In the last 20ish years, a movement has risen that focuses on encouraging and equipping parents to disciple their children.
This is a good thing. We know no one has more influence in a child's life than his or her parents. And Scripture makes it clear that parents are to pass on their faith to their children.
But, I wonder in the push to get parents to disciple their children, if we have forgotten something.
You can't pass on something you don't first have yourself.
Deuteronomy 6, which is a mantra passage for the movement, says this in verse 7...
Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. (MSG)
Notice that it says parents must first know God's Word themselves if they are going to pass it along to their children.
In the majority of cases, I'm afraid we haven't focused enough on teaching parents God's Word, so they in return, can teach it to their children.
Want proof of this?
A recent survey among church-going parents revealed that 51% do not know what the term "the Great Commission" means.
25% say it does ring a bell, though they can't remember what it is.
6% say they are not sure if they have ever heard the term before.
Let's narrow that down to today's parents....who are Gen Xer's and Millennials.
Only 17% of church-going Gen Xer's know the Great Commission.
Only 10% of church-going Millennials know the Great Commission.
Unless something changes, just a small, small percentage of Gen Z will even know Christ's last command and marching orders for us as believers.
Think about it. Only 5-6% of the next generation of church-going kids will know the Great Commission.
"If we produce parents who have a weak, water-downed, shallow faith, then that is what they will pass onto their children."
So what needs to change?
The church has to get serious about discipling parents, so they in return can disciple their children.
What are some steps we can take to see this happen?
Focus on parents first. It's time we get serious about producing fully devoted, Christ-following parents who are grounded in God's Word. Our teaching and preaching must be balanced with information and application, so parents have a solid knowledge and understanding of God's Word and how to live according to His purposes.
This must happen in the worship service, in adult small groups, in men's ministry, in women's ministry and in every other format where adult discipleship is supposed to happen.
This will give parents the knowledge and tools they need to disciple their children and see them grow up to know Jesus and His Word.
Target parents at key milestones.
Do you have baby dedication? If you just call it "baby dedication" or "child dedication," then change it to "Parent & Child Dedication."
Several years ago, I had started a new role as children's pastor at a large church. At the time, the church had child dedication 2 to 3 times a year. Parents registered online, but there was no class or meeting with the parents prior to the dedication. We simply met the parents in the auditorium the morning of the dedication.
After going through a few of the dedications, it became clear to me that many of the parents had no idea what the dedication was about. And it wasn't their fault. We simply weren't taking the opportunity to teach them at this important time in their life.
And so, I started a class that parents were required to go through before they dedicated their child. And in that class, we not only taught parents what the dedication was about, but we also took time to give them a Biblical foundation for parenting and a strategy to disciple their children.
We saw great fruit come out of this.
There are key times, milestones, in a family's journey, where they are very open to your input and influence. These are times, that at first glance, appear to be focused on their children. But if you will be intentional about also focusing on parents during these times, you can make a huge spiritual impact in the lives of parents as well. Don't miss these opportunities to teach and disciple them.
Here are some of the key times and resources available to help you implement this. These are proven resources that have been used to disciple thousands of parents in a local church setting.
Bible Presentation & Celebration - as kids transition into elementary school, you can use this resource to teach not only them, but their parents as well, foundational truths about the Bible and how to make it a priority in their life.
Baptism - when a child is asking about being baptized - you can use the Baptism Class curriculum to not only teach children what baptism is, but their parents as well. Do this and you'll not only see kids baptized on a regular basis, but parents as well.
Elementary Graduation & Celebration - when kids are transitioning into middle school, you can use this resource to not only prepare them for middle school, but also their parents for parenting during the middle school years. Key parenting and discipleship strategies are taught.
Partner with adult ministry. Rather than being a silo that only impacts children, reach out to the adult ministry in your church and partner with them to disciple parents. This could look like you teaching an adult Bible study, leading a small group of parents, collaborating with your pastor for a teaching series about family, etc.
Take the initiative in discipling parents. Often in children's ministry, we have the mindset that it's our job to disciple children and it's adult ministries' job to disciple parents. Change your thinking and take the initiative in discipling parents. Host a parenting seminar. Offer family discipleship classes. Create opportunities for parents and kids to serve together. Include discipleship questions for kids to ask their parents in your take home materials.
I mentioned earlier the verse in Deuteronomy where Moses urges parents to get God's Word in them first, so they can in return, get it in their children. There's a great example of this found in 2 Timothy 1:5. It says this...
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.
If we are going to see the faith passed onto the next generation, we must first see parents filled with it.