and its programs but squarely upon the home and parents.
One of the most foundational Scriptures to the people of God throughout the ages was Deuteronomy 6:4-7,
“Hear, 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.”
To listen to the New Testament is simply to hear the same song, second chorus. For example, Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Now, mind you, the believers during these times had priests, prophets or pastors dwelling amongst them in some form or fashion, yet who does the call for a child’s discipleship fall primarily upon? The parents. And doesn’t that make sense? At least in principle there is no one better to impart spiritual values and a love for Jesus than parents. They are the ones who pass most everything else to their kids – how they treat people, what they value in life most, work ethic, emotional patterns, etc. Why not add to that list the things which matter most?
Yet it doesn’t take long to look around and see that many, if not most Christian parents, have sadly abdicated their discipling responsibility to the church. Hiding behind excuses like, “I’m not as spiritual as I need to be,” or “The church staff are professionals at this kind of stuff,” parents expose their children to about forty minutes of discipleship a week (and that’s if they come to church every Sunday, which most don’t). Think about it: How good would you be at anything if you spent only 40 minutes a week doing it? And yet that’s the measly discipleship plan countless numbers of Christian parents embrace when it comes to the most important calling they’ve been given by God as parents.
While it may be popular choice it’s also very perilous. When we solely expect the church to execute the role as primary disciplemaker our kids run the risk of becoming exactly the opposite of a disciple as they see the incongruity of what they hear and see at church with what they don’t hear or see at home. Over time kids can easily come to believe that Christianity is simply going to church (like school, cheerleading, football, etc., it’s just the stuff one “does”), faith becomes compartmentalized as a nice accoutrement to our suburban schedule but not really central in “real life”, and Jesus gets marginalized – just someone we talk about one day of the week (and pray to when something bad happens) instead of becoming the One our week is lived unto.
This is not the legacy that the Bible talks about nor the one you want to leave. If this was the type of legacy you received, make a break. If this is the legacy your are presently giving your kids, repent and give them something worth passing down! Remind yourself that you are their first and foremost children’s minister. You are their primary student pastor. If that feels overwhelming then good, welcome to the club. I’ve been in ministry over twenty years, have a seminary degree, and teach the Bible on a regular basis and at times it definitely feels overwhelming to me too as I look into the eyes of my three sons and wonder what their future holds! But being overwhelmed doesn’t mean we get a free pass from the Bible’s calling to us as parents to disciple our children. It just means we’re human and probably getting in touch to what a weighty calling we’re truly been given.
But trust discipling your kids is as beautiful as it is weighty. I don’t know of anything more priceless than seeing my children deepen their devotion to Christ. Whether its seeing them pass under the waters of baptism or praying for their friends, nothing compares to the joy I find in seeing Christ formed in them. Sure, I can pat myself on the back that I’ve taught them how to shoot a basketball, tie their shoes, or fire a 30-30 rifle, but to know that they’re growing in something eternal as they live their lives for Jesus makes everything else pale in comparison.
If discipling your kids means you need to become a better follower of Jesus in order to lead your children then become a better follower. That should not be a barrier for us because isn’t that our call anyhow – to grow in our own faith? Just so you know, I think most parents already feel that way. Let me give you one more incentive. You know you love your kids. I know you love your kids. You’re their parent. No one on this earth loves them more than you. Discipling your kids is one of the best ways you can love your child because you are doing for them what really no one else can do.
…or should do.
So Mom…Dad…love your kids well. Let the home, not the church, be the primary place of spiritual training. For not only your kids’ sake but your sake as well.