In early August I attended the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries conference in Phoenix, AZ. I came away encouraged that there seemed to be the genesis of an awakening. More people appear to be aware of the need to help parents take responsibility for the discipling of their children. As I reflected on the things I had learned and the people I met, I realized that I met just a few Sr Pastors and fewer children’s pastors at the conference. The people who could be the most influential had other things to do.
About twenty weekends a year I do a parenting seminar in local churches. The same thing happens at every meeting; about 5%-10% of the parents in the church attend. Invariably those who attended have the same comment, “I sure wish all of our parents had been here. Do you have a CD or DVD with this information?” And then, the person who worked diligently to encourage the parents to attend apologies for the small number of parents who made the meeting a priority. I can’t help but wonder if the parents in our churches see the spiritual nurturing of their children of any long-term value.
Two weeks ago I began a nine-week parenting class that focuses on parents as the spiritual leaders of their children. The first session was dedicated to having the parents evaluate the spiritual, emotional and social heritage they received from their parents. The results revealed that twelve of the thirteen adults in the room had not been given a spiritual legacy that equipped them to disciple their kids. As we discussed their past experiences, everyone agreed that they wanted to give their children a better spiritual heritage than they had received. This past weekend we talked about the things they pondered during the week and everyone acknowledged that they had allowed other activities to take priority over the discipling of their kids. When parents come face-to-face with the reality that the church and Christian school are not responsible for the discipling of their children, they see the need to rearrange their time and priorities. It will be interesting to see how many of the parents in the class get serious.
My wife and I are raising three young children ages 9, 6 and 5. Our other children are 43, 38 and 32. We frequently comment to each other that we are from another generation and don’t think like today’s parents. If we didn’t know the truth, we could easily become discouraged and let our younger kids go the way of the world, but we do know the truth and we know that ultimately God will ask one question, “Did you do the one thing I mandated, did you disciple your children?” We find that we have to be intentional about discipleship. This means that our kids don’t do many of the things their friends do. We believe it is our responsibility to help them guard their hearts and love God with every fiber of their being. Sometimes we think it would be easier to surrender and then God encourages us with a comment from one of the kids that reminds us that we are doing the right things. Nurturing our kid’s spirit is not always easy in a very busy culture, but we have made a commitment to them and believe God will honor it.