Editor’s note: this article appears in the Spring 2022 issue of Southwestern News.
After high school graduation, about half of youth group members walk away from the church, about forty percent become adult pew sitters who make little difference for the kingdom, and about ten percent follow Christ as disciples who impact the kingdom.
Age-group ministry with teenagers matters, and it does contribute to lifetime faith. But moving parents into spiritual leadership with their children is an even more powerful way to develop future adults who will impact the kingdom all their lives.
Lead parents to restore their “first love” in Jesus. Trying to change the behavior and practices of parents without changing their hearts is a dead-end street. Leading parents with cold hearts to rediscover their first love in Jesus must precede any other initiative. Many parents have drifted so far from Christ that they almost need to meet Him all over again.
The good news is that parents with newly-awakened hearts will want to become spiritually important to their children and begin new practices in their homes. They will want their faces to glow and their eyes to sparkle when they speak of Jesus at home.
Call parents with restored hearts to choose a new “best” for their children. Shallow parents consider the happiness and success of their children to be the best. They want to see their children excel in athletics, academics, or the arts now to achieve financial prosperity as adults. On the other hand, parents with awakened hearts place the highest value on seeing children joining King Jesus in bringing His kingdom on earth for the glory of God.
Call parents to lead at home spiritually. Vague challenges to parents are not adequate. Church leaders need to be specific in calling parents to take steps in new directions. For example, leaders might challenge parents to 1. Speak of Jesus with your children at least once a day, 2. Pray with your family once a day, beyond saying grace, and 3. Read the Bible as a family once a week.
Demonstrate to parents how to spiritually lead at home. The majority of church parents today did not grow up with parents who spiritually led at home. Wise church leaders demonstrate to parents what they are challenging them to do at home.
When parents alive in Christ become intentional about spiritually leading at home, we will see many more young adults walk in faith for a lifetime.
Richard Ross ('74, '80) serves as senior professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary.