Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

14 Jul

Published Article 1-the Spiritual Formation of Children & Youth: Parents & The Church

Posted in Uncategorized on 14.07.10 by Merlyn

Published in Connections Magazine (July/Aug 2010)

Learn about Connections here

The Spiritual Formation of Children and Youth: Parents and the Church

By Rev. Marcus J Carlson

There is no question that the spiritual formation of children is important. Jesus Himself said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). While we do not question the importance of the spiritual development and formation of children, many other questions plague parents and the church. Who is responsible for the spiritual formation of children? How do we “do” spiritual formation for children?

We live in a nation of rugged individualism and consumerism. We take a consumer approach to everything in our culture, including the church. We seek out churches with strong programs that ‘”meet our needs” and help us achieve our goals. Nowhere is this more profoundly true than our ministries to children and youth.

Christian education, children’s ministries and youth ministries have become places where parents bring their children in hopes that the church might raise them spiritually. The church has obliged, and continues to create programs to attract and retain children and youth. Unfortunately, in some cases this has created a mindset where the church has become a childcare service instead of a ministry.

Churches have not done a good job at listening to the needs of parents and families. It would be easy to blame parents, but the responsibility lies both with the church and with our families. The situation we find ourselves in is regrettable, but not intentional. Our youth feel abandoned and alone as the church has not always known how to really meet the spiritual needs of teenagers. However, perhaps more than ever before in the history of the American church, there is a desire for a deeper and more intimate relationship with God. Parents in our churches today care deeply about the spiritual life of their children, and know that they need to have a significant role. The church is starting to recognize that our children and youth need more than programs to educate them. Hope abounds!

So, what’s the answer? We need a new paradigm, a new way of doing things. God has called parents to a very special

ministry as they raise their children. It is the highest call that God has offered humanity. Parents are the spiritual leaders of their children, not the church. That said, parents often feel overwhelmed by and afraid of what it means to be the spiritual leaders of their children. The church needs to serve as a complement—not a supplement—to what parents do as the spiritual leaders of their children and youth.

Additionally, the church needs to focus its energy in children, youth and family ministries on partnering with parents. Programs are wonderful tools, and they are just that— tools. Our programs should intentionally equip and build up parents and families so they can fulfill their roles as the spiritual leaders of their children.

In future articles, I hope to share with you what we can do together as parents, families and the church to draw our youth and children into deep, authentic relationships with Jesus Christ. There is no lack of suffering, pain, and confusion in the world, but we have the only true source of hope that is Jesus Christ.

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