There’s no debating it. God plans for healthy, mature, God-fearing parents to raise their kids to love and know God through their consistent, daily exhortations and demonstration of the truth of God’s Word. As we are told in Deuteronomy 6:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them 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.
But those of us who work with kids at church know that, all too often, parents aren’t living up to this passage. By the time kids enter early adolescence (10-14 years of age), many families have literally given up. Some parents are doing all they can, but don’t know how to shepherd their own kids. Some are prevented from doing so by life issues. Some parents just aren’t around anymore. And those of us trying to nurture our kids spiritually will be the first to say we could use all the help the church has to offer!
Instead of becoming the prime source for spiritual nurture for preteens, churches need to partner with parents for the sake of our kids. If we want to have maximum impact on preteens, we must work with their families. As leaders we can provide kids with excellent, age-appropriate ministries at church and help parents and families be more successful in their God-given responsibilities. It’s exciting to see many churches and families realizing that it’s a partnership – both/and, not either/or!
In The Family-Friendly Church, Ben Freudenberg and Rick Lawrence report the results of Search Institute’s study on factors that nurture faith in kids:
“There is little debate about the importance of family in shaping people’s lives, including their physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological and social development. But we sometimes forget that the family is just as important in the area of spiritual or faith development. This study examined several ways families express faith in the home – each of which is extremely important for nurturing a dynamic faith.
“Four family practices are particularly important in helping young people grow in faith (both in childhood and adolescence):
1. Talking about faith with your mother.
2. Talking about faith with your father.
3. Having family devotions or prayer.
4. Doing family projects to help other people.
“Fewer than one-third of youth report that any of the above activities happen often – either in their past or present – and adults are even less likely to remember these experiences in their childhood and adolescence. It is hardly surprising, then, that parents – most of who did not experience nurturing of their faith in their own growing-up years – need help nurturing their children’s faith.”
So how can we help the families of preteens? I’ll be addressing that question in this blog over the next few days and will share several excerpts from our book, Preteen Ministry Smart Pages (Gospel Light Publishing).