Lately I have been thinking about the strategy that the church uses as a means to encourage the spiritual formation of others, specifically children. The following is the beginning of a series of articles that attempts to understand how we can do this (better).
Before any effective and biblical strategy can be developed, the church must understand its role and how it relates to the role of the home. If the church does all the intentional spiritual teaching and the parents do little or no intentional spiritual teaching, then the child suffers. This reliance of the parent upon the church is not only a poor use of time, but also an abdication of their God given responsibility. Children are highly influenced by the environment around them. Parents spend far more time with their children than the typical Childrenâ€™s Ministry teacher on Sunday morning. If a child attends a school, then he is further influenced by that schoolâ€™s philosophy of education and by their peers around them. The Childrenâ€™s Ministry teacher spends far less time with the student than any other major influence in their lives. However, if the parents are relying on a one hour a week Sunday morning program to educate their children in Christian foundations, the church has to fight against these other influences that have far more access to the child.
Barna has said, â€œWhen a churchâ€”intentionally or notâ€”assumes a familyâ€™s responsibilities in the arena of spiritually nurturing children, it fosters an unhealthy dependence upon the church to relieve the family of its biblical responsibilityâ€ The church and the home are partners. The home bears most, if not all, of the responsibility and the church bears the biblical mandate to supplement that teaching and to give biblical guidance. Since there is this preferred symbiotic relationship between the church and the home, it would be in the best interest of each to work together. Also, the church has no oversight regarding the activities the child does when they are away from the church classroom. It is the parentâ€™s responsibility to have oversight of the child and to keep him safe.
Fields, while relating specifically to youth ministry, gives several ideas on how to bring the home and church together. Developing a growing relationship between the churchâ€™s educational team and the parents is very important. Fields says, â€œIt is impossible to create healthy teamwork with people you donâ€™t know.â€ As this relationship develops, parents can inform the teachers of issues that are going on in the studentâ€™s individual lives in times of difficulty. As the children grow older, the parentâ€™s control and influence will decrease. This may bring feelings of fear, inadequacy, abandonment, or failure. By working together the church has invaluable background about the students, and the parents have a support network. Another benefit of working together is that the weekly flow of life can be better managed. The home and the church can work together to ensure that both calendars are balanced. If a childrenâ€™s ministry has an event planned and desires for it to be a success, then it needs to make sure the parents are aware of it and thoroughly informed well in advance. Many precious resources have been wasted, when a church event or program is planned and few people show up. The same is true for the home. Once parents are committed (financially or personally) to an activity, they feel as though they miss out on a much desired church activity.
(blogger won’t let me add footnotes, so there are many assumptions above that I will footnote elsewhere.)