This morning I was a participant in a local pastor’s breakfast. It was actually very good (I am unfortunately typically pessimistic that such get togethers will be beneficial). It was good and refreshing to sit at a table with 12-13 local pastors from all denominations who were sharing their struggles and concerns. One of the areas of greatest concern was from a local ELCA church pastor who was grieved at the recent decision in his denomination to ordain homosexual pastors. He was asking for guidance and prayer. I was encouraged to see his desire to stand firm on God’s clear teaching and not waiver from Truth. I told him as much.
Anyway, toward the end of the breakfast, one of the men was praying a beautiful prayer for some local ministries, including YoungLife, a ministry dedicated to adolescents. In the course of his prayer, he said this: “I am convinced that parents will not reach their kids, but that other kids will have to reach them.”
I want to comment on a few things. First, being overly critical of a prayer is not a great thing, especially in this case when the pastor was so sincere and desirous of young people coming to Christ. So, the following remarks bear that in mind. Second, there is some truth in his statement based on what we are seeing today. Parents, for the most part, have let go of the responsibility to evangelize and disciple their children. Plus, we see biblical accounts of children doing great things for the witness of the Lord. I am very thankful for YoungLife and other organizations. Having said that, here are my concerns:
Regardless of the reality of the current situation, the thing that must drive our focus and our action is what God has ordained as the primary and most effective way our kids are to hear the faith and be nurtured in it. That method, quite clearly, is parents. Although the church, non-profit religious organizations, friends, and classmates are all important in the area of evangelism, none of them take the place of parents. This is yet another reason why divorce is such a killer and hated by God. Not only is marriage a picture of the gospel (Ephesians 5) but it is also the means by which His plan of multiplying the earth and teaching our children is to be implemented. So, I understand the frustration when it seems our kids are more pious than our parents. But we must not give up on them; the church must take seriously the call to encourage, equip, and empower our parents to take on the call of spiritual leadership with their kids.
Second, parents are buying into the notion that they are ineffective and useless. We must not and cannot fuel such an erroneous notion. Countless times I have heard parents tell me, “my children will listen to you because it doesn’t come from me.” The truth is that children, especially adolescents, are longing for their parents to lead them, discipline them, and teach them. That may not be obvious right from the start. There will still be quarreling, fights, and struggles. Nevertheless, being led by parents has has been into the hearts of our children by God and the research supports that truth. An alarming percentage, well over 80%, of teenagers polled said the greatest area of influence was their parents. Don’t believe the hype parents; your teenagers want you and need you.
So I am so thankful when God uses another student to lead a student to Christ. We should be all about such an awesome thing! But such greatness is not a replacement for parents teaching their children in the Lord. God is so pleased when we do!