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February 5, 2015

Pastors & Parents: Shepherding The Next Generation Together


The relationship between parents and their church’s youth ministry can be an interesting one. We often say that parents are primary. This is very true, but the church also plays a vital role in shaping the next generation. In our attempt to get the relationship between youth parents and youth pastors in sync, I have seen two extremes in my 15+ years of nextgen ministry…

Pendulum Swing #1: Spiritual Outsourcing

We see parents that have have a coach for every sport, a tutor for every subject, and a minister for all the spiritual stuff in their kid’s life. Sometimes it appears that we have become a culture that drops kids off at church, asks pastors/staff to spiritually fix them, and return them later all “Christian” and cleaned up. Having issues with your kid? Just drop them off at church!

Imagine, for example, if I as a youth pastor told you: “Your job is to chauffeur your kids to school and practices, help them get good grades, and pay for all their stuff. But their spiritual formation? The most important thing in the world? That’s MY job.” (I know a few dads that might punch me if I said that.)

Somehow, though, we have fallen into this trap and in reaction to it, youth pastors and church have made statements like, “It’s the parents job to make disciples of their kids, not mine.” Or, “Why are you dropping your kid off to me to train them spiritually? Isn’t that your job?” In fact, one of the most dangerous, oversimplified and incomplete statements made by many well-intentioned pastors from our pulpits today is something like, “It’s your job (parents) to raise your kids spiritually. Not mine.”

Why is this dangerous? For this reason: I am starting to see a perilous mindset shift by parents that I did not think was possible. Parents are hearing that advice, and going to the other extreme.

Pendulum Swing #2: Arrogant Autonomy

“You’re right. These are my kids. We will be a part of the church if and only if we have time.”

“You have to sell me on why my kid needs to be active in all the stuff you do.”

I have even had a few parents say, “I am the primary spiritual force in my kid’s life, right? Why do I need the church exactly?” Incidentally, my answer?

  1. Because your child will be out from under your roof in a few years and you can’t bank on shoving a bunch of Jesus into them and expecting that to sustain them
  2. There are other kids at church that need you and your child there
  3. The Bible talks about the importance of church (Heb 10:25)

So what do we do?

How do pastors and parents shepherd the next generation – together? A friend of mine, a former youth pastor, said it best to parents:

“Pretend your church has both the best and worst youth ministry ever.”

Pretend you have the best ministry…Get them there. Give church activity the same prominent place that we tend to give baseball, dance and select tuba lessons.

Pretend you have the worst ministry…Work as hard as possible at home to spiritually form your kids, teaching them the great truths of Christ. If the church leader speaks something false, your kid’s radar should go up. Pretend that your church may offer no support and work that hard and pray that fervently as though it was only up to you and not the church.

Be fully, 100% invested at the home, and make sure your youth ministry has every opportunity to shape your kid, too. That’s how we do this.

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