Do you want your son or daughter thriving in a church family when they are in their late 20’s or would you rather spend hours in prayer that they would return to the church? Do you want your grandchildren raised in the church or do you want them asking their parents what a church is?
Parents typically spend more time talking with a public school teacher about the well-being of their child than they do with ministers called to spiritually nurture their child. The time has come for pastors to interact with parents on a whole new level.
After twenty years of pastoral ministry, I have come to trust the results of five action steps that greatly increase the likelihood that the next generation effectively carries the torch of the gospel. If parents and pastors remain on the same page concerning these action steps then there is a strong likelihood that all involved have done what they can do to help our children and teens experience a vibrant, authentic and rich spiritual walk. I share these with you not just as my original thoughts but more so as results of a Barna study of over 20,000 students. (www.barna.com/research/5-reasons-millennials-stay-connected-to-church/)
Here is a summary of the study.
Teens need a meaningful mentoring type relationship not just with their parents or their pastors. There is a need for strong youth leaders and older students to listen and empathize, challenge and encourage today’s young believer. People who don’t submit to authority never really have any in life. “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6).
- Reverse Mentoring
Our children need to be given opportunities to mentor/serve others consistently. Older students should be teaching younger children in the church. There are places for teens to serve at church, in the community and around the world, consistently. Reverse mentoring is a great killer of both egocentrism and a deadly sense of entitlement. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
- Learning to Defend the Faith
Our students need instruction as to how to interact with a culture that opposes their faith. Logic, reason and an apologetic defense of the gospel needs to be provided before a peer’s or a professor’s opposition begins. Juniors in high school should ideally be getting prepared to give an answer for what they believe not what their parents believe. True science and logic are no enemies of the truth. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
- Practical Instruction
Each student needs practical instruction as to how to understand the Bible and how to establish spiritual disciplines at home but also with their peers. We must come up with a weapon against biblical illiteracy in this nation. Parents, its likely your fault. You have all week; your youth pastor has an hour? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
- Calling/Direction in Life
So much time and money is often spent experimenting with academic degrees in hopes of discovering one’s true calling and passion in life. Education is changing drastically. College isn’t always an answer. What is important is an understanding of who a student is, who they are not and where is there a personal passion that exceeds apathy and a lack of initiative. What “drives” us is usually God-given. Every student is unique. Love each equally but treat each uniquely. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
I think it is a great idea for parents and pastors alike to review this study and talk about implementing a creative strategy for developing this next generation. Many parents think it is the role of the church to disciple their children. Many pastors need to look at what over 20,000 students are telling us about God, church and their neighbors. “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).
Dr. Gary Hewins is the President of Lifepoints.org, www.lifepoints.org, a coaching and consulting ministry to ministry leaders and preachers and the Senior Pastor of Community Bible Church in the picturesque mountains of Highlands, NC.