Who is Responsible to Disciple my Kids?

Is it the church or me?

Discipleship is something parents and pastors need to take seriously and engage in together. When I first started in kids ministry over twenty years ago, the primary discipleship of children was the responsibility of the church. Over the past ten years or so the pendulum has swung from the church being primary to the church pushing parents to be primary in the discipleship of their kids and the church cheering them on. The result has been in my opinion less discipleship.

The answer to the discipleship of the next generation is not either or but both and. How can the church be intentional about discipline kids and how can parents make church an important aspect of their kids lives because of that. At the same time, how can parents disciple their kids more intentionally and how can the church resource and encourage that?

Why church discipleship is necessary

If you crush whatever initiative you set up for parents to do at home, you will only get at best 25% to 30% participation leaving 70% without the benefit of your discipleship resource. If we only view discipleship as parent driven and avoid things like VBS and other church driven initiatives many kids will miss out. Another issue we need to address is some kids come to church with grandparents or friends, and their parents will never be the primary disciplers of their kids. As kids grow, their friends will have more influence on them than their parents. As a community of faith, we need to provide a place where kids can grow in their faith even if it isn’t a value at home.

Why home discipleship is necessary

The modern America family is more transient than ever. People move to different states, different churches, different denominations like never before in history. We may never have them long enough to develop their kids and nurture their faith so we need resources they can take with them on the journey. Particularly early in life parents have more influence than anyone else on who their kids are becoming. Parents need encouragement and help.

Here are some things we try to do at our church to disciple kids.

  1. New City Catechism each week from preschool to college.
  2. Story-Based Discipleship class for Jr. High Kids.
  3. Small Groups
  4. Internship
  5. Worldview/Theology Immersion Week
  6. VBS

Here are some things you can try at home to disciple your kids.

  1. Family WorshipWe use this book at our house.
  2. New City Catechism Why Catechism? 
  3. Reading Classic Works with your kids – Leland Ryken has some great books to help you navigate the classics – Also Karen Swallow Prior’s new book would be helpful
  4. Spirit led conversations
  5. Student Discipleship Guide

The goal of discipleship is not what we do to be acceptable to God but rather how is our conformity into the image of God affecting our life and practice. How are we intentionally forming the loves of our kid’s hearts? James K. A. Smith says it this way

“Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.”

This happens on purpose, not on accident. Not overnight but over time. May we as pastors and parents be curators of hearts rather than only informers of intellects.

Recruiting Volunteers: Who and How to Recruit

The question I get asked most via email and at conferences is always about recruiting volunteers. How do we get more volunteers? How do we keep volunteers? In kids ministry, you need more volunteers than any ministry in the church to know how to recruit volunteers and retain volunteers is essential you will not last without learning this crucial skill.

Ask Don’t Beg.

There is a massive difference between asking for help from the stage of from the bulletin and asking people for help face to face. When I was starting in Kids Ministry, I lost a lot of volunteers, so I started getting desperate and was going to go on the stage to ask for help. I didn’t have anyone I knew who was doing kids ministry, so the only thing I could think to do was get in front of everyone and ask for help. I was all set to do just that, and I felt like I shouldn’t do the bulletin stage ask. I felt like I should ask people personally and ask God personally in prayer. So that’s what I did.

I learned two things. 1. People you ask will serve longer and more faithfully than people you beg. Begging gets immediate results, but in my experience, those people don’t last more than a few months. I have many volunteers that are still serving twenty-one years later that I had initially asked personally. 2. Prayer is your greatest recruitment tool. We try and fix things on our own, but they rarely end up where we hope they would. This is God’s grace guiding us back to his heart. To total dependence on him. Ask people to serve but never forget to ask God to send them.

Who Should I Ask?

The more you ask people, the better you get at knowing who to invite and who we shouldn’t ask. Here are some of the practical things I learned about who you should ask to help in kids ministry.

  1. Dads typically don’t drop their kids off if they do make sure you talk with them. Dads involved in their kids lives to that level are generally great volunteers.
  2. Watch how parents interact with their kids. That will tell you a lot about how they would interact with other kids.
  3. Ask people what they do for work. I have found nurses, stay at home moms, social workers, and teachers all make excellent volunteers in Kids Ministry.
  4. Watch people in settings where there are lots of kids present are they aware of what the kids around them are doing or are they so engrossed in conversation they have no idea what is going on. Those who notice the kids running around are typically good volunteers.

Lead with Vision, not with Need

I remember having a difficult time getting preschool teachers. I had a waiting list in elementary but preschool was so hard to get help. I remember praying and asking God what was wrong with people not wanting to help in preschool. I felt God say as he often does the problem isn’t them it’s me.

