Series: Children's ministry in our churches
Second instalment: The role of parents in your ministry.
As we continue to explore what we want from our children's ministry, it is important to reflect on the role parents play in God's plan.
The Bible says it!
There is a massive emphasis on the role of parents teaching the faith to their children in the Bible. Deuteronomy 6 goes on to say how parents should be teaching & raising their children to love the Lord. It says how they should be doing this formally and during the daily rhythms of life.
There are many times in the Bible when the people of God turn away from Him and the finger of blame for that failure is aimed at the leaders of Israel and at the parents who are not raising their children to know and love the Lord. Judges 2:7-11 and Psalm 78 are sad but excellent examples of this.
Throughout the Bible, when ‘the church’ gathered like we do on Sundays, the assumption is that the children are there with their parents. They would have been expected to be singing, praying and listening to the teaching or reading of the Bible, all the time. If you read the letters of the apostles and the Old Testament public readings of the law with this in mind, it jumps out that children would have been there as they are directly addressed in them.
Research shows it!
Dr John Bellamy’s excellent research in 2013 on becoming a Christian investigated the common influences people received to come to faith. It showed that 78% of people in Sydney (where the survey took place) turned to faith in the years up to nineteen. This was also seen in response to the following question;
“Which of the following people were most significant in helping you come to the Christian faith?” And the clear answer was: Parents (but overwhelmingly the mother) were the most significant people in the conversion of believers in that corner of the world.
Further research conducted by BARNA in the USA entitled ‘The household of Faith’ clearly shows again the overwhelming influence of parents in the day to day spiritual lives of their children. It's results demonstrate that parents and not other ministries or people (in or outside church) are the main influence in matters of the bible, faith, politics and sex.
It is worth noting their challenge to fathers as 71% of teens seek out their mother's opinions on questions of faith. 72% specifically mention mothers as the primary influence or person they turn to with questions about the the bible and not their fathers. That said, fathers were the next biggest influence.
Add to that the finding of more research conducted for YOUTHWORKS (Australia) showed that even parents who only ‘open the Bible’ 2-5 times a month with their children are still a bigger influence on their spiritual lives than all that happens in and through the churches children's and youth ministries.
Therefore, i would like to stress that no matter what you do you in your children and youth ministries; you will not really have an effective ministry that makes a difference in the lives of the children unless you get the parents involved. Even when this mean just a little bit of input, like opening the Bible with their children, and talking about God a couple of times a month. But how do you do that?
We will look at that in the next instalment of this series next month.