I recently saw an advertisement in a children’s ministry group that stated something to the effect of “The missing element to your family ministry experience: Click here to discover the key to successful family worship” (not exact wording, just something similar to that). Naturally, I clicked. I mean, what minister wouldn’t want to discover the missing element to successfully engaging families in worship?
What I found was a well-appointed and quite interesting curriculum approach with engaging family worship experiences. I liked them; I thought they would certainly be successful in what they were created to do.
But, there was still a significant missing piece.
While this curriculum emphasized the importance of engaging families in worship together and equipping parents for the work of discipleship in their home, there was a huge missing component – an intergenerational, interconnected faith community engaged in meaningful relationships beyond the walls and programs of the church and in discipleship together.
There is one verse that we often use to demonstrate the mandate in Scripture for parents/caregivers to disciple their kids at home is Deuteronomy 6:7 – Impress these commandments on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. I love this verse because it shows the most everyday, most ordinary moments and tells us in those very ordinary times to talk about our extraordinary God.
But I fear that in shining the spotlight so often on this verse and directing our focus of discipleship exclusively to parents/caregivers, we miss something of great importance, something that changes everything about the command.
This command wasn’t given exclusively to parents.
It was given corporately to the community of faith.
The charge to talk about these commandments, to impress them on the children, to disciple the next generation in faith what given to the entire gathered assembly and never once were parents singled out and told that discipleship was their sole responsibility. On the contrary, the command was clearly given in the presence of everyone (Hear, O Israel) and deemed by God through Moses as applicable to the whole assembly. So much so, it is repeated, nearly word for word in Deuteronomy 11:18-20 again in an address to the whole congregation.
So what does this mean?
Parents, it is not “your” job to disciple your children.
Church, it IS corporately our job to disciple our children.
So, yes, if you are a parent and you are a believer, of course, it is your job to disciple your kids, especially since you have the most time with them and the most influence on them!
But, Church, please hear this, parents are not supposed to be doing this alone. This isn’t a command devoid of community. This isn’t a mandate that applies only to parents/caregivers and their children. This is a command given to all of us, every single member of the community of faith, to all of our children, not just those who live in our house.
When viewed in this light, some of our common excuses fail.
We can’t say, “I gave my time serving with in Sunday School and youth group when my kids were young. It’s their turn now.”
We can’t say, “Well, they aren’t my kids. It’s not up to me to talk to them about God.”
We can’t say, “It’s not my responsibility.”
I mean, we can say those things, but if we do, we are willfully choosing to ignore the commands that God gave, not to parents alone, but to all of us to pour into, engage with, impress upon, and walk with the youngest generations.
It is time for us to release some of the burden we’ve put on the backs of parents by repeatedly telling them, “This is your job” by changing just one letter and a whole way of understanding and instead saying, “This is OUR job.”
No parent should ever feel alone in this calling. Not in the dynamic the God has given us.
They should feel the support, nurture and equipping of an entire faith community surrounding them and ministering to them and their children.
The children in our churches should be known (by name) not just by their parents and a few close friends, but the congregation, the community of faith, who are committed to helping them grow in their faith both inside the church walls and in ordinary, everyday life.
The covenant of the congregation, spoken often at baptism or confirmation, in which the congregation pledges to walking with the child and helping them grow in their faith needs to become more than just “what we say” and turn into “what we do.”
The ministries to children and youth in any church should not be lacking in volunteers or servants on mission because the entire church is called and has verbally confirmed their commitment to disciple these young people in the faith.
To place the responsibility squarely on parents without recognizing the responsibility of the church to walk hand-in-hand with them skews the command of God to “impress these commandments on your children.”
Church, it is time we step up and relinquish our excuses. It is time we read the Scripture as it was given; to the whole assembly in community as a unit. It is time we seek to not only support and equip parents but to join them, hand-in-hand, and be part of the work of discipleship.
One Way To Support & Equip Parents/Caregivers…
ReFocus Ministry is excited to offer “Everyday Discipleship: A Workshop for Parents/Caregivers.”
This one-hour workshop covers an unlimited number of parents from your church to join us for a seminar including an Everyday Discipleship worksheet and follow-up resources for parents/caregivers focused on helping support and equip parents for faith formation in their homes.
This workshop has been widely attended by both ministers and parents alike with positive feedback on how it changed their perspective on discipleship in the home and got them excited about sharing their faith with their kids.
This webinar uses a Zoom format and is set up with an individualized code for your church only. All resources will be emailed prior to the webinar so you can distribute to parents with your regular communication.
Interested in learning more?
Fill out the form below with the Message: Everyday Discipleship and we will be in touch!
For More Information About…
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. She also serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship with the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ.
With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed.