A Faithful Student Ministry Must Partner With Parents (Part 3)
“If you don’t worship God in your home, then you will raise your children to be hypocrites.” These words were spoken to me by Chris Peeler, the pastor who married my wife and me. He made it clear that Christianity must be a part of our life at home. Otherwise, it is just religion. While his statement may be a tad severe, he is making an important point. As parents, we are called to teach our children to worship God.
The last two posts looked at Deuteronomy 5:16 and Deuteronomy 6:1-20. This post will explore Ephesians 6:1-4, which teaches that discipleship happens first and foremost in the home.
3. Discipleship happens first and foremost in the home (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Here is what the text says: “1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2’Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ 4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:1-4 charges children to obey their parents, quotes the fifth commandment, and exhorts parents to raise their children in the fear of the Lord. If you read Deuteronomy 5:16 and 6:1-7 before you read Ephesians 6:1-4, you will see that there is a lot of similar language. It is as if Paul has just finished reading Deuteronomy 5-6 before he pens Ephesians 6:1-4.The New Testament makes clear that the duties and obligations between parents and children remain the same.
Paul clarifies what is implied in Deuteronomy 5:16 and 6:1-7. The primary way a child shows honor to their parents is by obeying them. Further, Paul does say “children” here. The honor that a child shows to their parent will look different from the honor that an adult will show their parent. Generally speaking, as long as a child is not an adult and remains under their parent’s care, they are under their parents’ authority and are therefore obliged to obey them. Children are put under a parent’s authority so that their parents can disciple them and pass on the faith to them. Of course, a faithful parent’s discipleship does not guarantee that the child will follow Jesus. Yet, parent-child discipleship is one of God’s primary means of making followers of Jesus Christ. We can take hope in Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
What does this mean for your student ministry?
There are a lot of implications for how you run your student ministry. Obviously, Scripture clearly charges the church with the task of making disciples. The first two posts in this series argue that exact point — your student ministry must make disciples of King Jesus. Nevertheless, you must understand how your ministry and your efforts fit into the overall picture. Parents are given the primary responsibility for discipling their children. When it comes to children, the church is in a support role. I grant that many of your students will not come from believing families. Nevertheless, to the best of your ability, you must do everything you can to keep the parents involved.
A Few Questions You Should Ask
How should you partner with parents? The answer to this question will vary on your particular circumstances, whether your parents are believers or not, how available they are, etc. Instead of prescribing dogmatically to one particular methodology, I would encourage you to ask the right questions continually. The answers to these questions will help ensure that you faithfully partner with parents. Here are a few to get you started:
- How can I encourage and equip parents in their role?
- In the same vein, what resources can I give parents?
- How can I have parents help, serve, and teach in the student ministry?
- What kind of activities can I develop that will help parents lead in Bible Study, prayer, counseling, etc.?
- How can I help families promote time together? Can I adjust my schedule to promote family time?
Whatever you do, do everything you can to include parents while encouraging and equipping them to fulfill their God-given role.
Here is an overview post for this summer’s series—What You Must Do: A Biblical Philosophy of Student Ministry