Children and teens are gifts from the Lord to parents, to the world, and to the church (Ps 127:3). Parenting is a full-time job as young people require continual support and guidance physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Children are natural-born disciples: they are avid learners and students, constantly absorbing life-lessons from the conversations and examples surrounding them.
Parents are vital in the spiritual growth of their children, while the church plays a supporting role. Parents have the primary charge of being good Christian examples for their children, discipling them, disciplining them, and instructing them in the Word of God (Deut 6:4-9; Eph 6:1-4; Col 3:21). Parents are the main spiritual mentors and shepherds influencing a young person’s faith formation and spiritual foundation leading into adulthood and for the rest of their lives. Parenting is an awesome yet challenging responsibility, that with the Lord’s help and biblical instruction, has the potential of bearing the fruit of mature and committed Christians.
My heart as a pastor goes out to parents as they have these tremendous responsibilities. Parents have the natural desire to raise their children well and to pass on their faith in Jesus Christ. I am honored and excited to see parents actively send or bring their children and teens to church so that they can be shepherded and discipled here at Congregational Bible Church. God indeed has given a community of faith and a spiritual family who should all be working together to influence children toward Christlike maturity. It is always encouraging to see families and members of the church welcome young people in as if they are their own.
The church assists parents in their task by preaching, teaching, and modeling the Word in an effective, edifying, and engaging way to the youth. Youth ministry seeks to get young people plugged in to the church and active in regular worship, prayer, discipleship, service, and fellowship with the church at large so that they will be receptive to remaining plugged into a church even after they graduate. Youth ministry provides focused teaching and discipleship of the youth to help parents as they raise their children into mature Christ followers. The church serves as a resource for parents in this task, and their input, feedback, and participation are always desired.
Effective family ministry involves closing the gap between families and the church so that both partner together in the discipleship of young people. Regular church attendance, gatherings, and participation connect young people with godly and mature Christian examples. Children are master imitators, and the church joins together in providing Christ-like examples by living in a manner worthy of imitation (1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17). The church is the family of Christ and participates in the discipleship of young people by informal example, speech, counsel, and love (Eph 4:17-5:1; Tim 5:1-2). Pastor Chap Bettis says, “Disciple-making parents actively connect their children to other godly examples.”
A connection with the youth is a connection with their parents. Therefore, the discipling of parents and students is at the heart of my ministry philosophy, and the church joins in this endeavor. Our goal is the same: to disciple young people so that they mature into devoted, committed, and serving adult Christians. Children’s and youth ministries intend to partner with parents, making every church activity and gathering spiritually enriching for the whole family, as well as offering pastors, elders, and mature believers for support, help, and resources.
I believe this is how God intended it to be: one generation of Christian fathers and mothers investing biblically and by example in the next generation of Christian parents who ardently desire to raise their children in the instruction and fear of the Lord (Titus 2:1-8). Even within the last week I have witnessed a new mother overjoyed to have biblical advice and encouragement anytime from other mothers in the church.
Discipleship in youth ministry and through the church truly extends to parents as well. Partnering with parents means encouraging them in their profound responsibility and influence on their children’s spiritual growth, surrounding them with a caring, wise, and helpful church family full of spiritual fathers and mothers.
I close with the wise words of pastor Richard D. Phillips:
“One day, your children will encounter outside the home temptations and spiritual attacks of substantial power. The toxic youth culture they will discover can threaten to overwhelm by sheer force almost any child’s desire not to disappoint his or her parents. But we have a greater hope. A passion for the glory of Jesus and a living awareness of gospel realities will provide our children with both offensive and defensive capabilities they otherwise never would have possessed. This is why the greatest, most powerful, and most valuable passion [parents] can give their children is a passion for the Lord and His gospel of grace.”
- Pastor Spencer Carpenter