By: Gretchen Mahan
In 2016, Lifeway Research asked 2000 Protestant adults, who had to have finished the parenting journey for at least one 18-30 year old child, to evaluate their adult child’s spiritual health and answer questions about their upbringing. The result was 15 characteristics that were predictive of spiritual health; importantly, regular Bible reading was the number one positive influencer of spiritual health.
For churches, this provides evidence of what we already know: the Bible is the always true, always relevant guide for our lives that provides everything we need to know. The Word of God has the power to transform lives. Acknowledging this, then, implies that church leaders are responsible to promote, preach, and teach the value of the Word of God to their congregation.
While pastors do not necessarily have primary responsibility for the lessons taught in children’s ministry, pastors do have the authority in the church to ensure that children are being taught that the Bible is of primary importance, to speak about the value of the Word at every opportunity, and to guarantee that the congregations they lead are encouraged to read and treasure the Word. It matters that pastors urge the parents in their churches to accept responsibility for discipling their own children. What you say matters to families in your congregation.
So, how can you impact parents with the importance of the Word and of teaching it to their children? Consider:
- Many parents are very willing to pass off the training of their kids to paid professionals (pastors, teachers, coaches, babysitters, etc). Pastors can help parents shift parents’ focus to their Biblically-designated role (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
- From the pulpit and at every opportunity, articulate parents’ responsibility to disciple their kids at home.
- Parents must hear the Word, the full truth, in order to share it with their kids. This does not mean they hear just the “easy to understand” or pleasant truths, but the whole truth.
- Parents need to be encouraged that they are partnering with the church in extending what kids are learning at church into the home, knowing and reinforcing what was taught in Sunday School, kids church, and midweek activities.
- Parents need to hear at church that they are to model Bible reading and Bible dependency in the home.
- Parents need to be equipped by the church to do the heavy lifting of discipling their children. Churches should put their financial and other resources into providing opportunities for parents to grow in their faith so their growth will overflow into their kids lives. For example, providing Bible studies on parenting, educating about available parenting books, websites, articles, and conferences, will go a long way in encouraging them.
Secondly, how can you, as a church leader, extend your impact directly to kids in your church?
- Be more than “the guy on the stage”. Learn the names of kids in your church. Communicate directly with them, calling them by name when possible. Help them to know they matter so that your influence on them will also matter.
- Take every opportunity to engage with kids, on their level, physically and developmentally.
- Be aware of what kids are being taught in your church, and converse with kids about this. Hold them accountable to listen well, know what they are being taught, and be ready to discuss it.
- Speak directly to kids in your sermons. Have a specific phrase you use to get their attention during the message (maybe something like “Listen up, kids!”), then give them an assignment to draw or write something that makes them clue in to what you are preaching.
Consider how you are (or are not) engaging families and kids in your church to highly value God’s Word. More importantly, pray for insight from the Holy Spirit for how to lead your church, and pray Ephesians 3:20 for your congregation, that God will do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine in the lives of these families.
Author: Gretchen Mahan, Kids Discipleship Director at Colonial Heights Baptist Church