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Friday, February 15, 2008

From Tim Schmoyer, over at "Life in Student Ministry":

What parents’ actions often teach kids about God

Posted on 07 February 2008 by Tim Schmoyer | Trackback link

Actions speak louder than words. Whether parents like it or not, kids see the priorities and values they set for the family and it makes a difference on how kids live their lives.

All the hype over the past couple years about the student drop-out rate from church seems to be focused at the church, specifically the youth workers. Almost every other week I see a new Chicken Little article about how the sky is falling and that youth ministry is failing miserably. However, the biblical structure of raising kids is through the parents, not church youth workers. Statistically, the kids who graduate from high school and stay in the church are not those who had a super-dynamic youth group. Rather, it’s those whose parents have intentionally passed on the faith. Of course, this assumes that parents have a living and vital faith that’s worth passing on. As much as we hate to admit it, we have a lot of parents who are sold out to the world and give lip-service in church, so their kids see that and do the same. Teenagers reflect what they see in the church.

According to the Family Driven Faith audio series by Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr., 92% of families don’t have devotions together even once a year. He also says that the average Christian family has less than 30 minutes of spiritual discussion each week. Maybe the church should focus more on discipling parents who will in turn pass that on to their kids.

I wish we heard more Deuteronomy 6:1-9 values being passed along to students by parents, but instead youth workers hear, “We won’t be at church for the next couple weeks because Jonny made the traveling baseball team.” Actions speak louder than words! Students learn that sports trump God so they can collect trophies that will collect dust in the basement in 40 years. And then we say idolatry isn’t alive in our churches? No wonder church is often a student’s last priority.

Even our homes communicate something about priorities. In most American families, the TV is the focal point of the living room. Notice that all the furniture is arranged around the room to focus on it, as if it’s the alter of our homes. Maybe family priorities need to change, not just “We go to church once a week unless something better comes up,” thinking that will somehow teach our kids that God is important, but in integrating God into daily life and decisions.

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not trying to blame parents as many have done to youth workers. Rather, youth workers need to consider parents as a vital contact for reaching students for Christ knowing that they have a much bigger impact in their lives than we ever will.

My Personal Story
My parents definitely didn’t do everything right, but one thing they did get right: they communicated by their actions and decisions that God always comes first. As kids, we noticed that and learn valuable lessons from it. When my brother was invited to join the travel soccer team, my parents made him turn it down because their games were on Sunday mornings. When we had wrestling matches on Sunday mornings, we’d always go to church instead. We often saw financial priorities when they spent money on helping other people even though we knew money was very tight at home. My dad taught us the Bible almost every day, including lots of scripture memorization (that I still use today!). Now that we’re grown and out of the house, every one of us are leaders in either vocational or volunteer ministry. Coincidence?

I understand this is all by God’s grace, not a formula with guaranteed results, but following God’s family principles definitely seems to have a better rate of return than any other alternative.

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