I case you haven’t been following my recent posts, I have been blogging about how youth ministry has been failing at its stated goal of making committed, fruitful, passionate disciples of Jesus Christ. I see this failure stemming from a number of factors many of which reside in the fact that most youth ministries to not adequately promote the family as the primary avenue of discipleship (see my previous post: What is Wrong with Youth Ministry? Some Stats and a Proposal). Youth ministry must begin to not only equip parents for ministry in the home, but also to value, promote, and encourage discipleship in the family at church. This means the effectiveness of youth ministry in the church is tied directly to the faithfulness of individual families to disciple their children in the home.
Scripture clearly teaches that it is the parents who are to be the primary disciplers of their children (Deut. 6:7, Eph. 6:4), but what about those youth in our midst whose parents are not supportive of the student ministry? What about those parents who do not want to be spiritually involved in their child’s life?
Here is briefly what we need to do:
First we need to seek out such parents. We as a church (parents, youth leaders, other adults and students) ought to visit them in their home and explain to them what we are doing in the youth ministry as well as see if they might be open to hearing the gospel. If this young person’s parents are lost, then we need to share the gospel with them. If this young person’s parents are members of the church then they need to be held accountable for both their membership in the local church as well as their responsibility to diligently teach their children to seek the Lord. Having students whose parents are disengaged doesn’t throw a wrench in the family-driven model of student ministry–the fact that parents are disengaged simply raises the stakes for the church in reaching out to such parents and their students who are involved.
There will likely be students whose parents refuse to support what we are doing at the church despite our efforts to reach out to them. In such cases, the church must attempt to (the church cannot replace the family altogether) make up for the spiritual void of godly adults that the students has due to unbelieving parents. James 1:27 says, “this is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” Students who do not have godly parents are spiritual orphans in our midst and it is the church’s responsibility to help fill the void of spiritual upbringing that is missing. The church cannot raise such children, but the church can invest time into such children. We need to plug as many godly adults into the lives of such students as possible. Families in the church with students need to invite such students into their homes and seek to model what a godly home looks like. We need to be active in investing in such students lives as well as in plugging other adults into their lives.
We need to do all these things with a mind to respect the student’s parents but also to diligently help and invest in them. There is always hope that the student’s growth will result in the parents taking an interest in our churches-for God “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).