The Habits That We Make: Parents

We all have habits, some intentionally developed and others not. Looking closely at both intentional and unintentional habits for Christians and the church helps us to see both helpful and harmful consequences for youth and their families. This series is designed to explore habits that need to be reconsidered or broken entirely and provide encouragement and recommendations for churches and adults who work with youth. In this second article, we are talking about parents and their harmful habits.

Here is something that I have witnessed many times within my congregation, and I would imagine you have in your congregation as well.  It is Sunday morning and kids are being brought into Sunday school by their parents, but after the kids are in their classrooms, some, if not most, of those same parents then leave the building, and I ask myself, “Why are they not going to Bible study?”

This story reflects two harmful habits that I believe are causing notable harm when it comes to Biblical education for children: one, parents not growing in their own Biblical education and, two, parents expecting the church and its workers to be the primary teachers of the Christian faith for their children.

How are parents supposed be the primary educators of the faith for their own children if they themselves don’t grow in their understanding of God’s Word and if they often rely on church workers to take that role instead?

Now, do not get me wrong, there is a place for church workers to teach the faith to children, especially in the unfortunate situations where a child’s parent is not interested in the spiritual well-being of the child.  That is a reason why youth groups, Sunday school, and parochial schools are wonderful blessings that proclaim the goodness of Jesus even without parents!  However, please don’t miss my simple point that many parents, but not all, have gotten in the habit, whether intentional or unintentional, of not being the primary teachers of the faith and simply relying on church workers to do the work for them, generally speaking.

To illustrate, many confirmation classes, though I have noticed a change lately, simply have kids being dropped off for the pastor or DCE to teach them and then they get picked up when done.  Why are the parents not there learning with their children?  That is a question that congregations and its workers need to wrestle with.  However, this does lead me to a recommendation: Have the parents involved in their children’s Christian faith walk at church, such as having parents attend confirmation with their children!

This is currently happening here at St. John’s Lutheran Church-Yankton, SD.  Our Family Discipleship Ministry, formerly Confirmation, places parents as the primary teachers of the faith, where the Pastors and myself still teach not only the children, but the parents as well.  So when I teach a Family Discipleship class, I am teaching the kids, but teaching as a secondary teacher to the children and a primary teacher to the parents.  This allows for parents to confidently go back home with their children and discuss and apply what was just taught to them both!

Having parents as a regular, active part of confirmation is becoming more widespread. Yet, not every parent is going to feel competent and confident in teaching the faith. Rather than allowing the habit to form of the church and its workers being the primary teachers of the faith, congregations should instead consider how parents can be trained and given resources to approach things like family devotions, faith conversations around the dinner table, faith education, and prayer together. Encouraging and equipping parents not only benefits them, but their children as well.

About the author

Josh is the Director of Christian Education at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Yankton, SD. He received his DCE Certification and Master’s Degree in Theology from Concordia-Irvine. He is married to his wonderful wife, Ellen, and they’ve been blessed with amazing children.
View more from Joshua

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