“The average church has only 40 hours in a year to influence a life. The average parent has 3000 hours in a year to influence a life.”1 The most powerful role a church can take is to come alongside families and partner with them in accomplishing the role God gave them.
Remember Nehemiah. God put it on his heart (2:12) to ensure the future survival of Israel. He was in the midst of getting them to work together to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem but when they were about half done, the Israelites heard that their enemies were plotting to stop them. Nehemiah rallies the workers with these words, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (4:14)
Adolescence can be discouraging to parents. Sometimes the picture of what they thought their family would be like during these years is different than the reality. Some begin backing away at the very moment when their children most need them. They might not know how to fight for their families though they would, valiantly, if they did. The church can help them develop the right “weaponry” in the battle for their child’s spiritual survival.
Weaponry? Powerful weapons make all the difference in the war for the hearts and minds of the next generation. Here are just a few…
1. Starting early, help students develop five or more positive adult relationships with other Christians. Those five relationships may not seem very important at age three but as parental influence wanes in the adolescent years it is reassuring to know that other adults, with similar values, will tell youth what their parents would. The church can help by getting the message out that this is important and helping parents, “see into the future.” The research is quite clear. It is far less likely that their child will be involved in risk taking behavior2 and far more likely that they will stay connected to the church as a young adult3 if those relationships are in place. Parents can actively work to help those relationships develop.
2. Parents are programmed more than ever to over protect and over provide but children still grow up. The question is…will they leave home? While youth workers will need to be even better at keeping parents informed, starting the conversation early helps raise the flags that need to be raised. Helping families learn to trust in their child’s strengths and to trust the story God is writing in their life is vital. And it might be time for everyone to start noticing and speaking about what is happening to boys and young men5 in our society. What skills will they need to become spiritual leaders in their homes someday?
3. Helping students see adults growing spiritually, what feeds their faith, and that mistakes are made, recognized, confessed and forgiven is not a bad thing. It’s important that the church not make “certain kinds” of families feel like they are second class. There is no perfection in family life. Certainly we don’t want to advocate some mythical “Biblical approach to parenting.” The Bible is full of adultery, disobedient children, and foolish or brutal behavior, murder and more…all within families! All parents…single, married, divorced, step, adopted…they love their kids and want to do what is best for them. The church gets to come alongside, offering God’s Grace, reminding them of the restoring and transformative power of the Gospel and meeting them where they are.
4. Learning skills that build relationships and maximize family functioning. Leading with empathy; dealing with conflict; learning from the consequences of actions; accepting responsibility; conquering challenges; managing money and stewardship of time; how to listen; how to talk to one another about what God is doing in each other’s live; handling sexuality; how to forgive…youth need these skills as much as their parents. We all do. Why wouldn’t the church family be a place for us to tackle these topics while learning about God’s plans for his people.
5. Service and significance–think about the mighty impact a mission trip or servant event has on students. Providing opportunities that help young people and their families learn how to “be the church” and not just “go to church” can have a powerful impact on long term faith. Do families have an opportunity to hear from the student who has just returned from a mission trip, to process together a life deeply touched by a service to others? The church can help by facilitating the process for communication and offering ways for the family unit to respond to and nurture a passion in their student’s life.
Sources for this Article
1. Joiner, Reggie, Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide, D.C Jacobsen and Associates LLC, 2009.
2. 40 Developmental Assets Research, http://www.search-institute.org/40-developmental-assets-children-grades-k%E2%80%933.
3. Kelly, Mark, Lifeway Research, Parents, Churches Can Help Teens Stay, In Church, http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/files/lwcF_bcl_tvt_ReconsiderVOL3NO1-v2.pdf.
4. Marano, Hara Estroff, A Nation of Wimps, November 01, 2004 – last reviewed on January 23, 2011By http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps.
5. Tyre, Peg, The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do, Crown Publishing, 2008.
Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, Connect Your Family to a Wider Community, Reggie Joyner and Carey Nieuwhof, (forward by Jeff Foxworthy), D.C Jacobsen and Associates LLC, 2010
Youth Ministry Basics, Various Authors, Concordia Publishing House