by Mark Johannesen
An Open Letter to Parents
If I had to write a thesis paper on youth ministry, I would make it a paper about parents and the church. In all my years of working with students I have consistently seen the value that a parent has in passing on their faith to their kids, as opposed to the spiritual fruit that happens in a student’s life without much spiritual influence in the home.
It’s not the rule that when parents of faith try to pass on their faith to their kids that it automatically will happen, nor is it the rule that just because a teen doesn’t have a parent who cares for them spiritually that they will grow up far from Christ, but there is something predictive about each scenario. And as I make those conclusions, I need to be careful to not allow those predictions to dictate how I respond to either student. To the student from the home that is actively passing along their faith and to the student who is from a home that is not passing on their faith, I need to encourage, teach, model and share the gospel in any opportunity that I can.
Having said that, the bible offers oodles of passages dealing with the church and with parents on their roles in training up children to follow Christ. The bible is filled with helps for parents on the raising and leading of their children. Check out Deuteronomy 4:9-10, Proverbs 29:15, Proverbs 22:6, Psalms 144:12, Luke 11:11-13, Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, and 1st Thessalonians 2:7 to name a few. In each of these passages we get to see the direct role that parents are to have in the lives of their kids. I would guarantee that were you or I to do an exhaustive search we would walk away with a much longer list than those eight verses. But the biblical teaching role is extended to the church as well as the parents. Some scriptures that affirm that are 1st Peter 5:2 (written for the elders), 1st Timothy 5, Matthew 18:1-6, and Mark 10:13-16.
The ideal ministry to children and teens is one in which parents and the church work together in passing on their faith to their kids. That should make sense….right? When the two aren’t collaborating together there is going to be a very confused message heard by children and teens. The church and the family were meant to do this together. But, let’s suppose that there are times when either the family or the church are doing this alone. Let’s suppose a family is thinking it is the lone player in passing on their faith to their kids. -What happens when they are passing on scriptures to their children that speak of the role of the church in the life of believers? -What happens when they are passing along scriptures that teach of the church working for the good of those around and they have to admit they aren’t a part of the church? -What happens when a parent is passing on their faith to their children and in studying the scriptures they have to explain to their children that as believers they belong to this thing called the “body”?
I guess what I’m getting at is to the parent who thinks they can be the only biblical and Christ-following spiritual voice in their child’s life — that voice is going to have some issues to work with when it tries to explain the work of the church and why they aren’t a part of it. And you can flip this idea around some too…. Let’s suppose the church is doing all it can do to teach and speak into the life of a child or teen but the parents aren’t backing up that work or leading in that work.
The church and the family were meant to be, at the very least, partners in this faith-building journey.
Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.