I pastor youth and children’s ministry. I’m aware of the statistics that say what I’m doing is all but futile. I’m aware of the many voices calling for the parents to take their kids out of these ministries. I hear their statements asserting the priority of the family in training children and agree. I concur as they site Deut 6 and Eph 5 making a case for the primacy of dad to disciple children in the Lord. That is exactly what biblical and effective children and youth ministry will do.
Equip moms and dads to disciple and instruct their kids
I’m convinced that the majority of moms and dads want to skillfully discipline and instruct their children in the ways of Jesus Christ. I’m also convinced that the many moms and dads are not skillfully disciplining or instructing their children in the ways of Jesus Christ. However, I’m also convinced that the majority of moms and dads are willing to learn and be equipped to skillfully discipline and instruct their children in the ways of Jesus Christ. As far as I can tell youth ministry has deservedly received a bad rap precisely because they have failed to understand the primacy of parents in training children in the ways of Christ. In replacing the parent’s primary role they have undermined the very thing they were trying to accomplish, namely, develop disciples of Christ. They have discouraged the parents from getting involved and encouraged an observer mentality in parents when it comes to the spiritual development of their child.
A biblical youth and children’s ministry is committed to encouraging and equipping parents to skillfully engage in the spiritual development of their children. This requires a godly/wise/knowledgeable staff developing close relationships with parents able to offer resources, biblical counsel, and compassionate encouragement as they walk with families partnering with parents to impact their children for Christ. This can also be achieved through parenting classes which lean on helpful and excellent resources written and recorded on aspects of parenting/family life. Since the Bible puts the primary responsibility on dads it is essential that a biblical youth and children’s ministry pour into dads through discipleship relationships, classes, resources, and encouraging accountability to help him faithfully execute his God designed responsibility in the home.
Partner in the growth and evangelization of their children
There are a number of helpful ways these ministries serve parents in their responsibility to disciple their children. First, by providing a time where the parent can be fed on Sunday morning free of distraction of little ones, we assist in developing and growing the parent spiritually which translates into godlier parenting. At the same time by choosing biblical gospel centered material to teach children and ensuring a safe environment for them to learn we earn the confidence needed for them to rest assured while entrusting their children to our care.
Second, by adding to the voices saying the same thing about Biblical truth we help confirm in their child’s mind the truth being taught in the home. By developing a staff committed to cultivating close relationships with parents as well as students the rivalry for the child’s ear is removed and a partnership for the spiritual good of the child is established.
Finally, both staff and parent working together are able to reach the child in different ways. Staff is able to gain different insight to help the parent and the parent is able to share insight to help staff more effectively minister to the student and family. The partnership helps both parties grow in understanding and ability to disciple the child to be more like Christ.
Parenting and ministry is driven by the same thing
Both parenting and ministry are primarily driven by a desire to Glorify God through gospel transformation. Both must be gospel centered in order to be effective or faithful. Parenting for primarily behavioral modification creates a Pharisee farm. Youth and children’s ministry primarily calling children to be better simply encourages well behaved sinners destined to hell paving their way with good intentions. Both must be gospel centered, motivating through a love and devotion to Christ because of what he has done on the cross taking our place, purchasing our souls to serve him and walk in good works. If our homes and ministries don’t emphasize the fact that we are all terrible wicked sinners but Jesus is a wonderful amazing Savior then students will continue to walk away after high school and our ministry both in the church and in the home will be futile. However, a gospel centered partnership between parents and staff emphasizing the glory of Jesus Christ will be enduringly fruitful.