This question is a follow-up to an earlier post concerning the place of parents in training children.
I’m in complete agreement with your quote from the blog (March 31, 2006): “Training children to worship God is primarily the parent’s responsibility, not the church’s.” But does that mean that you shut down the nurseries and cancel children’s church?
The priority Scripture gives to parents training their children to know and worship God (Eph. 6:1-2; Deut. 6:7; 2 Tim. 3:14-15) doesn’t negate the role of the church in working towards the same end. However, the church is often seen as a replacement for the parents, rather than a support to them. In the case of young children with non-Christian parents, the church is wise to take an active role in helping children come to know the only Savior of the world. However, we’re shortsighted if we fail to teach and equip parents to be the primary disciplers of their children.
At my home church, Covenant Life Church, we offer separate space for parents to oversee infants and toddlers, and a children’s ministry (offered, not required) for children through the 4th grade. Our children’s ministry is committed to serving as a support to parents in training their children. So I asked two of the guys who have been responsible for the children’s ministry at Covenant Life Church, Chris Silard and Mike Bradshaw, to respond to this question. Chris wrote:
The “primary” role of the parents doesn’t mean “exclusive or only”. If it was an exclusive role, then we shouldn’t have 10- 13 year olds, etc. listening to our sermons. We believe that our teaching role shouldn’t be a replacement for parental teaching, but a helpful guide for what parents should be emphasizing in their training, an equipping context with follow-up materials that reinforce our partnership with them, and a preparatory time where the seeds of the gospel are being planted and watered which should lead into an eventual entrance into the adult context and community.
We are currently seeking to develop materials for parents to use at home that allow us to more effectively “partner” with them and equip them to train at home.
Mike commented on how “children’s church” can serve parents in ways the larger Sunday meeting doesn’t always accomplish:
A few of the advantages to having classes tailored to children on Sundays are:
Instructing children in an age appropriate way from the whole of God’s Word. Even among children there is a wide range of cognitive levels, which affect vocabulary, medium of teaching, length of teaching, and expectations.
Singing songs that primarily proclaim God and His greatness through simple metaphors (Almighty, Your Love) rather than primarily reflective/responsive songs (Open the Eyes of My Heart, I Love You Lord). The effect of this is that even unbelieving children are instructed through song about who God is.
Helping children involve their whole bodies as they sing (lips, hands, feet), and instructing them on why this is appropriate in worshipping God.
Using games, object lessons, drama, and puppetry and other interactive elements that would not be used in the “Big Meeting,” to help them grasp the meaning of biblical truths and the Gospel.
Each local church would be wise to consider questions like these:
What can we do to make our main meeting more “child friendly?”
Possibilities include children’s sermon outlines, explaining big words, and including children in sermon illustrations or applications. It’s not uncommon for the teaching pastor to address children and/or youth when drawing out the implications of a passage of Scripture in his message.
Do we view our children’s ministry as replacing or supporting parents in training their children?
It’s God’s ultimate intention that parents be the primary influence on their children, even though we may also be serving children with unbelieving parents. Examine your procedures, expectations, and fruit. It would be helpful to ask some parents what their perspective is.
In what practical ways does our church and/or children’s ministry serve parents?
We might have a desire to serve parents, but no actual mechanism in place for doing so. We offer regular parenting seminars to serve parents in this area, and our bookstore carries numerous books to encourage parents. Not only must parental responsibility be preached from the pulpit and
modeled by the leaders, the church must do whatever it can to help
parents in the high calling of raising the next generation for God’s
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