The biblical storyline is a four-fold storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, but I think oftentimes both for ministers and for parents, we don't think about it holistically. We break that up. And so as a dad, I'm proud of my daughters. I love them. I celebrate their dignity, but I also see when they're disobedient, when their hearts are beginning to love things that they shouldn't, and I'm quick to step in and bring correction and to shepherd their hearts and help them move in the right direction.
But sometimes I think I can focus on just the first two parts of the storyline: their dignity of being created in the image of God and their sin and the desire to shepherd their hearts. When we just live there, we'll become the kind of graceless parents that just modify behavior or just leverage our kids' lives for their personal success—maybe for their advancement in a career or to help them build their resume. We focus on their need to get college scholarships rather than focusing on the eternal realities of what's happening in the rest of the story. What we need to do as parents is to step in and confess our own sins to our children. We need to be intentional about talking to them about how their faith in Christ now has an impact for eternity.
An equal but opposite danger beguiles those who are in Christian ministry. Our job as pastors and children's ministers is to disciple the next generation, and so we focus on gospel-centered lessons. We focus on preparing kids for eternity. So we're thinking about redemption and consummation, but the trouble is that we can sometimes forget just how difficult it is for families to live in a real world. We forget that dignity and fallenness are part of the equation. We forget how hard it is to do family discipleship.
What we need to do as parents is to step in and confess our own sins to our children.
Parents are managing field hockey practice, allergy shots, carpool, and all of the things that happen day-in and day-out. Our ministries need to be geared toward meeting families where they are thinking about realistic rhythms in their life. And we also need to talk about the real needs that parents and people in the church—or maybe even in the communities around the church—are facing on a day-in and a day-out basis so that we don't live in this kind of other real world up here. Maybe it's a gospel-centered world, but it doesn't actually connect to the real place where kids are.
One of the best ways to do this is when we're teaching a text, ask the question, “Who in this story needs the good news, and why do they need it?” We should try to help the families we're ministering to identify with those people who need the good news. When the rescue comes in the passage, when God shows up and brings change for Israel—when he delivers them through the Red Sea or when he rescues the Israelite army from Goliath through David—we see the exact ways that he steps in and delivers us in our great need as well. When families see that, they can know they, too, can put their trust in him.
Jared Kennedy is the author of Keeping Your Children’s Ministry on Mission: Practical Strategies for Discipling the Next Generation.
Youth pastors should dedicate their time to three primary things—spiritual growth, relationships, and Bible study.
Everyone is a theologian. The question for Christian parents, church members, and friends is: how do we help children be good theologians?
To a youth pastor who is feeling discouraged, your reward is in heaven where you’ll see in glory the things that Jesus has done through your ministry, you’ll see the fruit of your labor.
Jesus told his glory-seeking disciples to become like children, to welcome kids, to protect them, and to value them as a kingdom priority.