Perhaps you are like me; everywhere I turn, there is someone having an inspiring discussion about Family Ministry and the need to raise up spiritual parents in the home. Or maybe you relate more to my experience as a young mom, wondering, “will I make it through this day alive and sane?!” Yet now, just one year away from being an empty nester, I can’t help but wonder how it all happened so fast!
Getting through each day
Recently I did a search on amazon.com. There was such a wide array of ‘help books’ for parents, something for everyone; books on ADD, bedtime, discipline, defiance, curfew, complaining, bed-wetting, biting, finances, friends, fighting in the car (an entire book about managing automobile arguments!), manners, media, potty training... you name it! There are even books that promise that you can literally fix everything that is ‘wrong’ with your child in one week! These are the issues that control the very lives of parents—these issues are relevant. Each day is spent accomplishing a vast list of important... and not so important tasks.
Is there something more?
But even as the necessary duties fill our days, there is something spiritual about parenting that often gets lost in the mundane. The church desperately needs parents who are awakened, who hunger for more than merely getting through the day! Researcher George Barna said that, “every dimension of a person’s life experience hinges on his or her moral and spiritual condition.” (1)
Think about it; what you believe and where you aim your heart determines the direction and outcome of your entire life through eternity. Eternity is at stake. What is more relevant than that?
Dream with me for a moment; what would this new generation look like if parents chose to lead every situation from a spiritually forming, eternal perspective? To not merely spend their hours, but invest their days? As the church, we need to help awaken parents to their God-given roles; helping them to see that the spiritual vitality of their life and the life of their child is relevant. It’s time for kid’s leaders and Pastors to see their role as not merely organizing or coordinating programmes, but pastoring, shepherding and inspiring families to partake in a future of spiritual formation.
Spiritual parenting is not perfect parenting... but rather imperfect parenting from a spiritual perspective. This means parenting with eternity in mind, parenting with spiritual formation in mind.
So what is spiritual formation?
Spiritual formation can be an intimidating concept for many. We feel ill-equipped to understand it, let alone do it. Yet spiritual formation is simply how the Spirit of God forms us to be more like Christ. The phrase ‘spiritual formation’ comes from Galatians 4:19 where the Apostle Paul writes to the young church. He writes that he longs for the time that “Christ is formed in you.” In a letter to the church in Philippi, Paul shares how this process happens in cooperation with the Spirit, since He is the one who gives us the power and the desire to obey (Philippians 2:13). Jesus said that faith would be the one thing He’d be looking for upon His return (Luke 18:8). Since God’s design was for faith formation to be passed down from generation to generation (Psalm 78), we must be effective in our faith formation of this generation so that they will be able to pass it on to the following generation in our absence. This is when we will know that our ministry to our children has been successful!
Parenting the soul
Faith formation stands in contrast to merely controlling the behavior of your child. Rather it is learning to parent the soul; the soul learns differently than the mind. Since our churches have adopted much of the modern educational system, our curriculum/parenting often falls short of dealing with genuine issues of faith. Without intending to, it is all too easy to begin to focus our efforts on the outcomes of faith – behavior. Without even knowing it, good behavior can become an end in itself, both in our homes and within our ministries. The danger in merely focusing on our children’s outward behavior (without inner transformation), is that sometimes our children will align their behavior to our mandates to please us or receive approval. They can end up doing or not doing things without true spiritual healing inside. Without this supernatural transformation, we have moral or obedient children, but we do not necessarily have spiritual children. Before long, our children grow up and will be determining life for themselves without exterior motivators to obey. So then in adulthood, they have one of several options. They can live genuinely transformed by God’s Spirit, they can live sinfully without a desire to change, or they can live hiding their sin in a double life.
You can say, “Don’t fall in love with the world,” or you can say, “Fall in love with Jesus and the world will look less attractive.” The author of Hebrews calls us to look "to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) - the charge is to look to Jesus. The church needs family empowered ministries not only to raise up a generation of faith followers, but also to raise up a generation of spiritually-minded parents. So the role of Children’s and Family Ministries becomes to inspire, equip and support parents to cooperate and participate with what God is already doing in the lives of His children. What a liberating way of seeing the role of pastoring and parenting!
1. George Barna. 2003. Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions. Ventura. Regal Books.
Michelle Anthony taught a paper about Children and Family Ministry last year at Carey Baptist College. She has written a number of books and has led Children and Family Ministries for more than 25 years. She holds postgraduate degrees in Christian Education and Bible and Theology. See davidccook.com and michelleanthony.org for further input and check out Michelle’s practical follow-on article "What’s Spiritual about Parenting" also on this site.
A Legacy of Faith: A note from Karen Warner, Children and Family Ministries Team Leader of the Baptist Churches of NZ.
The spiritual nurture of children and parents is core to the future of the church. However, passing on a legacy of faith as per Deuteronomy 6, can seem impossible in a society where children and adults are increasingly segregated and stressed. It’s time for the church to become counter-cultural. I love a phrase that Michelle Anthony uses here, “dreaming of more.” If you were to dream more for the children in your church and local community, what would it look like? At Baptist Children and Family Ministry we are dreaming big; we desire to see churches as places where children are not only valued and welcomed but seen as fellow pilgrims on the faith journey, where parents are seen as partners with the faith community in the spiritual nurture of the next generation and where old and young alike know each other, encourage each other and point each other in the direction of Jesus. Our role is to inspire, equip and support the local church as it seeks to make these dreams a reality.
You can contact us for further information and resources at [email protected], 09 526 7598, bcfm.org.nz
1. Do you read this article as another thing to do, or could you allow this be liberate you in your parenting?
2. How do you determine ‘success’ in your parenting?
3. Do you find it easy to invest in your child’s spiritual life? What could you do to further explore this?
4. How do you see the role of Children’s Pastors and Sunday School?
5. If you are a pastor, are there elements of your children’s programmes that may need to change? How could you further support parents in developing the spiritual life of their children?
Image Credit: Rafal Olechowski/shutterstock.com
Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.