Perhaps you are like me … everywhere I turn there is someone having an inspiring discussion about family ministry and the need to raise up spiritual parents in the home. You may be thinking, “This is great, I get it … but what about the parents? They don’t get it.” How can the church begin to make progress in family ministry if our parents aren’t as passionate about this as we are?
Or why does it seem that 99 percent of parents will attend a “back to school night” at their child’s school, while only 3 percent will attend a parent vision meeting at your church?
Recently, I was on amazon.com looking at the wide array of “help books” for parents. There is something there for everyone: books on ADD, bedtime, discipline, defiance, curfew, complaining, bed-wetting, biting, finances, friends, fighting in the car (an entire book about managing automobile arguments!), manners, media, potty training … you name it! There are even books that promise that you can literally fix everything that is wrong with your child in one week!
These are the issues that control the very lives of our parents; these issues are relevant to them. Each day is spent accomplishing a vast list of important, and not so important tasks. As the church, we need to help awaken our parents to their God-given roles, helping them to see that the spiritual vitality of their life and the life of their child is relevant.
Like never before the church is poised to inspire and shepherd parents to not merely spend their hours, but invest their days during these critical years of childrearing.
There is too much riding on this need for parents to step up and lead their children in spiritual matters. There’s simply too much at stake! In fact, George Barna said that “every dimension of a person’s life experience hinges on his or her moral and spiritual condition.” Think about it … what you believe and where you aim your heart determines the direction and outcome of your entire life through eternity. Eternity is at stake. What is more relevant than that?
Spiritual parenting is not perfect parenting but rather imperfect parenting from a spiritual perspective. This means parenting with eternity in mind! Dream with me for a moment. What would this new generation look like if parents chose to lead every situation from a spiritually forming and eternal perspective? What if the lines were erased between secular and sacred all together?
Imagine a generation where:
- Young people worship from the inside out, compelled by the Spirit, not through expected or mandated behavior, but see worship as a lifestyle, not a moment or event.
- Young people possess a kingdom community mindset, and choose to usher in the realities of justice, mercy, love, the presence of God, forgiveness, humility, and service in everyday situations.
- Young people live with a global awareness and feel responsible for their brothers and sisters around the world and feel compelled to make Christ known to every corner of the globe within their lifetime.
- Young people are knowledgeable about God’s Word, but even greater, through it have come to know God personally. They have investigated the Scriptures for themselves and have concluded that God’s Word is Truth and are unashamed of it.
- Young people know God’s voice, desire to obey it, and then obey it in and through the power of the Holy Spirit as they depend on Him alone for strength.
The church desperately needs parents who are awakened! Parents who have the ultimate “Aha!” moment! Parents who hunger for more than merely getting through the day. We have the privilege of helping them be awakened to their role by inspiring them with this envisioned future. It’s time for us to see our role as not merely organizing or coordinating programs, but to pastor, to shepherd, to be winsome … to be inspiring!
This envisioned future is one of spiritual formation. Spiritual formation can be an intimidating concept for many. We feel ill-equipped to understand it, let alone do it. Yet, spiritual formation is just that–it is how the Spirit of God forms us to be more like Christ. The phrase “spiritual formation” comes from Galatians 4:19 where the Apostle Paul writes to the young church that he longs for the time when “Christ is formed in you.”
In a letter to the church in Philippi, Paul shares how this process happens in cooperation with the Spirit, since He is the one who gives us the power and the desire to obey (Phil. 2:13). Our role, therefore, in children’s and family ministries is to equip parents to cooperate and participate with the Spirit’s work, to come alongside that which God is already doing in the lives of His children. Wow, what a liberating way of looking at the role of pastoring and parenting! To be eternally successful we must remember that faith is the goal. It’s always the goal! We simply get distracted by many good things.
Jesus said that faith would be the one thing He’d be looking for upon His return (Luke 18: 8). The gospels give account that whenever Jesus witnessed faith in action, He always acknowledged it with great enthusiasm (“Such faith I have not seen in all of Israel”), and readily addressed its absence when He expected it (“Oh, ye of little faith”).
Since God’s design was for faith formation to be passed down from generation to generation (Ps. 78), we must be effective in our faith formation of this generation so that they will be able to pass it on to the following generation in our absence. This is when we will know that our ministry to our children has been successful.
Faith formation stands in contrast to merely controlling the behavior of my child. Rather, it is learning to parent the soul, and the soul learns differently than the mind. Since our churches have adopted much of the modern educational system, our curriculum/parenting often falls short of dealing with genuine issues of faith. Without intending to, it is all too easy to begin to focus our efforts on the outcomes of faith or behavior.
Our parents need to know that it is not their job to merely control the behavior of their child, and by doing so somehow create a spiritual life for him or her. Without even knowing it, good behavior can become an end in itself, both in our homes and within our ministries. The danger in merely focusing on our children’s outward behavior (without the inner transformation) is that sometimes our children will align their behavior to our mandates to please us or to receive approval. They can end up doing or not doing these things without true spiritual healing inside. Without this supernatural transformation, we simply have moral or obedient children, but we do not necessarily have spiritual children. Before long, our children grow up and determine life for themselves without the exterior motivators to obey.
In adulthood, they have one of several options: they have been genuinely transformed by God’s Spirit, they choose to live sinfully without a desire to change, or they hide their sin and live a double life. A spiritual life is one that is transformed and out of hiding.
But what if a community of spiritual parents said that they were going to do something different than merely manage behavior? What if each one began to put his or her energies toward putting children in the path of the Divine and watched them fall in love with Jesus? One option says, “Don’t fall in love with the world” while the other option simply says, “Fall in love with Jesus and the world will look less attractive.” Just as the author of Hebrews calls us to “Fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), the charge is to look to Jesus.
The church needs family-empowered ministries in order to not only raise up a generation of faith followers, but to raise up a generation of spiritually-minded parents. Parents today need the church to inspire them, to equip them, and to support them in this incredible endeavor. We need a community where we all hold each other accountable to these things:
- Parents are the primary nurturers of their children’s faith. The faith community supports the parents. The Holy Spirit is the One who works when and as He chooses in the life of a child.
- Children and family ministries declare that with the same intentionality that we have equipped volunteers in the past, we will now equip, train, and empower parents.
- We become a family of families where every member plays a role in the spiritual nurture of the children in the community, taking into account those who are single, grandparents, or those who are without parents to play the spiritual role. The reality is that many children don’t have spiritually supportive parents. It is our hope that by being part of the larger faith community, these children will still experience authentic, organic, and life-transforming spiritual guidance from adults in the church.