As 2015 nears, I find myself with many hopes for what the new year will bring. Maybe I will share the various categories of my hopes in the days to come, but for our time now, I would like to share my hopes for the families at my church (and every other local church) for 2015. I no particular order, here are five things I hope to see in our church’s families in 2015.
I hope that our parents will get to know their children’s youth pastor and youth leaders. If your church has a youth pastor or youth leaders or church members dedicated to helping the church’s youth to know and grow in Christ, praise God for His kindness and get to know them! This is a person who is most likely investing hours of their time to minister to your child in their conversation, prayers, and Bible study. Your child’s growth in Christ is their highest joy! Don’t neglect cultivating that relationship! Increase the effectiveness of their ministry to your child by inviting them into a relationship with you! Invite them over to your home for dinner. Let them get to know you and work to know them. Pray for them and encourage them. Let them know how they can pray for you and find out how you can pray for them! Change their status in your minds from just being a youth leader to being a part of your family. See them as your ally and friend in shepherding your child to walk with Christ. Don’t miss out on pouring into your child’s youth leader(s). A little sowing here and great reaping will come.
I hope that our parents will lead their children to join them for corporate worship. I’ve said this before, but its importance merits repetition. There is an unfortunate tradition within many churches (mine included) of dividing the family on Sunday mornings. I’m not talking about mom and dad going to adult Sunday school as their children go to their respective Sunday school, but I am talking about the practice of the youth going to youth group while mom and dad worship in the main sanctuary for corporate worship. This ends up creating a sort of youth church that exists distinct from the adult church and tends to fragment the one body of Christ into disconnected, smaller generational gatherings. This needs to be challenged. Knowing that kids often catch a lot from watching their parents, having the kids separated from their parents in corporate worship takes away a prime opportunity for children to see their parents worship the King. Sunday mornings should not divide the family, but unite the family under God’s Word. The kids should hear mom and dad sing. They should be able to watch dad listen to the sermon with careful attention and see mom praying with earnestness. They need to sit among the grandmas and grandpas of the faith so they grow to understand that, in Christ, they do not belong to the youth group, but the church. Even though I have a youth bible study on Sunday mornings, this is so important to me that I gladly tell our parents that, if there is a choice between their children coming to bible study with me or going to corporate worship with them, I choose the latter every Sunday. Youth group is good, but it makes a lousy church.
I hope that our parents will regularly talk about, pray to, and cherish Jesus at home. Never, never, never let Jesus be an unspoken assumption at your home. Don’t turn on the Christianity only when you are at church. Kids learn to greatly dislike that and will begin to suspect your faith in Jesus only exists at church. Do whatever you can to make sure Jesus is spoken about with ease in your home. Share with your kids what you are reading in the Bible or your reflections of the pastor’s sermon from Sunday. Buy this cd and listen/talk about with your kids. Give thanks to God for feeding your family and making food delicious. Sing to Jesus together. Pray together. Do family worship. Work hard to make your child very comfortable in talking about Jesus with you. Let your home be a little church.
I hope that our parents will seek growth in Christ with an ever increasing seriousness. The best way to shepherd your child toward Jesus is by making sure you are being shepherded by Him first. Yes, they will listen to what you say. Of course, they are going to learn what you teach. But most importantly, your children will be most affected by what affects you most. They will look to what or whom you are looking to. They will pay attention to what captures your attention. Parents who are actively pursing their own growth in Christ demonstrate to their children Christ’s worth by the way they live their life. If you want godly children, make sure you are working out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Your growth in knowledge, character, obedience, and faithfulness to Jesus is the greatest gift you can give them. It is your most powerful tool in the parenting belt.
I hope that our parents will work to befriend other parents within the church. I hope that the parents of my church would seek to befriend and build true community with other parents. This will not only serve as an ongoing encouragement between parents, but will provide their children with more contact with other members of the church. Befriending other families within the church will help your child see the church not as something you do on Sunday, but something you are a part of every day. The reality of church as family will be undeniable as your child regularly sees other church members in their home for dinner or at football games or BBQs. Befriending and building community with other families in the church will provide your children with a front row view of the gospel’s unifying power and it will provide you with the encouragement and support you need from other parents as you continue to shepherd your children to love Jesus. You are not in this parenting thing alone, so don’t act like it!
There is more to say, but, at least for me, not less.