the role of a parent?

i am not real big on this nebulas thing called a "family church." it never seems to truly be anything "family" - when a "family" walks in the front door, the kids go one way, the teens go another way, while mom and dad head off to different directions themselves. during worship, mom and day may sit tighter but the kids and the teens are not in sight. in fact, the only time the "family" is together as a "family" is in the parking lot - coming or going. now, that is just my personal bug on this thing called "family church," and some people know that - so a good bud in az emailed me this because he knew i would get a kick out of it; the ad reads:

"Camelback Bible Church is prayerfully seeking either a pastor or director...Individuals interested in this position [the position is called "pastor of children's discipleship"] should be committed to leading children (birth through 6th grade) to embrace a vibrant and biblical faith in Jesus Christ and to equip them for a lifetime of service to the glory of God."

wow, i always thought that was called being a parent, guess i was wrong.

i am uncomfortable with the idea that a church is wanting to take the place of the parents in this. now, it could be that the church has figured out that its adults are unable to teach their faith to the kids because the adults do not know what their faith is, but then teach the adults. i think we miss something very important when we do not have parents who follow the teachings of christ, and are examples of our faith and who take the time to truly speak in loving ways about God and christ - we have left it to "the experts" to teach our teens and our kids about christ; we have walked away from our responsibility as parents.

i have heard many a parent blame the "youth pastor" because their kids are not dedicated followers of christ; or because their kids are not going to church any more. as a consumer church we desire to blame others for our inability to take the responsibilities God has give us - we fail, so we blame another.

i wonder what it would be like if the pastor stood up one sunday and said, "we are no longer looking for a pastor of children’s discipleship because it is your responsibility as a parent to disciple your children and we will be offering a class on how to do that - and we would like to see everyone who has a child in the class to learn how." i bet hardly anyone shows, heck i bet he never stands up and says it.

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Jeffrey said...

lol, yeah, me too.

Anonymous said...

You mean, as a parent, I bear repsonsibiilty for my son's spiritual formation?!?!?!?!

May my sarcasm pour out. Well said blog post.

pdstein said...

John, what you've described is not really a "family church," IMO. My local church doesn't claim to be a "family church," but we are considering a family service where the parents and children sit together for a service with music, drama, and a lesson geared towards children. That is followed by time where the parents discuss the lesson right there with their kids.

One of the big challenges in post-Christian America today is most parents never had Christian parenting modeled to them as a child and so they don't really know how to train up their kids to know God. They don't know how to have family devotions or family prayers or family discussion about spiritual topics because they've never seen it done. IMO, we need to do more than just preach about parenting or offer classes we need to model it and give parents and children the opportunity to experience it first hand.

BTW, I wonder what it would be like if the pastor stood up one Sunday and said "I am resigning and this church is no longer going to have a senior pastor because you need to take responsibilty for your own discipleship." :-O

Point is all paid ministers are supposed to empower people to minister to each other not take over that responsibility. Children's mnistries, youth ministries, and also adult ministries should compliment our personal discipleship.

Anonymous said...

pdstein...point well taken. I think you are definitely correct in pointing out that ministry is really meant to be empowering. I am in a very "unchurched" context in which pre-Christians have no functional understanding of Christian discipleship. This presents an extremely challenging role for people in ministry leadership situations.

Having said that, I often wonder how our modern conceptions of democracy, individual liberty, capitalism, and thw eorld of business have influenced our ecclesiologies. Specialization can be enriching, but it does come at a price.

Joy said...

I can understand both sides of this discussion. I have 5 children and I homeschool. So I am with my children 24/7. I love to show up in a place where I know there is a place for the kids to go because I know that I am not going to have to make a bathroom run, I am not going to have to say, "Not yet, Honey. The Pastor is still teaching." I don't have to worry about packing up a snack or books or other items to keep my little ones occupied. But in the same breath, I do not depend on that hour or so to be a time of spiritual formation for my kids. I really consider it more of a baby sitting service. Now I don't say that in a way that demeans the folks who are working with the kids. I've been that person for more years than I can remember.

But on the other hand, I feel guilty, because I know someone is taking their Sunday to baby sit my kids while they could be enjoying the service, the worship, the teaching, whatever the 'grups' are doing. When there is no child care, I manage. I have trained my kids to sit still... Not perfectly, but they do pretty good.

I was somewhere recently where the parents let their kids run all over the place. They were noisy and distracting. We met in a public picnic area, but the children were back and forth and the dad was leading the 'service'. So I battle within myself... do the kids need a place to 'play' while the 'grups' discuss spiritual issues? Or should they be trained to sit quietly for a while. Or do I need to train myself to not be so easily distracted?

My other question is this:

Is the church resposible for anyone's spiritual formation?? I am listening to this guy... maybe you've heard of him. His name is Martin Zander... Now I have ALWAYS believed that each person needs to know how to study for himself, but Zander comes close to calling a boycott on "institutionalized religion". It has really reminded me how to question things, the way I used to, rather than accept things at face value or accept the status quo.

One thing I am realizing, as I am going through a TOUGH transition, is that maybe 'organized religion' isn't necessary. Fellowship, encouragement, accountability, community... YES! All important! All necessary! The Body depends on those things for growth. But, to quote one great prophet, "We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control!"

John, I personally enjoyed and appreciated and was challenged by your teaching. I SO appreciate the freedom that I experienced at 247 the few times I visited. Everything, every place I've been since then, I've compared to that experience.

I hope, one day, pastors will stand up on Sunday morning and say just what you suggested!

"we are no longer looking for a pastor of children’s discipleship because it is your responsibility as a parent to disciple your children and we will be offering a class on how to do that - and we would like to see everyone who has a child in the class to learn how."

I think you should call it Discipleship Training!! Is that name copyrighted??