I was asking people and essentially saying “I know you are busy, and preschool kids can be a lot but really could use help could you help out.” Not the best way to ask. I felt like in my times of prayer for leaders to lead preschool God says that teaching preschool is a privilege because it is the first time these kids will hear about God ever. If they are in families where they understand about God it will be the first time they hear the Gospel from someone who isn’t a relative. Teaching preschool kids isn’t a favor to be fulfilled but a responsibility and an honor. Lead with vision, not with need.

How to recruit well?

  1. Ask personally don’t beg publicly.

  2. Learn to spot who to ask.

  3. Lead with vision, not with need.

Should I Let My Teenager Date?

Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, I was right in the middle of the Evangelical whiplash cultural course correction following the social revolution of the ’60s and ’70s. This produced youth ministries at the time serving up a steady diet of Hells Bells and True Love Waits.

Purity Rings and True Love Waits

It seemed, growing up in that era, that the great enemies of the Evangelical church were Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. Drugs and Rock and Roll were solved by creating a subculture of Christian Music. Sex was addressed by creating the purity culture. The goal was good, but the application of that goal I think was very harmful. Wanting kids to live Holy lives is a good thing. Kids need to understand the importance of Sanctification in the Christian life. The way in which it was taught was not helpful to kids or the church as a whole.

I’m talking about youth meetings where a youth pastor chewed a piece of gum and then offered it to someone else to chew. Of course, they would refuse. They’d then pull out a rose and tell the boys to pass it around while they talked about keeping yourself for marriage. At the end they would ask for the rose back. It was bent and broken. The youth pastor would say, “nobody wants something that is used.” Once a youth pastor said, “If you kiss a girl who you don’t marry you are kissing another man’s wife.” The church in the ’90s in its fear of sexual revolution created a sexual revolution of its own.

The problem is not the calling out the misappropriate use of Sex and Rock and Roll from the generation before them. The problem was trying to fix hearts and broken culture with only rules. “This beat is sinful,” and, “No one wants used things,” both come from a human perspective of trying to keep kids away from something. Rather, they could have challenged them to live for something, painting a picture of a God who redeems broken things.

Should my kid…

Should my kid date? I say yes. In the high school years, kids are learning the basic tools for life, hopefully with the guidance of a loving adult. My advice, which goes against the grain of the ’90s purity culture, is for your kids to have many meaningful friendships with members of the opposite sex. The advent of technology has isolated our kids and taught them that real friendships consist of likers of their airbrushed photos. Friendship is a dying art in need of revitalization. Lewis in his book The Four Loves says:

“To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.”

I am convinced that our kids need to learn the art of friend-making and friend-keeping. They need to learn to have a conversation, with someone of the opposite sex, because should they get married they will need to be talking to their spouse daily. The time in high school should not be dominated by serious exclusive relationships but should be a time, where with the help of loving adults, our kids learn how to be good friends.

Kids need to learn how to have face to face conversation that isn’t awkward with the opposite sex. They need to learn what types of texting is appropriate. They need to learn how to treat people that they are attracted to and how to treat people that they aren’t attracted to. How can this happen if the boys sit on one side of the room and the girls on the other? I don’t believe the path to marriage starts though sexual attraction. I think it begins through meaningful friendships.

Friendship with others starts with understanding whose we are.

I dated several women before I married my wife, Sandra. None of those relationships detracted from my relationship with Sandra. They clarified for me who I was looking for and what I found in my wife. The problems in the single dating culture in the church aren’t solved with a lowering of standards, they’re resolved by asking the right questions and starting in the right place. We are asking, “should we date,” –  the question should be, “are my relationships God-honoring or self-gratifying?” We should not ask, “How far can I go and still be ‘pure’ as a Christian,” but rather, “To whom do I belong.”

The problem with the purity culture of the ’90s was not the concern of a hypersexualized culture. The problem was that the starting point and goal were not God. When man is the starting point and imperatives of our sermons being a used piece of gum or bent flower, you end up with crazy weird applications of truth. You got off course. When you start with God and understand that you belong to him, you are free to have meaningful friendships. Suddenly, you see others as image bearers, rather than objects which have been created by a loving God to reveal to you his mercy and grace, much of which can only be experienced in the gift of friendship.

I remember hearing years later Matt Chandler preach a message about that rose: that no one wants because it was broken and used. He ends the video with poignant finality, “Jesus wants the rose. That’s the point of the Gospel!” This is what the purity movement missed in their desire to protect kids from harm. It missed the gospel. Such a powerful message of our God who redeems. Jesus wants the rose.

Looking For Advent Resources For Your Family?

Christmas is such a significant time to teach our kids the value of Christ to show them a God who came near. There is so much of our faith that our kids have to grow into. Some things will forever be a mystery, but one thing kids can understand is babies. Jesus, the God-man, becoming a baby. Kids need to know why he came and how he comes. I love how beautifully Sally Lloyd-Jones describes the coming of Christ.

“Everything was ready. The moment Go had been waiting for was here at last! God was coming to help his people just as he promised in the beginning. But how would he come? What would he be like? What would he do?
Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held its breath. As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, he came.”

Advent is Christ coming into our darkness where we least expect it when we least expect it. He came. He came.

Happy Advent.

The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent

Every Christmas, Christians all over the world celebrate the Advent season, recognizing the love, hope, joy, and peace that is found only in Jesus Christ. Through this devotional, Scott James brings to light the many promises of Christ―from birth to ascension―that demonstrate His love for us during this Christmas season. These daily devotions, which are designed for both family and individual use, are timeless and moving reminders of the true gift of Christmas.

The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas

Benjamin is a Watchman. It’s his job to watch for the sign that all God’s promises are coming true to watch a stump.

The trouble is, it’s hard just waiting. And one night, Benjamin finally gives in and stops watching. But that same night, as he sits outside Bethlehem, he gets to watch something wonderful.

Kids will be gripped by what Benjamin saw and will be excited by the Christmas story all over again.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I did a blog post a few years ago that we unexpectedly discovered that there are 24 Bible stories that lead to the Christmas story in Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book. We read one each day. If you haven’t figured it out already, we are big fans of all people named Lloyd-Jones in the Luce house.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas

I love Ann’s passion for the gospel as evidenced in her writing. Gratitude is more than a good idea it’s a sign of a life marked by the gospel of Christ. In Ann’s latest offering she has produced an Advent devotional that is as beautifully illustrated as it is written.

Lifeway Family Advent Guide

Here is a reproducible, email attachable, family advent guide that you can share with families in your ministry. We hope these will help to focus your ministry emphasis this season and lead families to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.

The Advent Storybook From David C. Cook

Add The Advent Storybook to your family holiday traditions and enjoy the rich images and thoughtful retellings of ancient stories that feature God’s recurring, faithful promise to rescue us. A simple question at the end of each story helps readers engage in understanding the bigger story God wants us all to know—the good news of Jesus coming to save us. Parents and children alike will delight in the biblical messages of joy, hope, and peace every day as they look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Prepare Him Room

Guide kids and their families into the heart of Christmas with this gospel-focused, four-week Advent curriculum.

Prepare Him Room by children’s best-selling author Marty Machowski takes a biblical, theological approach to the Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfillment in Christ in a way kids can understand.

With age-appropriate instruction and activities for three different learning levels—preschool, lower elementary, and upper elementary—Prepare Him Room builds gospel hope and enduring theological depth into each child’s celebration of Christmas.

Family Advent

My friend Jenny Smith has a great resource for advent a website that you can go to each and click on the number that coordinates with the date. They will then be linked to a devotional for that day. Each devotional includes:

  • a few verses of Scripture to read together (there are also links where you can read it online and even have it read to you)
  • some discussion thoughts and questions
  • a suggested activity to do together
  • usually some online activity, either a video to watch together or a game to play (please know that we have no control over other content that YouTube links or promotes)
  • a prayer prompt for your family

Parents What Message are You Preaching to Your Kids.

One of the more sobering realities in the life of a parent is that your life is preaching a message to your kids. They will leave your house with the message that your life preached ringing in their ears. When I first became aware of this reality, I started listening to myself. You know what message I was preaching? I kept saying “Stay safe and be careful.” I was teaching my kids that risk is wrong. That stepping out into the unknown is not worth it. I have since been more intentional about what I preach with my words and actions.
Recently one of my favorite Pastor/authors Eugene Peterson passed away. At his funeral, Peterson’s son described the one message his father preached in his church and to his family through his life.

“Eugene Peterson’s son Leif said at the funeral that his dad only had one sermon – that he had everyone fooled for 29 years of pastoral ministry, that for all his books he only had one message. It was a secret Leif said his dad had let him in on early in life. It was a message that Leif said his dad had whispered in his heart for 50 years. He remembered these words that his dad had snuck into his room when he was a child to say over him as he was sleeping:

“God loves you.
God is on your side.
He is coming after you.
He is relentless.”*

Eugene Peterson spent his life in a small church preaching a profound message to his church and his kids. One that he often repeated with his words and by the grace of God his words matched his life. Peterson was faithful to his small church he did not need to be a superstar he wasn’t captivated by fame. Bono from U2 called him and invited him to come to visit his home on the French Rivera, Peterson politely turned Bono down because he was in the midst of translating the book of Isaiah. After Eugene got off the phone with Bono, Peterson’s wife looked shocked and said: “You aren’t going?” He said “No” she then said “But it’s Bono!” to which Peterson replied, “But it’s Isaiah!”

He lived the message of a relentlessly loving God in the context of his local church and the life of his family. His life message was that a loving God who created us is in relentless pursuit of us. That will preach. May God give me the grace to preach this very message to me first and my church and family second.

* Quote taken from Glenn Packiam twitter feed.