October 4, 2012

The Church & The Children

Parenting. There is no job on earth like it. You don't punch a clock or get a lunch break. In fact, it's not a job at all; it's a God-given honor and responsibility. So much so that scripture says in Psalm 78:5-7 that the Lord "commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know...and arise and tell their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments." The greatest calling of discipleship that God has placed on us happens in our own home - our children. There is no greater calling. (See also Deuteronomy 6)

How does the church fit into this? This is a question I addressed in my sermon this past Sunday. [You can listen to the podcast here: The Next Generation
2 important points I made were:
  • It's the church's responsibility to equip/train parents to equip/train their kids.
  • It's the parents responsibility to teach their children WHO God is and WHAT He's done.
Church - train parents.
Parents - train children.

Obviously close to nothing on earth is actually this simple. Yet, we tend to make it a whole lot more complex than it is. Traditionally and culturally - if you've "grown up" (and I use that term loosely) in the church - the tendency is to think  that the local church needs to provide all kinds of opportunities, events, and programs for kids. If there's a void, we tend to look to the church to do something about it. But I would challenge that, while the void felt is real and legitimate, the seemingly natural solution to the void is not. It's not the church's responsibility to train your children. It's yours.

At the end of the day, I think most Christians believe this. At least, they'll say they believe this. Which is why it's incredibly confusing that some Christian parents seem determined to find one more thing for their kids to "do". As if one more program at the church is going to radically transform their life. (And while I know that there are actually some parents that are ultimately just looking for a safe place to "dump" their kids, I operate under the hopeful assumption that this is NOT the motive of most.) I would ask: Isn't the greater possibility that the void is in the home? Could it be that the void being felt is that we feel completely inadequate and ill-equipped to train these little people up in the ways of the Lord? Yes. This is the more likely source of our frustrations. So the real question becomes, "What are we going to do about it?"

While I can only speak for myself and our church, we have determined that we are going to continue taking steps to train and equip parents. At the same time, we're going to lead, encourage, challenge, and exemplify to them what it means to leave margin in your life (lives) to actually be able to LIVE OUT the faith that we are teaching them. We are not going to create more calendar chaos to inhibit or paralyze our people from actually "training up their children". We're going to do the opposite. I believe that if we take the guidance and mandates of the Lord from scripture (Deut. 6, Psalm 78, Matthew 28) and read them as one, we can hear Him telling us, "As you're going to soccer practice, as you're having breakfast together, as you're cooking out with your neighbors, as you're tucking them into bed - everywhere you go, as you go - teach them. Train them. Tell them WHO I am. Tell them WHAT I've done! Show them the evidence in your own life that I am Almighty, most Holy, Sovereign, Faithful, Wonderful God. Tell them WHO they are in me - sons and daughters. Show them what to do - follow Jesus. And let me know that this life is ONLY lived through the power of my Spirit working through them. Train them. Teach them. Show them. Always!"

This is the relationship between the church and the children.
This is the greatest burden and responsibility we bear as parents.
This is the greatest honor and privilege we know.
We bear this burden together. No one can do it alone.

Have you felt this burden or void? Do you feel this inadequacy? 
Is your church train you to train them? Or are they just "taking care" of your kids?

More to come....

1 comment:

Bill Fowler said...

Great work. As a former "Youth Guy" at my own church, I feel the stress between being asked to offer a full meal of weekly manna to the young and hungry, while quietly preferring to offer something more like a side dish - augmenting the main meal that's served at home.

You could take this up a level and offer that the sermon itself is a recharge of the material driving the weekly, personal ministry of the Body of Christ instead of something to be consumed by the individual, privately.

Again, great stuff. Thought-provoking.