Last week, I wrote about my experience going to Haiti in order to help them develop their ministry to children. As part of my preparation, I studied everything the Bible says about children’s ministry and came to this conclusion:
God’s plan for children is that they come to know Him through their parents and in the normal course of life (or living).
One way parents today often deviate from this plan is by DELEGATING this responsibility to the church or a recognized spiritual leader. This happens when we perceive a child’s spiritual training as being no different from their academic, musical or athletic training . . . three areas in which parents tend to hire “experts” to handle the training.
The spiritual training of a child is fundamentally different from training in other things. God makes no allowance for the “passing off” of this responsibility to somebody else, no matter how expert they may be.
The fact is, parents who lack spiritual vitality almost always produce children who lack spiritual vitality as well. This lack of spiritual vitality usually manifests itself during the child’s high school and college years. While there are some exceptions to this, the exceptions are rare.
I believe this has significant implications for the church.
Most notably, the church must be oriented toward helping the parents become vital in their relationship with Christ. The church that has a dynamic children’s ministry program, but does a lousy job of discipling adults, is “off the rails” as far as God’s plan for that church.
The biblical admonition for the church, with respect to children, is to INCLUDE children in their community life. Separating the children from the adults, while sometimes necessary, should be kept to a minimum (essentially, only during teaching sessions).
The church’s responsibility, with respect to children, is to REINFORCE the parent’s values & Biblical teaching (or teaching of the Bible). Children shouldn’t hear anything in the church (say, the story of David & Goliath) that they haven’t already heard from their parents in the home. The church REINFORCES; it’s not supposed to break new ground.
What about the argument that, if the parents aren’t doing it (training the children to know & love God), the church must fill the gap?
I completely understand the sentiment, but we must not allow mere sentiment to determine our course. If the children aren’t getting a Godly example in the home, the solution isn’t to go around the parents (a mostly futile exercise anyway), but rather to HELP those parents become spiritually vital & healthy.