If you are a Christian parent, you undoubtedly care about the spiritual condition of your children. But who exactly is responsible for teaching them about God’s ways and discipling them to walk in the truth? Is the job up to parents or discipleship ministries? The Bible instructs parents and the church to disciple children, but how much weight should each one feel? In reality, both should feel the weight. However, there are two ditches Christians can fall into when they emphasize one over the other:
Ditch 1: Parents at the Expense of the Church
Parents have an enormous responsibility placed on their shoulders. Biblical commands to parents abound (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4), but is it possible to overemphasize the family? Parents fall into this ditch when they fail to emphasize active participation in the church. A family can become too reclusive, routinely giving up opportunities to serve or to invite other Christians into their home. Some parents might be suspicious of any influence outside of their own or neglect age-appropriate teaching from the church. When parents fall into this ditch, their children no longer have opportunities to learn from and serve other believers or to benefit from the rich diversity of God’s people.
Ditch 2: Church at the Expense of the Parents
This ditch is probably more common. Parents fall into it when they begin to view church leaders as “discipleship experts” and ignore or overlook their own responsibility. Either from feeling poorly equipped or from lack of planning, parents can fall into the trap of leaving discipleship to the trained ministers and volunteers. They may feel that, by dropping their children off at discipleship ministries like youth group or Sunday school, they have done their duty. Church becomes a “spiritual appointment” for children (and parents) in an otherwise packed week. When parents fall into this ditch, they neglect the avenue that God uses to bring many to faith—the daily intentional example and instruction given in a Christian home.
Parents + Church: Equal Partners
At College Park, we believe the Bible makes a case for an equal partnership between church and home.
Parents absolutely have the primary responsibility for the discipleship of their children. But God has given the church as a gift and a partner (1 Tim. 5:1-2). Just as with adults, the church provides disicpleship ministries, trained ministers, and skilled volunteers to teach age-appropriate content to children. In addition, the church provides opportunities for children to learn by example from a variety of individuals to reinforce the good example they have at home. And let’s not forget that not everyone comes from a family where home-based discipleship can even be a reality. Some parents are new Christians and desperately need the help of the church. Others come from broken or unique family structures (an increasing likelihood in our era). Some older children come on their own or with a friend and don’t benefit from any Christian influence at home.
It is for this reason that College Park seeks to partner with parents in discipling children. For the children with parents eager to disciple, we try to ensure that what we do supplements and partners with what they receive at home. And for children in other circumstances, we try to ensure that our people, content, and methods are sufficient to disciple these children, by God’s grace, toward a lifetime of faithful fruitfulness.